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Friday, November 5, 2010

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Championship Preview
Men’s soccer ready for shootout
at conference tourney

Wednesday was technically an off day for the Muhlenberg men’s soccer team.

But instead of relaxing and taking a break from practice, goalie Jason Daniels and his Mule teammates spent more than hour out on the field working on their own.

The reason was simple: The Mules are tied for the most ties in the country (six), and now that the postseason has arrived games that end in ties are decided by shootouts.

So Daniels and his teammates spent
Ryan Barlotta
Freshman Ryan Barlotta has started every game at left back for a defense that allowed only three goals in nine CC matches.
Wednesday afternoon working solely on penalty kicks to prepare for their Centennial Conference semifinal matchup with Franklin & Marshall at 3 p.m. tomorrow at Swarthmore.

“We’ve been focusing on taking a lot more penalty kicks before and after practice,” Daniels said. “We’ve tied a lot of games, so there’s a good shot we may have to go to a shootout. So we really want to crack down on PKs.”

If regular-season results are any indication, there is a good chance Daniels may find himself with his heels on the goal line staring down a shooter on the penalty spot.

The Mules and Diplomats battled to a 1-1 tie in September at Varsity Field. Nate Squire gave the Mules an early lead with a goal in the 15th minute. But F&M controlled play after halftime and scored the equalizer midway through the second half.

Daniels said the semifinal matchup will be a challenge, but added that his team has improved since their first conference game.

“They’re a good team; they play well together,” he said of F&M. “They kind of dominated us in the second half, but I think we’re much better than we showed against them. I think if we play our game and play to our ability we’ll do pretty well.”

The winner of the Muhlenberg-F&M semifinal will meet the winner of Saturday night’s Johns Hopkins-Swarthmore game at 3 p.m. Sunday in the championship game.

Keeping with the theme of the season, Muhlenberg tied Johns Hopkins, 0-0, in early October. Swarthmore, on the other hand, gave the
Cody Antonini, Danny Way
Muhlenberg is the only team in the CC with two players averaging more than a point per game. Junior Cody Antonini (left) has recorded 34 points and sophomore Danny Way (right) 18. The Mules have scored 43 goals this season, their most since 2003.
Mules their only loss of the year, and Daniels said his team would love to get another shot at the Garnet.

But if that is to happen, Muhlenberg will have to snap its four-year postseason skid. None of the current Mules have experienced a playoff win and Muhlenberg hasn’t won a CC tournament game since it captured the title in 2005.

Daniels also said there is some unfinished business from last season. Despite a 12-4-1 record, the 2009 Mules did not receive an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament.

This year’s team is focused on getting to the title game, the senior captain said, and hopefully earning the automatic NCAA berth that comes with the CC championship.

And if it just so happens to come down to penalty kicks to get there, Daniels said he would more than welcome the pressure.

“For me it’s a challenge and I like challenges; it’s exciting,” he said. “There’s a lot on the line, but if you’re afraid in that situation then you probably shouldn’t be in goal.

“We’ve put ourselves in position to have a good postseason, and I think we’re poised and ready for a good showing in the conference tournament.”
Click here for the championship website.

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