The Mules have been playing for their postseason lives for more than a month, ever since losing their first three Centennial Conference games to teams ranked in the top 10 in Division III. The last of those three losses was at Haverford by a 14-9 score on March 26, and the team has not tasted defeat since, reeling off eight straight victories, including five in the CC.
“We’ve actually been talking about that
The Ursinus game on Saturday was the closest Muhlenberg has gotten to an “official” playoff contest: winner advances, loser’s season ends. The Mules scored two fourth-quarter goals and held off the Bears in the closing seconds for a 9-8 win that earned them the fourth and final spot in the CC tournament.
Gettysburg will be the host for all three tournament games. After Muhlenberg (10-4) takes on the Bullets (13-2) at 1:30, second-seeded Washington (12-2) and third-seeded Haverford (11-3) square off at 4:30. The semifinal winners meet Sunday at 1:00 for the CC championship.
Muhlenberg, in just its sixth season as a varsity program, is the decided
But the favorite doesn’t always win. Just ask Gettysburg, which had its 14-game CC regular-season winning streak snapped with an 11-9 loss to Franklin & Marshall on Saturday. The Mules defeated F&M, 9-8 in a triple-overtime affair that Muhlenberg led, 8-3, early in the fourth quarter.
“It gives us confidence knowing that a team we beat was able to beat Gettysburg,” said Martin. “Since the beginning of the season, Gettysburg has been favored. No one expects us to win, so we have nothing to lose at all.”
Certainly no one who saw the regular-season meeting expects Muhlenberg to win the playoff rematch. The game was tied 2-2 after the first 15 minutes before the Mules endured a disastrous second quarter that saw the Bullets score eight straight goals en route to a 16-5 victory.
“A big part of that was possession,” explained Martin. “We had some good long possessions in the first quarter, but in the second we weren’t winning faceoffs and couldn’t get the ball. Our defense was tired by the end – they hadn’t had a break.
“Our defense has gotten a lot better since the Gettysburg game,” he added. “We made so many mistakes that we’ve corrected. It was a great learning experience. Playing against a team like that prepares you for the rest of the season.”
Since the Haverford game, which came four days after the Gettysburg match, the Muhlenberg defense hasn’t allowed more than eight goals in a game. Not only has the defense gotten better during the season, it has also improved during games: With the exception of F&M, the Mules haven’t allowed any opponent since Haverford to score more than three goals in the second half.
Some of the most impressive finishing touches came against Dickinson (one goal in the first 28 minutes of the second half), McDaniel (one goal in the final 31 minutes) and in a non-conference game against Montclair State (no goals in the last final 48 minutes).
For the season, Muhlenberg is third in the CC in scoring defense, allowing 7.93 goals per game, but that average falls to 6.25 during the current eight-game winning streak. Gettysburg is 21st in Division III in scoring, at 12.60 goals per game.
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