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Friday, November 9, 2007 - page 2

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NCAA Preview
men’s soccer hopes to decode ncaa puzzle

Jonathan Kliewer was in his Special Topics in Mathematics class, Codes and Ciphers, on Monday when he noticed a flurry of text and voice messages coming to his cell phone.

It didn’t take any knowledge of higher math to decipher what that meant: The
Greg Leischner
Junior midfielder Greg Leischner is one of five Mules who earned All-Centennial Conference honors.
Muhlenberg men’s soccer team was in the NCAA Division III Tournament.

The Mules (12-4) will make their 13th NCAA appearance when they travel to Salisbury to take on Virginia Wesleyan (16-3) tomorrow at 1:30. The winner will face the winner of the match between host Salisbury (15-4-1) and Old Westbury (12-3-1) on Sunday for the right to advance to the “Sweet 16.”

Live stats for all three games will be available on the Web. To follow along, click here during the games.

Muhlenberg was unsure about receiving a bid after losing to Johns Hopkins in the semifinals of the Centennial Conference playoffs, but as it turned out the Mules didn’t need to sweat it out. They weren’t even the last team from their conference selected for the field of 57. Johns Hopkins won the automatic bid, and Franklin & Marshall and Dickinson also received at-large bids, giving the CC an unprecedented four teams in the NCAAs.

And that doesn’t include Gettysburg, which advanced to the CC championship game, and Swarthmore, a team that was undefeated out of conference and is the host for the ECAC Tournament.

“We’re in one of the best conferences in the country, so we’ve had a good schedule to prepare us for what’s in front of us,” said Kliewer, a senior back.

What’s in front is a Marlin team that is making its third NCAA soccer straight NCAA appearance. Virginia Wesleyan was the regular-season champion in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference but lost to Roanoke in the tournament semifinals.

Both schools have rich soccer traditions. Muhlenberg has put together 22 consecutive non-losing seasons. Few schools have longer active streaks in Division III, but Virginia Wesleyan, at 23, is one of them. The two schools haven’t played each other since 1996 and have no common opponents this year.

“We don’t know much about them, so we’re just trying to focus on ourselves and do what we’ve been doing to win games,” said Kliewer. “Hopefully we can adjust to them in the first 15-20 minutes and get ourselves in a position to win.”

One of the things the Mules have been doing to win games is playing good defense. Muhlenberg is 14th in Division III in both shutout percentage (0.63) and save percentage (.868) and 20th in goals-against average (0.56). The Marlin boast one of the top scorers in the country in sophomore Brandon Massie, who is 24th in points per game (2.16) and 33rd in goals per game (0.84).

Though the Muhlenberg offense boasts no such impressive numbers, it has been efficient. A 1-0 loss to F&M marked the only time the Mules have been shut out; the last Muhlenberg squad to score at least one goal in 12 straight games in a season was the 1995 “Final Four” team.

The current Mules will try to make a similar run through the NCAA playoffs, particularly the seniors and juniors who were on the 2005 team that lost to Wesleyan in the first round.

“Having that experience will help,” said Kliewer. “That game had a totally different feel than any other game I’ve played in. It like a whole new season.”

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