September 19, 2010

The Men Are Off To SIUE? What The Hell Is That?!

So I've heard of Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville, but only because I have a good friend who goes to school there. I was lucky to talk to him - Allan Lewis from SIUE's eCougarZone - and do a Q&A much like the ones I did for Hofstra and Princeton during the CBI Tournament. So let's learn all about the men's opponent!

Student on Sports: SIUE. Okay, it's in Edwardsville. What the hell is it?
eCougarZone: This may take some explaining...Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, SIU Edwardsville or SIUe for short is one of the four newest NCAA Division I programs, along with North Dakota, South Dakota and Seattle. We applied for our new status with the NCAA in 2007, moving up from being a successful Division II program. Moving to Division I sucks. It takes four years to complete the process. My freshman year, (2007) was an exploratory year, where we still competed in Division II, but it was kind of like an exciting version of Centenary's current state. In 2008, we were officially what we call a "probationary Division I independent" and started playing Division I competition, but we still played some DII's, DIII's and NAIA's. In 2009, we pumped up the schedule a little bit, got some guarantee games in and recruiting began to improve across the board. 2010 is very much the same except our men's soccer and softball programs are ready to go. The NCAA lets you 'fast-track' one program of each gender to be eligible after two years of transitioning. In other sports, this is our last year as an indy before we join the Ohio Valley Conference next year (still not post-season eligible.) In 2012-2013, we will be fully certified by the NCAA. Our men's soccer team is in the Missouri Valley Conference as an affiliate member, because the OVC doesn't play that sport for some peculiar reason (I think footbally is involved...) Hopefully I explained that okay, it's an interesting and confusing process. Otherwise, SIUE is a university, we are located in Edwardsville Illinois, a town of about 25,000 located 20 minutes or so from St. Louis Missouri. Edwardsville was recently voted the number three town in America to raise a family, so keep that in mind if you so happen to have kids. SIUE is also the ONLY Division-1 satellite campus of a mid-major school, SIU Carbondale (NOT SIU or Southern Illinois, they have a C on the end of their name) and we don't like them very much. We are very much our own university with 14,000 undergrads and should probably terminate our relationship with them, but that's an entirely different story now. 

SoS: IUPUI is known for their business school, nursing school, dentist school, and our mascot beating the crap out of Oral Robert's mascot. What is SIUE known for?
eCZ: A few things. SIUE is the second largest campus in the United States land-mass wise, basically meaning there is a vast amount of nothingness on our campus. When you enter SIUE, it is sort of like going into a national park. Kyle Whelliston was dead on in his summary of Edwardsville back in January. SIUE has the best senior assignment program in the country, meaning to graduate from here you have to do some ridiculous project. Most majors also require internships too. We are voted one of 77 "up and coming" universities in the country, and are a relatively young campus, so basically SIUE is growing, and it is a very exciting time to be here. The university is only 52 years old. We used to have two live Cougar mascots in the 70s, although they are now replaced by a fuzzy mascot thing named Cory. The 70s would have been awesome here too, because we had this thing called the Mississippi River Festival where people just got high and watched Jimmi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin and the like under a huge circus tent. It was nuts. That, sadly doesn't exist anymore either. Our alternate logo is a lowercase e. Very intimidating. 

SoS: How many national titles does SIUE have in athletics?
eCZ: SIUE has won 17 national championships! 16 of them are in Division II, and we do have one Division I national championship, which we hold very dearly. SIUE always has been and always will be a soccer school, and in 1979 we beat Clemson to win the NCAA championship. It was awesome, I have it on DVD. We won Division II in 1972 as well. Our softball team won the DII championship in 2007 and our tennis and wrestling teams have the others. 

SoS: What drew you to SIUE? What about SIUE Athletics?
eCZ: Truthfully, I was kind of told by my parents I should go here, so I did. I am a native Edwardsvillian and have seen this program grow from the ground up. My grandparents took me to DII basketball games in the 90s, so I have seen three head coaches and three Cougar logos. If we didn't go DI I would have left for another school, but SIUE has given me so many opportunities covering sports for the newspaper and it is fun watching this school grow into something else. SIUE sports have a lot of room for improvement, but it is coming. I anticipate our first meaningful Selection Sunday sometime in the next six years, because we have a lot going for us. 

SoS: What kind of formation will SIUE bring to the match?
eCZ: I expect them to come out in a 4-4-1-1, but we do switch it up from time to time. The Cougars are a very defensive minded team, very conservative. 

SoS: Do you think the back line will be able to slow down Perez Agaba?
eCZ: Our back line is the driving force behind our team. If the back line is successful, we are successful. One of the things SIUE did the past three seasons was redshirt the majority of its star power. We have six guys coming back from redshirts, mostly in the back. Last season, we were led by Zach Bauer, now playing with AC St. Louis of the NASL, but we have been able to replace him with guys like Randy Roy, Mike Jones, Ryan Wilhelm and Kyle Waller. The back line is very talented, and keep us in games. We lost 1-0 this past weekend to No. 2 Tulsa, and these guys are the reason we were able to keep it that close. Offense is the real problem, but one guy shouldn't be a problem. We have shut down a powerful Saint Louis team and Belmont's big gun. 

SoS: IUPUI seems to be unable to win if the opposing team scores two or more goals. Will this be accomplished by your Cougars?
eCZ: This is a tough one. We buckle down on defense but hardly score. The Cougars lack your 10-15 goal scorer, and distribute scoring fairly evenly. The backs even get involved. We are yet to score more than 2 goals in a game and get a little cautious in the final third of the field. They have a hard time capitalizing on set pieces and often times take one extra pass. Two goals isn't a problem, SIUE just needs to loosen up and get the offense going. It is rather frustrating to watch. 

SoS: A real prediction, and why: GO!
eCZ: SIUE takes this one 2-1. We have shown strides of being a great soccer team and the Missouri Valley Conference tournament is still a possibility in all of the players minds. They are going to have confidence after playing Tulsa close, and are hungry for a win, coming in at 1-3 (we do play Cleveland State on Sept. 17, so this may change.) We have a solid keeper in Scott Meyer and we control the ball very well against teams like IUPUI. The defense will be solid, that is a given, it's just a matter of us getting some offense going in the final third. Go Cougars!

Thanks Allan!

You can follow him on twitter, he'll be sort of live-tweeting the game today!

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