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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

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Men’s soccer suffers first loss

Mike Williams It was billed as the game of the year in the Centennial Conference, and Wednesday night’s matchup between Muhlenberg and Swarthmore certainly lived up to the hype.

Both teams entered the game nationally ranked and the only remaining unbeatens in the conference. And from the opening whistle they both played like championship contenders.

Muhlenberg forward Danny Way wasted no time getting settled in as he rocketed a shot that was tipped just wide by the Garnet goalkeeper a mere 58 seconds into the game.

From there the two teams traded plenty of scoring chances, including a Swarthmore breakaway in the 19th minute that was stopped by Mule goalie Jason Daniels. Daniels made seven saves on the night and also intercepted several Garnet crossing passes to stop scoring threats. Danny Way

With a fog rolling over Varsity Field and costumed trick-or-treaters in the stands, the two teams traded quick shots right after halftime. Then in the 47th minute the Garnet (13-1-2, 6-0-2) struck to take a 1-0 lead.

Following the goal, Muhlenberg's offense kept generating opportunities. The Mules just missed connecting on multiple crossing attempts in front of the Garnet goal.

But with Muhlenberg pushing forward, it gave Swarthmore opportunities to counterattack.

And in the 83rd minute a Garnet forward broke away from the Mule defense and found himself alone in front of a wide-open net. But Eric Williams swept in at the last moment to save the goal and clear the ball, keeping Muhlenberg in the game.

Down the stretch the Mules pushed even harder, and even had a point-blank shot miss just wide to the left with a little more a minute to play. But even with the furious comeback effort, Muhlenberg could not find the equalizer.

It was the Mules’ first loss of the season and snapped their school-best 15-game unbeaten streak. Muhlenberg (9-1-6, 4-1-3) is now tied for second in the CC with Franklin & Marshall and clinched a CC playoff spot thanks to Johns Hopkins' win over Gettysburg. The Mules can secure a berth in the semifinals of next weekend’s conference tournament with a win at Ursinus on Saturday.

And while Williams admitted the result was a little frustrating, he could not hang his head after what he called one of the team’s best efforts of the season.

“We went 15 games and this is our first loss,” Williams said. “No one’s disappointed with our effort all season. We’ve got one more game left, at Ursinus, and then the playoffs. The teams in the league have been competing all season and it’s anybody’s game there.”
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