College Sports

Cougars open MVC soccer tournament as top seed

Top-seeded SIUE men's soccer begins defense of its 2014 Missouri Valley Conference Tournament championship Friday with a semifinal match against fifth-seeded Loyola at Korte Stadium. Kickoff is set for 6:06 p.m.

The game comes just six days after the Cougars captured their first-ever MVC regular season title with a 1-0 overtime win over Loyola

"There are no surprises," SIUE Head Coach Mario Sanchez said of facing Loyola for the second time in a week. "There's a definite upside in that you know what you are preparing for. The flipside is they know you too.

"This time of the year it is ultimately about execution and which team is prepared for the full length of the game whether it's 90 minutes, overtime, or penalty kicks," Sanchez continued.

As the No. 1 seed, the Cougars earned a bye to Friday's semifinals. The Ramblers defeated Missouri State 1-0 Wednesday in a quarterfinal match to advance to the semifinal.

"For me, more important than the No. 1 seed is winning the regular season championship," Sanchez said. "In anything you do in life you want to aspire to be the best. During the regular season the goal is winning the regular season championship. There are payoffs afterward. Right now the payoff is that we got extra days of rest and time to prepare."

SIUE also has the advantage of playing on its home turf for the first time as hosts.

"Whether we're home or away it's fun," Sanchez said. "Once the game starts you're so focused it's all about the game. The advantage is sleeping in your own bed, having your own locker room and being in your own normal routine. Prior to the game it's hugely important. Having your fan support behind you and pushing you in those moments is a big advantage as well."

The game will air live on ESPN3.