Paul Bracken signed with Scholarship Sports USA, January 18th 2016, and subsequently went on to win the Southern States Athletic Conference regular season championship just ten months later. The Dublin, Ireland native has locked down a starting role coming in as a freshman. Paul missed the first four games of the season due to a clerical issue with the NAIA. Since he made his debut for the Crusaders at Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, Paul has contributed 4 goals and 5 assists in 11 games.
Heading to Wiley College in Marshall, Texas was an eye opener for Paul, in a 0-0 stalemate he got his first taste of NAIA soccer. Quickly finding his feet, he bagged a goal in each of his next two games, notching against Millsaps College in a 2-0 win, and then in the following game a 4-1 win over Huston-Victoria. A trip to Alabama followed, where the Crusaders narrowly defeated Faulkner University 1-0 in the first play of SSAC. In a 6-1 rout of non-conference opponent Delta State, Paul recorded two assists, in a Mesut Özil style performance. A return to SSAC play with an away victory to Bethel University was next for the Crusaders. Previously unbeaten Dalton State would be the next victims of the Crusader streak. Paul got himself on the scoresheet in a 4-2 win. The next three games, against Martin Methodist, Middle Georgia State, and Brewton Parker all ended in victories for the Crusaders where Paul dished out an assist in each game. William Carey University were crowned SSAC regular season champions with a game to spare with their conference record at 6-0.
Heading into their final showdown away to the University of Mobile on Saturday night, the Crusaders would run out to a 2-0 lead after just 5 minutes of play. Bracken opened the scoring. The last 5 minutes of the game were a flip reversal of the first 5, as UM scored 2 late goals to take the game into overtime. Finally the Crusaders would succumb to a defeat as UM scored the game winning goal to register a 3-2 OT win. The game had no implications to WCU's final standings or change any SSAC tournament play, it would only be their momentum and confidence that took a small dent. The last time WCU lost was way back in August (20th, L 3-4 to University of West Alabama) going on an incredible 13 game unbeaten streak. This kind of a bounce back streak will be needed if WCU has any plans for the NAIA National tournament in Delray Beach, FL.
Anyone who has played the collegiate game in the USA will tell you, on average, players who can maintain one point per game ratio have had a great season. Paul averages 1.18 points per game. Paul has the fourth highest goals on the team, and is tied second for most assists. Currently ranked 9th in the Southern States Athletic Conference in points per game and overall points. Ranked 12th in goals per game in the SSAC, and breaks into the top 15 goal scorers of 2016 in the SSAC. He comes in at 3rd in the assists per game, and joint 4th for overall assists. Ranked inside the top 50 for assists per game in the entire nation. All this in 4/5 games less than most players in the SSAC. It is safe to say Paul's first season at William Carey has been a huge success, no matter the outcome of the SSAC tournament.
Whats left now?
The Crusaders must win the SSAC tournament to progress automatically to the NAIA National Tournament. If they fail to win the SSAC tournament, they must rely on getting an 'at large' berth, which they are currently on the edge of the bubble.
Paul's regular season by numbers:
Games Played: 11
Games Won: 9
Games Drawn: 1
Games Lost: 1
Goals Scored: 4
Shots on Goal: 18
Stay tuned on @SSUSAOfficial Twitter handle for live updates of the SSAC tournament as William Carey host Brewton-Parker in the quarter finals.