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Muhlenberg College

Thursday, November 5, 2009

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Women’s soccer championship preview

Championship Preview

In the stacked Centennial Conference – in which all four remaining playoff teams have been nationally ranked this season – the Muhlenberg men’s soccer team has been overlooked at times, despite winning the regular season title outright.

While Rodney Dangerfield might have thought that the Mules (11-3-2, 7-1-1) don’t get no respect, they aren’t concerned with any such notion.

“Our team doesn’t get wrapped up in that,” said senior Johan Steiner. “We are out here for each other, for having a good time and making the most of this experience.”

Cody Antonini
Antonini’s 12 goals are the most by a Mule since 2005. He ranks second in the CC in points per game and third in goals per game.
The Mules have certainly made the most of this season on the field so far. After a 1-2 start, they claimed the CC regular season title for the first time since 2003 and received national recognition for the first time this week, vaulting to No. 18 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America rankings and No. 21 in the Top 25 poll.

“We had a really good regular season and we’re happy with how things went,” said Steiner. “We just want to keep going.”

If the Mules are to keep going, they will have to start by beating Dickinson (13-3-2, 6-2-1) tomorrow night at 7:00. The Red Devils advanced to the semifinals with a 2-0 win against visiting Franklin & Marshall, taking the lead just 53 seconds into the second half and adding an insurance goal in the 73rd minute.

When Muhlenberg and Dickinson met earlier this year, also at Varsity Field, the Mules topped the then No. 10 Red Devils 1-0 on a goal by sophomore Cody Antonini with just over seven minutes to play.

But before that, Dickinson had gotten the better of Muhlenberg in four out of five games, including a 1-0 overtime win in the first round of last year’s CC playoffs.

“Last year was sour and it was definitely a hard loss,” said Steiner. “Maybe we can get a little revenge for last year’s seniors.”

But the Mules know beating the Red Devils, who are ranked sixth in the region by the NCAA and are receiving votes in the Top 25 poll, for a second time this year will be no easy task.

“They are a really good team with a lot of great players,” said Steiner. “We need to come out strong in the first 10 to 15 minutes of each half. If we come out soft they can put one or two in.”

A win would send the Mules to the finals, where an interesting subplot would be guaranteed regardless of the opponent. A victory for No. 7 Swarthmore (14-1-2, 6-1-2), the defending CC champion, in the other semifinal would set up a rematch after a 0-0 tie between the two schools last week that kept the Garnet two points back of the Mules in the standings with one game remaining.

If No. 15 Johns Hopkins (13-3-2, 6-2-1) advances, the Mules would have a chance to redeem their only CC loss of the season, a 2-1 double overtime defeat at the hands of the Blue Jays on Homecoming.

If the seeding holds up and the Mules win their first CC championship since 2005, they’ll not only receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, but also the respect many think they deserve.

Not that it matters to them.
Click here for the championship Web site.

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