NCAA Preview: Men's Soccer Continues Super Season at Home

Friday, November 14, 2014

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NCAA soccer logo The summer after he graduated high school, Travis Wantchekon teamed up with a friend who played soccer at New York University to start KidSuper, a youthful urban clothing company with a unique New York style. The company offers urban wear – t-shirts, hats, pants – consisting of handmade prints and funky textiles, all made in New York and sold at a store in Brooklyn.

That fall, Wantchekon teamed up with some other soccer players on a different endeavor, and the results have turned out to be pretty “super.”

Wantchekon and the rest of the Muhlenberg men’s soccer team won the Centennial Conference championship last weekend and will begin NCAA Tournament play tomorrow at home against Baruch at 11:00. The other first-round game at Varsity Field matches Coast Guard against Catholic at 1:30, with the winners meeting Saturday at 1:00 with a trip to the “Sweet 16” on the line.

Tickets are $6 for adults, $3 for senior citizens and students with ID and $2 for children ages 3-12. Children under the age of 3 will be admitted free of charge. The gates open at 10:00 Saturday morning. Click here or on the logo at right for the tournament site.

While Wantchekon and his friend used their connections to get the clothing line off and running, building the championship soccer team took a little more time. The Mules were 10-6-1 during his freshman year and lost in the first round of the CC playoffs. They fell short of the CC playoffs the next two years before breaking through in a big way this fall.

“Our goal every year has been to win. It was never anything less than that,” said Wantchekon. “So we’re just doing what we came here to do.

Lance Dotzman “I think we all had the idea that we [the senior class] would have our time,” he added. “I thought a lot of us were just as good as the juniors and seniors. We just needed more experience. Now we can show our talents and we have the strength to match up with teams.”

The first team Muhlenberg (14-1-2) will match up with is making its third straight NCAA Tournament appearance. Baruch (12-5-2) won the City University of New York Athletic Conference championship and enters the NCAA with a nine-game unbeaten streak in which it has allowed only four goals.

Wantchekon knows two of the Bearcats, and the Mules have been getting scouting reports, but for the most part they won’t know what to expect until they set foot on the field tomorrow. And after the grind of the CC season, where the teams’ familiarity with each other’s styles can restrict play, that will be welcome.

“We should be able to play freely,” commented Wantchekon. “From what we’ve heard, our defensive qualities go perfect with their offensive qualities. But we’ve never played them before so we’ll see. There’s a lot of elements of surprise.”

Muhlenberg brings a seven-game winning streak, its longest since 2007, into the NCAA Tournament. The last six of those wins have all been by one goal (a first in program history), including remarkable comeback wins at home against Haverford and Dickinson. That experience in close games, and the ability to win them, should come in handy in a national tournament where games are likely to be tightly contested.

“Not a lot of us like to lose in anything we do. We’re all good guys, but we’re stubborn,” said Wantchekon. “We’re hard-nosed when the game is close. We hate the idea of being sad at the end of the game. We find a way.”

The Mules, ranked seventh by and 10th by the NSCAA, have found their way into the NCAA Tournament for the 15th time in program history. With an all-time record of 8-13-3, Muhlenberg is the only one of the four teams to have ever won an NCAA Tournament game. Baruch is 0-4, Coast Guard (making its first appearance since 1981) is 0-2, and Catholic is 0-3.

Muhlenberg’s best NCAA appearance was in 1995, when it reached the “Final Four.” Current head coach Sean Topping was a player on that team, and Wantchekon said one of his motivations for the tournament is to go farther so he could “talk smack” to his coach.

Oh yeah, and also to bring a championship to Muhlenberg.

“I’m not planning on finishing until December,” he said. “I want to go to Kansas City [site of the semifinals and final].”

pictured at left: Senior Lance Dotzman has scored two postseason goals, one in the ECAC Tournament last year and one in this season’s Centennial playoffs.