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Castleton Spartans

Spartans Set to Host NEC in NAC Semifinal Showdown

Spartans Set to Host NEC in NAC Semifinal Showdown

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Coming off its first unbeaten conference mark since 2010 to earn the No. 1 seed in the North Atlantic Conference Tournament, the Castleton men's soccer team will look to keep it rolling into the playoffs as the Spartans host fourth-seeded New England College on Wednesday night at 6 p.m. in the conference semifinals.

Castleton capped its regular season with four straight shutouts and is playing its best soccer of the season at the right time, outscoring the last four opponents, 22-0, to clinch the top seed in the tournament. The Spartans bested Maine Maritime, 6-0, before closing out the conference slate with a 4-0 victory over Husson on Oct. 22.

New England College is the only NAC team the Spartans did not beat in the regular season, as the two teams battled to a 1-1, double-overtime draw in Henniker, N.H., back on Sept. 16. Colby Gay opened the scoring to give Castleton an early lead in the 17th minute, but the Pilgrims netted the equalizer in the 50th minute on a goal by Tucker Stenger en route to the tie.

Seraphin Iradukunda has led the Spartans' attack this season, collecting 13 goals and four assists for a total of 30 points. In nine conference starts, the freshman leads the NAC with 22 points on 10 goals and two assists. Jack Kingdon sits second on the team with three goals and nine assists, while Fidele Rutayisire and Thomas Kirk have combined for nine goals and seven assists. The Spartans rank 19th in the country in goals (49) and 25th in goals per game (2.72).  

Aaron Parker has anchored Castleton's defense, which has allowed a league-low 21 goals and posted a league-best 1.13 goals-against average during the regular season. The senior keeper has started every game in net and holds a .784 save percentage to go with a 10-6-2 overall record. Against conference foes, Parker is 8-0-1 with a 0.51 goals-against average and three shutouts.  

New England College is looking to get back to the NCAA Tournament after claiming the conference championship as the No. 6 seed last season. The Pilgrims knocked off fifth-seeded Husson in the NAC Quarterfinals, 1-0, behind a late goal from Sina Samali. Tenzin Khenrab made three saves en route to the shutout victory to advance.

Offensively, Cooper Valinski and Michael Skarbelis have anchored the Pilgrims' offense with 29 points apiece. Valinski has registered 13 goals and contributed three assists, while Skarbelis has collected 12 goals and five assists. Along with Skarbelis, Samali and Panagiotis Galatas have each dished off five helpers to lead the team.

Khenrab has made 11 starts between the pipes and is 4-4-2 after the first-round shutout. The senior keeper has a 1.56 goals-against average and a .771 save percentage with three shutouts on the season. Robbie Ferguson and Dylan Mix have each appeared in six games in goal and have combined for a 7-2 overall record with two shutouts.

The winner of the NAC Semifinal matchup will advance to the conference championship, which is slated for Saturday, Nov. 4, at the highest seed remaining.