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Muhlenberg College

Friday, November 2, 2007

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Championship Preview
two men’s soccer seniors
“home” for playoffs

Three on Women’s Soccer All-CC Team

Three sophomores on the Muhlenberg women’s soccer team earned All-Centennial Conference recognition in voting by the league’s coaches.

Forward Christina O’Grady was named to the second team for the second year in a row. She was third on the Mules with 12 goals on four goals and four assists and leads all active Muhlenberg players with 28 career points.

Midfielder Kimberly Hacker and back Samantha Hoffman both received honorable mention. Hacker tied for the team lead with four assists, all in CC matches, and Hoffman started every game at center back for a defense that allowed 11 goals in 10 CC games.

For two seniors on the Muhlenberg men’s soccer team, this weekend’s Centennial Conference playoffs will be the next best thing to playing at home.

The Mules (12-3) tied for the CC regular-season championship with Franklin & Marshall and Johns Hopkins, both of which have been nationally ranked all year. No. 11 Franklin & Marshall is the top seed and host for the “final four” and will face Gettysburg in one semifinal, with Muhlenberg taking on Hopkins in the other at 1:30 on Saturday.

The semifinal winners meet on
Karim Assous
The only Muhlenberg senior not from the Lancaster area, Karim Assous scored the Mules’ goal in the first Johns Hopkins game.
Sunday at 1:00 for the CC championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

First-team All-CC selections Peter Bennett (Leola) and Jonathan Kliewer (Ephrata) both hail from the Lancaster area and will have plenty of support.

“Obviously we would have wanted to host the tournament,” said Bennett, who allowed only four goals in nine CC regular-season games. “But I’ve been talking to family, friends and old coaches who will be coming. It will be nice to get a hometown audience and fan base.”

Muhlenberg and Hopkins (15-3) are familiar foes: This will be their fourth postseason meeting in the last six years, but their first on a neutral site. The Blue Jays are the defending CC champions and have won the CC title in every even-numbered year since 1996. The Mules took the CC crown in the last two odd-numbered years, 2003 and 2005.

Hopkins won the regular-season meeting, 2-1 on Sept. 29, but the teams’ fortunes have changed since then. The Blue Jays, at the time ranked eighth in Division III (now 18th), have gone only 4-3, while the Mules followed the loss with a seven-game winning streak in which they have allowed only one goal.

Muhlenberg controlled play for most of the second half of the earlier meeting but could not score the equalizer after falling behind. One shot hit the crossbar and another was headed away by a Blue Jay back.

“We’re playing for a little revenge,” admitted Bennett. “We felt they snuck out of here with a win. We thought we played pretty well, but it just wasn’t our night. For whatever reason balls were bouncing off the post that might have gone in on other nights.”

In the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Middle Atlantic rankings, Johns Hopkins is third, one place ahead of Muhlenberg. But in the NCAA rankings – the ones used to determine selections to the NCAA Tournament – the Mules are third and the Blue Jays fifth. Not bad for a Muhlenberg team picked to finish fifth in the CC preseason poll.

“We didn’t have the recognition, but inside the team we thought we had a pretty good shot at winning the championship,” said Bennett. “And if you look at our results, we haven’t felt that we’ve been out of any game this year.”

The Mules’ three losses are all by one goal, to the teams ranked second, fifth and seventh in the region by the NCAA. Muhlenberg has beaten the fourth-, sixth- and eighth-ranked teams. Six of the eight squads in the regional rankings are from the CC.

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