Muhlenberg College

Allentown, Pa.
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Monday, September 2, 2002
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A weekly look at what’s going on in the Centennial Conference:

Field Hockey: Johns Hopkins opened up its season with a 4-1 win against upcoming Muhlenberg opponent Scranton ... McDaniel also was a winner, edging Susquehanna, 2-1 ... Washington fell to 2001 NCAA Tournament participant Mary Washington, 2-0, while Dickinson was edged by Eastern Mennonite in overtime.

Women’s Soccer: Franklin & Marshall, Gettysburg, Haverford, Ursinus and Washington all won their season-opening tournaments. Gettysburg played sixth-ranked William Smith to a scoreless tie. Haverford captured its Kickoff Classic for the first time since 1997, defeating William Paterson, 1-0, in the title match. Ursinus and Washington went on the offensive, scoring 11 and 12 goals, respectively, in two games ... Dickinson defeated 2001 NCAA Tournament team John Carroll in overtime in its opener ... Johns Hopkins opened up with a 6-0 shutout of Goucher.

Men’s Soccer: Gettysburg and Johns Hopkins both went 2-0 at their own tournaments, outscoring their opponents 8-1 and 9-0, respectively ... Washington won Eastern Mennonite’s tournament, while Ursinus went 1-0-1 at LaRoche ... Swarthmore was third in its tournament.

Volleyball: Dickinson went 3-2 at its Red Devil Invite, falling in the semifinals ... Franklin & Marshall defeated Johns Hopkins in four games to finish third at its tournament ... Gettysburg was 0-3 at its tournament, with losses to nationally ranked Juniata (No. 3) and Ithaca (No. 26).

Open at Home on Saturday

It’s frequently easier to get to the top than to stay there. Now that the Muhlenberg College football team has earned a share of the Centennial Conference championship, the challenge is to keep it.

The Mules completed a turnaround that saw them improve their CC record and standing every year since 1995 by tying Western Maryland (now known as McDaniel) for the 2001 CC championship. It was the third CC title for Muhlenberg, but the first since 1986. The team earned its second straight ECAC bid and finished with a 7-4 record.

For the first time since 1982, the Mules open up with two home games (the first this Saturday against Kings Point), but the schedule gets more difficult: four of the six CC games are on the road.

“We have talented players, but all of our opponents have talented players,” says sixth-year Head Coach Mike Donnelly. “My feeling is we must be better in other intangible ways. These include hard work, excitement and enthusiasm, and chemistry and leadership.”

Muhlenberg boasted one of the top defensive units in Division III last year, ranking among the national leaders in total defense, scoring defense, rushing defense and pass efficiency defense. Although the Mules graduated four of their top five tacklers, all of whom were All-CC selections, they have plenty of experienced players returning.

The team boasts an extraordinary amount of experience up front, with two fifth-year seniors and five players who have been starters. At end, senior co-captain Mike Koth had a breakthrough season in 2001, leading the team with eight
Alfredo Mercuri
Mercuri has averaged 19.4 yards per catch in his two seasons as a receiver.
tackles for loss, including five sacks. Junior Nick Otranto started the final two games of the regular season ended up as the team leader with six sacks. All-CC second-team selection Tyler Cathey moves from end to tackle, joining fellow fifth-year senior Jon Buglione and sophomore Michael Della Pella, who was second among linemen with 35 tackles last year.

Senior co-captain Beau Sherry, a unanimous first-team All-CC selection, is the lone returning starter at linebacker. He was second on the team with 60 tackles and leads all active players in career tackles 168 and tackles for loss (14½). The secondary also was hit hard by graduation. The only returning starter is senior cornerback Jordan Wright, a two-year All-CC choice who had 43 tackles, six pass breakups and two interceptions last year. Senior cornerback Bo Rodrigues was Muhlenberg’s nickel back for most of the season and was one of the team’s most improved players, recording 44 tackles to go along with a pair of interceptions.

Despite a change at quarterback, the Muhlenberg offense continued to roll on in 2001, averaging more than 350 yards per game for the fifth straight season and more than 30 points for the third consecutive year. The Mules had their most balanced offense since 1989, accumulating 53 percent of their yards on the ground and 47 percent through the air.

Paving the way was an outstanding line that enabled Muhlenberg to tie a school record with 32 rushing touchdowns. Four of the six regulars earned All-CC honors, and two of those players return: senior center Justin Hurlburt (second team) and senior right tackle John Blankenhagen (honorable mention). Also returning is junior Chris Radomski, who should be a full-time starter after alternating at several positions on the line the last two years.

The biggest beneficiary of the line play was junior Matt Bernardo, who ran for 1,038 yards and broke a 53-year-old school record with 19 rushing touchdowns.

Senior Justin Jones had a successful first season as the Mules’ starting quarterback, earning second-team All-CC honors after throwing for 1,519 yards and 13 touchdowns and rushing for 389 yards and eight more scores – a school record for quarterbacks. The receiving corps is led by senior co-captain Alfredo Mercuri, who earned All-CC second team honors in 2001 after hauling in 29 passes.

Muhlenberg returns both of its specialists from last year. Senior kicker Chris Reed earned All-CC second-team honors, while sophomore Justin Saverine averaged 35.8 yards per punt.

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Last updated September 2, 2002