Men's Soccer 2011 Season Review

 

Not even a power outage or freak snowstorm could keep the Muhlenberg men’s soccer team from getting back to the Centennial Conference playoffs.

The Mules adjusted as well to those two surprises as they did the departure of five starters, including four all-region players, from last season’s “Sweet 16” squad as they finished the 2011 campaign 10-6-1 and qualified for their 11th straight CC tournament.

Josh Luginbuhl
Nine of Luginbuhl’s 12 career goals came in CC play. He registered 26 points during the past two seasons.

It was the fifth season in a row the Mules reached double-digit wins, and all six losses came against regionally ranked teams.

Muhlenberg began the season hot, reeling off five straight wins, including four shutouts, to rise to No. 9 in the D3soccer.com national poll. It was the Mules’ first time in the top 10 since 1997.

Junior Nate Squire earned the first CC offensive player of the week honor after scoring two goals and adding an assist in the wins over Cortland State and NCAA Tournament qualifier DeSales. Then classmate Ari Nutovits grabbed the defensive honor for week two after making eight saves and posting a pair of shutouts over Wilkes and McDaniel.

The Mules dropped their next two before closing out the regular season by alternating weekend wins with midweek blemishes to qualify for the postseason.

That streak started with a 2-0 shutout over eventual CC finalist Haverford. After shutting out Washington on the road, which helped earn sophomore Jas Chojnowski defensive player of the week honors, the Mules got early goals from senior Josh Luginbuhl and junior Danny Way for a 2-1 home win over playoff qualifier Franklin & Marshall.

After sitting through a 40-minute delay because of a power outage, the Mules were able to shake off an early 1-0 deficit at Gettysburg behind goals from Way and Squire to light the way to a 2-1 win in a matchup that had major playoff implications.

Despite dropping a tough one-goal midweek game at Dickinson, Muhlenberg still had a chance to secure a postseason berth with a win or tie against Ursinus on Senior Day in Allentown.

But the Mules were greeted by an unseasonal blizzard that covered Varsity Field in several inches of snow, making play all but impossible. And while the game was moved to Monday at Ursinus,

Steve Giannacio
Giannacio played in all but two games during the past two seasons, scoring two goals and dishing out three assists.
canceling the Senior Day ceremonies, Luginbuhl and classmates Tim Leischner and Steve Giannacio still made the day their own as they each contributed points in the 3-1 win that clinched Muhlenberg the third seed for the CC playoffs.

It was the Mules’ ninth trip to the semifinals in the 11-year history of the CC playoffs, but for the second time in 10 days, Muhlenberg fell to eventual champion Dickinson, bringing the season to an end.

Way (7 G, 1 A), Squire (5 G, 1 A) and junior Kyle Plifka (1 G, 16 starts at center back) earned first-team all-conference honors, tying the record for the most in program history. Luginbuhl (5 G, 1 A) received honorable mention.

Giannacio finished with a career-high four points (1 G, 2 A), Leischner closed out his career with eight assists, and classmate Conor Choi played in 16 games, three more than his first three seasons combined.

Sophomore Jacob Joseph dished out a team-high four assists to go along with a goal, and freshman Travis Wantchekon added a goal in his first season.

Chojnowski (7 starts, .849 save %) and Nutovits (10 starts, .818 save %) split the goalie duties and ranked second and fifth, respectively, in the conference in save percentage. They helped the Mules rank 29th in Division III in save percentage (.838) in the first significant action of their careers.

Sophomores Ryan Barlotta (1 A) and Jonathan Schauer (1 G) started all 17 games at back for a defense that surrendered only seven goals in nine CC matches and allowed less than a goal per game for the sixth year in a row. Fellow sophomores Jeff Reinhart (1 A) and Chris Royer played in all 17 games, while classmate Brendan McIntyre made 16 appearances.

Freshman Bryan Attanasio started 12 games at back, and classmate Lance Dotzman made 13 appearances.