Jim McElderry coached the Fordham men to their greatest heights in program history. (Photo courtesy of Fordham SID)
Jim McElderry, who guided the Fordham University men within a win of the NCAA Division I Final Four, Monday was named FrontRowSoccer.com’s men’s college coach of the year for 2017.
The unseeded Rams embarked on a memorable and magical run through the tournament, winning three games, including two on the road in Atlantic Coast Conference territory, before they were stopped at the University of North Carolina in the Elite Eight.
McElderry directed the Rams to a 14-6-3 mark, while leading the team to the greatest heights in program and even Fordham athletics history. He was honored among men’s college coaches in the New York metro area.
Let’s face it. Unseeded teams traditionally do not reach the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division I tournament, especially when they’re playing on the road in the ACC.
“He always comes up with a new unique kind of game plan,” junior midfielder Janos Loebe said of McElderry. “That’s also one of our strengths, that the team follows his game plan the best that we can. We’re very organized and we do exactly what he wants us to do. Luckily in the past three years it has worked very well for us. He knows what he’s doing. He’s a great coach, a great person. It just proves that we’re so successful.”
The Rams, who were eliminated in Atlantic 10 semifinals, not only got an invitation to the dance, they got to host a game as well.
They started their drive with a 3-2 comeback win over St. Francis Brooklyn at home Nov. 16. Joergen Oland scored six minutes into extratime to lift Fordham to victory after center back Matthew Lewis headed home a free kick in the 81st minute to equalize at 2-2.
Then the degree of difficulty became much more difficult, given their opponents and venues.
Still, the Rams were tough. They followed that up with a 1-0 victory at 11th-seeded University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va. Nov. 19. Senior midfielder Eric Ohlendorf tallied the lone goal in the 83rd minute.
And then they pulled out an 8-7 shootout triumph after playing to a 2-2 draw at sixth-seeded Duke University in Durham, N.C. in the Sweet 16 Nov. 25. Jordan Black, who hadn’t played a second this season, converted the winning PK as goalkeeper Rashid Nuhu made his third save of the shootout on Max Moser to seal the upset.
Fordham’s run came to an end Dec. 2 with a 2-1 defeat at the third-seeded University of North Carolina in Cary, N.C. The visitors battled hard and held on until Alan Winn’s winning goal in the 80th minute in their third game at an ACC school in 14 days.
“Once we have time to step back, we can appreciate everything our seniors have done and the entire 2017 group in order to advance in this tournament, to see all the people that came down to see and support us, just real happy with how the guys conducted themselves through this tournament,” McElderry said.