The Muhlenberg men’s soccer team proved in 2007 that it’s hard to get beat if you don’t allow the other team to score.
The Mules allowed only seven goals and recorded 10 shutouts in 15 regular-season
games in winning a share of the Centennial Conference regular-season championship. Losses in the semifinals of the CC playoffs and the first round of the NCAA Tournament left the team with a final record of 12-5. All five setbacks were by one goal to teams that were regionally and/or nationally ranked the entire year.
Muhlenberg’s first-ever All-America goalie, Bennett finished his career with a 0.87 goals-against average and a record of 33-15-4 in 52 starts.
Muhlenberg ranked 17th in Division III in shutout percentage (.588) and 32nd in team goals-against average (0.70). In a seven-game winning streak leading up to the CC playoffs, the Mules allowed only one goal and shut out five straight CC foes.
Complementing the stingy defense was an offense that was efficient if not explosive and usually did what was needed to win. The Mules averaged just 1.65 goals per game, which ranked near the bottom of the CC, but were shut out only once all season.
Muhlenberg opened the year with 2-0 shutout wins against Gordon, Wilkes and Moravian, then
embarked on a five-game stretch in which it played 18th-ranked Franklin & Marshall; traditional power Elizabethtown; and Gettysburg, which knocked the Mules out of the playoffs last year, all on the road, and undefeated Dickinson and defending CC champion Johns Hopkins at home.
Assous recorded 10 goals and 14 assists during his four-year career.
Although Muhlenberg went 2-3 in those games, it developed a confidence that would carry through the rest of the season. After knocking off Dickinson, which hadn’t allowed a goal in more than 670 minutes, the Mules lost 2-1 to Johns Hopkins despite dominating most of the second half.
The Hopkins game was followed by the seven-game win streak, during which Muhlenberg outscored its opponents 14-1. The lone goal allowed came in a 2-1 win against New Jersey, at the time ranked seventh in Division III.
While the Mules were reeling off wins, the other teams in the tough CC were beating each other, and at season’s end Muhlenberg, Johns Hopkins and Franklin & Marshall tied for first with a 7-2 CC record. The Mules were the third seed in the playoffs, but a 2-1 loss to Hopkins in their first game put their NCAA Tournament hopes in doubt.
As it turned out, Muhlenberg didn’t need to worry. The NCAA took four teams from the CC, and the Mules were awarded
their 13th NCAA bid and sent to Salisbury for a first-round game against Virginia Wesleyan. Some rare defensive breakdowns were the culprit in a 3-2 season-ending loss.
Kliewer was named to the all-region second team.
The biggest player – both literally and figuratively – in the stellar defense was 6-5 senior goalie Peter Bennett, who earned third-team All-America honors after recording eight shutouts and a career-best 0.73 goals-against average. His 0.45 GAA in CC games led the league.
Senior back Jonathan Kliewer had an outstanding season and was named to the All-CC first team. In addition to his defensive prowess, he scored the Mules’ most memorable goal of the season, a 30-yard blast with 6:35 left in the second overtime for a 1-0 win at Swarthmore. Joining Kliewer in the back four were juniors A.J. Barnold and Andrew Brick and sophomore Samuel Hayden, a second-team Academic All-District selection.
On offense, sophomore Eric Miller emerged as the team’s top scorer, netting 16 points on seven goals and two assists. With four goals, sophomore Adison Weseloh was second for a balanced attack that saw 13 different players find the back of the net.
Midfielders Karim Assous, Billy Dalton and Greg Leischner all received All-CC honorable mention. Assous and Leischner each scored a pair of goals, while Dalton led the squad with six assists. Juniors Brendan Carroll and Steven Tenenzapf and freshman Evan Rubin also were key contributors.