Mike Tucker: NCAA appearance special for Dayton Flyers

Dayton coach Mike Tucker talks to reporters after hearing the team’s name called on the NCAA selection show Monday, Nov. 7, 2016, at the Frericks Center. David Jablonski/Staff
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Dayton coach Mike Tucker talks to reporters after hearing the team’s name called on the NCAA selection show Monday, Nov. 7, 2016, at the Frericks Center. David Jablonski/Staff

UD plays Ohio State at 6 p.m. Saturday

In less than week, the Dayton Flyers women’s soccer team turned a sub-par season — albeit one on the upswing heading into the stretch run — into one for the history books.

The Flyers were 3-8-3 as recently as Oct. 16. They won three of their last four regular-season games and then won three games in the Atlantic 10 tournament to qualify for the NCAA tournament and earn a 6 p.m. date Saturday with Ohio State at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus.

Dayton didn’t just win the A-10 tournament. It dominated, beating Saint Louis 3-0, George Washington 2-0 and St. Joseph’s 7-0. The Hawks had not allowed more than three goals in a game all season and had been shut out only once. Dayton became the first team to record three shutouts in the A-10 tournament.

Dayton has raised its level of play so high so fast it has big hopes for the NCAA tournament. Dayton has extra motivation, too. One loss ends its season and the career of head coach Mike Tucker. This is his 22nd and final season and his 10th NCAA tournament appearance.

“This is going to be really special for me,” Tucker said, “and I think it’s special because these kids get to enjoy it, some of them for the second time and those youngsters for the first time. I think moving forward whoever the next coach is here will have the opportunity to play in it a lot more.

“It’s a great group. We’ve got a great group of kids coming in. For me, I’m just going to enjoy the ride and let them do the work. My job really is just put them out on the field at this point because they’re running with everything we give them. That’s what we’re going to continue to do.”

Junior forward Alexis Kiehl set an A-10 tournament record with five goals in three games. She was named National Soccer Coaches Association of American player of the week. She’s tied for the national lead with 20 goals.

Dayton was also named Top Drawer Soccer national team of the week.

“We’re fairly healthy,” Tucker said. “They just came off a record-breaking, three-game performance, and I don’t think anybody scares them right now. We could go out and play anybody, and they’re going to have to worry about us right now.”

Ohio State (10-6-3) ranks 24th in the RPI. Dayton (9-9-3) ranks 141st. The Buckeyes are playing in the NCAA tournament for the seventh time in eight years. Eight Big Ten teams advanced to the tournament.

Knowing Ohio State well should help the Flyers.

“There’s a lot of familiarity,” Tucker said. “We’re confident going into the game. I’m sure they are, too. There’s going to be a lot of Flyer fans up there in the stands. Hopefully, we can get the Red Scare folks out, and it’ll be somewhat of a home game for us, too. It’s that close to home. It’s a dream. Everybody kept asking me, ‘Who do you think it’s going to be?’ I said, ‘Ohio State,’ and we got that right.”

Volleyball: The Flyers (26-1, 12-0) take a 15-match winning streak into the final weekend of the regular season. They host Davidson at 7 p.m. Friday and Virginia Commonwealth at 1 p.m. Sunday. They rose from No. 24 to No. 23 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll.

Men's soccer: The No. 8 seed Flyers (7-8-3) play No. 1 seed VCU at 11 a.m. Thursday in the first round of the A-10 tournament in Davidson, N.C.

Men's basketball: Two of the three men's basketball recruits in the class of 2017 signed national letters of intent Wednesday on National Signing Day.

McKinley Wright, a 6-foot guard from Champlin Park, Minn., announced his signing on Twitter. Jordan Pierce, a 6-11 center from Scotch Plains, N.J., also signed, according to the Twitter account of his AAU team, the New Jersey Roadrunners.

Jordan Davis, a 6-4 guard from Irmo, S.C., will sign Friday, according to The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C.

McElvene tribute: UD will honor late center Steve McElvene with a ceremony involving his family at 6:50 p.m. on the court at UD Arena on Friday night. The season opener against Austin Peay will tip off at 7:05 p.m.

TV news: Dayton announced Wednesday three home games will air on Fox Sports Ohio: 2 p.m. Nov. 19 vs. St. Mary's; 2 p.m. Dec. 3 vs. Winthrop; and 2 p.m. Dec. 10 vs. East Tennessee State.

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