Preview: Women's Soccer to Host First-Round Playoff Game

Monday, October 29, 2012

For Halloween, the members of the Muhlenberg women’s soccer team dressed up as street signs. And now that they’s made the Centennial Conference playoffs, there’s only “one way” for them to go.

Karsch Named Player of the Week

Nicole Karsch

Freshman Nicole Karsch was named offensive player of the week by the Centennial Conference after scoring the lone goal in Muhlenberg’s regular-season finale against Ursinus. The goal, Karsch’s second of the season, came off a corner kick late in the first half. The 1-0 win put the Mules into the CC playoffs as the fourth seed; a loss or tie would have ended their season.

The Mules’ first-round home game against Swarthmore is scheduled for Thursday, November 1, at 7:00. (updated 10/30)

The winner of the first-round game will travel to Johns Hopkins to face the seven-time defending champion Blue Jays (14-3-1, 9-1) in a semifinal match on Saturday at noon. The other semifinal pits second-seeded Gettysburg (12-5, 8-2) against third-seeded Haverford (12-3-2, 6-2-2). The winners square off on Sunday for the CC championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

If the game is played in wet conditions, it will be nothing new for the Mules and Garnet. Last year, the teams played in a torrential downpour at Swarthmore.

“The rain was so bad that there were huge puddles on the field that we couldn’t even dribble through,” recalled senior Alyssa Meola. “The field was covered with so many puddles that we barely even used the sides of the field – the game was primarily played in the center of the field, which is pretty hard to do in soccer. We lost 2-1 that game. Hopefully, this year the odds are in our favor.”

The Mules (8-8-2, 6-3-1) are in the playoffs for the eighth time since the CC began conducting a postseason tournament in 2001. They last appeared in 2009, falling at home to Dickinson in a semifinal game. Muhlenberg has an all-time record of 6-5 in CC playoff games, winning championships in 2001 and 2003 to go with a 2000 title won on the basis of regular-season play.

Swarthmore (11-5-1, 6-3-1) is in the playoffs for the sixth time in the last seven years. The Garnet is 1-3-2 in its previous five trips, reaching the title match in 2006 and getting eliminated on penalty kicks twice. Last year, Swarthmore lost to Gettysburg 1-0 in the semifinals.

The two teams met just two weeks ago, with the Mules winning 2-0 at home. The Garnet was ranked fifth in the Mid-Atlantic Region at the time of the game.

Alyssa Meola
Meola is tied for the team lead with four goals this season and has nine in her career.
“I think it is an advantage to have played Swarthmore so recently,” said Meola. “That was one of our better games this year, and it’s awesome that we played so well only a few games ago. Our team has evolved over the course of the season, with the better of our play coming in the latter games of the season, including our win against Swarthmore. We still have those great feelings from the win. We know what it’s like to beat them, and since we played them not too long ago we can easily remember how they played and how we are going to have to play against them again.”

Muhlenberg made the playoffs on the strength of its defense. The Mules allowed a CC-low three goals in their 10 league contests and have conceded only 13 goals in 18 games overall. Since the opening game of the season, the lone team to score more than one goal against Muhlenberg is top-ranked Messiah.

Swarthmore, for its part, has allowed just 10 goals in 17 games and recorded three shutouts after losing to Muhlenberg. The Garnet outscored its non-conference opponents 21-4 but had a margin of only 12-6 in CC contests.

The signs did not look good for the Mules to make the playoffs when they dropped their first two CC matches to McDaniel and Haverford. But they turned their campaign around with a 2-0 upset of Johns Hopkins, at the time ranked No. 6 in Division III, then beat Dickinson for the first time since 2006, and they have lost just one CC game (to Gettysburg) since.

“After we lost our first conference game to McDaniel we were very apprehensive that the rest of our season would go poorly,” admitted Meola. “When it was time to play Hopkins, it was kind of like a make-or-break point for our season. But we all came together and talked about how important a win against Hopkins was for us, and I think that those first two losses is what pushed us so hard to beat Hopkins. Once we beat Hopkins we knew we couldn’t let down to a team like Dickinson. We knew that if we got those we’d finish the season off positively and find a way to make it into playoffs.”

Meola, who scored a goal in the 2009 CC playoffs, is one of the few players on the team with postseason experience and offered a blueprint for success this week.

“We need to stay positive, but we need to push ourselves harder than we have all season. Everything is on the line against Swarthmore. If we lose, we’re done, and I don’t think any of us are ready to end yet. This game is going to be about us playing together as a team, throwing your body out there and giving everything up to win the ball and help your teammates out; if we can do that, then we can be successful.

“We are also going to have to not fall on the wet field,” she added. “And we’re a pretty clumsy team, so we’ll see how that one goes.”