Hawks, NCAA Give Back As They Prepare for Final Four in Kansas City

Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Rockhurst University men's soccer players and students from Crossroads Academy

On Thursday, the Rockhurst University men’s soccer team will take to Children’s Mercy Victory Field at Kansas City’s Swope Park Soccer Village in the semifinals of the NCAA Division II tournament against the Golden Eagles of West Virginia’s University of Charleston. It will be the Hawks’ third semifinal appearance in four years.

Set to play with the next best thing to home-field advantage — a hometown crowd — the Hawks are looking to turn their previous tournament experience into a spot in the NCAA Division II finals.

But on Wednesday, the Hawks were more like coaches and teachers than players, leading students from Crossroads Academy in downtown Kansas City through a series of challenges designed to test their speed, strength, and teamwork as part of a community engagement event sponsored by the NCAA in coordination with the tournament. Players from Western Washington University’s Vikings women’s soccer team also participated.

“Part of it is about getting the students moving, but we also want to take the opportunity to maybe teach them about working together,” said Hawks sophomore defender Sal Caruso.

In another part of the school, other players from the NCAA tournament teams spent time playing card games and visiting with younger Crossroads Academy students. Logan Feldmann, junior goalkeeper for the Hawks, said spending time at the school was especially rewarding because of its location.

“It’s really special to be able to be here,” he said. “Kansas City is a really supportive community and has done a lot for us, so it’s great to be able to return that a little bit.”

Kansas City looms large again on Thursday. For the first time, Swope Soccer Village will host the Division II tournament semifinal and final matches, giving Rockhurst a sort of built-in advantage — hundreds of Rockhurst students and alumni are expected be on hand for the 2 p.m. kickoff to cheer on the Hawks. Local Major League Soccer franchise Sporting Kansas City has featured tournament information on its website. Local media is taking note of the tournament and the possibility of the team delivering Head Coach Tony Tocco a national title 46 years in the making.

Junior defender Filippo Santandrea said the team, known for its high-pressure offense and roster depth, has developed a game plan for Thursday, but he said he is trying not to think too much about the stakes. Still, he said he and his teammates are well aware of what winning here would mean.

“We’re excited,” he said. “We want to do it for coach, for the University, for the city.”

The semifinal match will begin at 2 p.m. at Children’s Mercy Victory Field at Kansas City’s Swope Park Soccer Village. Live streaming video of the game is available here.