Men's Sectional Previews: East
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Messiah (Grantham, PA)
Saturday/Sunday, Nov. 23-24
Third Round - Saturday, Nov. 23
Quarterfinals - Sunday, Nov. 24
Sectional Final, 5:00 pm ET
How they reached the Sweet 16
Rose-Hulman: HCAC Automatic Berth (AQ) | 1st Rnd: T0-0(2ot-pks) PSU_Behrend (A) | 2nd Rnd: W1-0 Ohio Wesleyan (A)
Franklin & Marshall: Centennial Automatic Berth (AQ) | 1st Rnd: W1-0 Catholic (N) | 2nd Rnd: W3-1 Dickinson (A)
Kenyon: Pool C at-large berth | 1st Rnd: W2-0 Ohion Northern (N) | 2nd Rnd: W2-1 Wheaton (Ill.) (A)
Messiah: Commonwealth Automatic Berth (AQ) | 1st Rnd: W9-1 Centenary (N) | 2nd Rnd: W3-0 Salisbury (A)
2013 Statistical Overview
Rose-Hulman: 12-5-5 (.659) | 1.61 GSA, 0.47 GAA (+1.14) | Avg. D-III OWP: .494 | Last Ten: 6-1-3
Franklin & Marshall: 16-3-2 (.810) | 1.70 GSA, 0.60 GAA (+1.10) | Avg. D-III OWP: .568 | Last Ten: 8-1-1
Kenyon: 16-4-3 (.761) | 2.45 GSA, 0.89 GAA (+1.56) | Avg. D-III OWP: .568 | Last Ten: 7-1-2
Messiah: 20-1-1 (.932) | 3.48 GSA, 0.54 GAA (+2.94) | Avg. D-III OWP: .572 | Last Ten: 9-0-1
Rose-Hulman Season Review
Nothing in Rose-Hulman's regular season suggested a run to the Sweet 16 was in the cards. Their schedule was litered with low-scoring one-goal games or ties (14 of 22 to date) and naturally many overtime games (8 to date). The HCAC is not considered to be one of the better conferences and the Engineers' 0.47 GAA can be dismissed as a product of a weak schedule (0.494 avg. OWP). Of course, tell that to #1 Ohio Wesleyan, their thirteenth and highest scoring (2.74 GPG) shutout victim (add this to what Transylvania did in 2007 and 2009, and it's becoming a tradition for HCAC teams to send Ohio Wesleyan packing). The Rose-Hulman defense allowed the Bishops to hit their season average shots per game (23), but only a third of their average SOG (3 vs. 8.7). Participating in just their third NCAA tournament (also 2008, 2011), it was the Engineeers' first-ever tournament win. It was also their fifth straight shutout, a run that includes a pair of wins to claim the HCAC title as the #2 seed and a first round penalty kick escape when they allowed PSU-Behrend 11 shots on target.
The Rose-Hulmam attack is spearheaded by senior forward duo Drew Belk (15g, 3a) and William Senat (8g, 5a) with midfield service from classmate Ben Green (3g, 8a). Unfortunately, there's little other offensive production coming from the rest of the lineup, and thus it's the defense that is carrying the day. Junior goaltender Drew Miller has posted a very solid .878 save pct, and senior defender Spencer Johnson leads a competent backline on a team that brings two-time HCAC Defender of the Year (2001, 2012) and former defender, Mike Schiff, off the bench in 2013 as a defensive midfielder. Lastly, keep an eye on sophomore defender Mike Smyser who has scored twice in the past four games, both game-winners.
Franklin & Marshall Season Review
The season started nearly perfectly for the Diplomats: eight straight shutouts and a 7-0-1 record that normally would have been good enough for a top 10 ranking, but there apparently were skeptics. F&M's first loss away to Muhlenberg didn't prove anybody right or wrong, but the doubters certainly would have felt vindicated when Ursinus, averaging 4 wins per season lately, came to Lancaster to make it two loses in a row. The middle third of the season contrasted with the fast start: 3-3-1 and just one shutout. The offense was only averaging a goal and a half per outing, so they could hardly afford for the defense to get more generous. Then they hosted Dickinson, who was also struggling with inconsistency, and efficient, high-percentage shooting carried the Diplomats to a 4-0 victory. After beating Swarthmore 2-1 in back-to-back games to close the regular season and advance in the conference semifinals as the #3 seed, 109 minutes was needed to edge past Dickinson and claim the Centennial Conference title. Inexplicably, F&M, who entered that final week ranked No. 2 behind Messiah in the region, was sent to play in a 1st/2nd Round pod hosted by Dickinson who was No. 3 prior to losing to the Diplomats for a second time. When both teams won to open tournament play, F&M had the challenge of beating the same team three times in about three weeks. A three-minute three-goal onslaught by the Dips midway through the first half was the difference, propelling F&M to their second-ever Sweet 16, and first since 1981.
The attack is lead by senior forward Ben Beaver (13g, 2 a) who just broke the program's all-time scoring record with his 2nd round goal. However, for a team that can look very fluid and dangerous with the ball, goal scoring is at a premium with no one else registering more than 4 tallies. The result is a meager 1.70 goal-scoring average that the defense needs to compensate for. Their season overall 0.60 GAA looks pretty decent, but after those eight shutouts to open the campaign, the defense has allowed an average of about a goal per game. But they have not yet conceded through two tournament games, led by senior back and Centennial Player of the Year, David Rosenfield and junior back Chris Scott. Junior netminder T.J. White, whose save percentage is a modest 0.836, has benefitted from solid backline play to post a personal 0.56 GAA.
Kenyon Season Review
With cindarellas like Westminster and Rose-Hulman, it's easy to forget that the first team to book their place in the Sweet 16, the Kenyon Lords, were also a surprise given they had Ohio Northern and Wheaton (Ill.) in their path. Looking at overall statistics, it would seem that Kenyon has gotten to 16-4-3 and the Sweet 16 based more on their offense (2.45 GSA) than their defense (0.89 GAA). However, that notion becomes questionable when looking through their schedule game-by-game. Against the other top teams in the NCAC, they tied both Oberlin and ranked DePauw 0-0 and tied #1 Ohio Wesleyan 1-1 en route to an undefeated conference regular season. They followed that with a 1-0 semifinal shutout of Oberlin before Ohio Wesleyan got the better of them in the NCAC final, 3-1. It seems their defense shone in their biggest games and not their offense. They did scored nearly a third of their goals (18 out of 58) in three 6-goal wins against opponents under 0.350 (win pct.), and removing those three games leaves their season stats a more modest 1.93 GSA and 0.97 GAA. In their tournament games they seem to have struck a perfect balance between offense and defense in scoring 2-0 and 2-1 wins against a pair of opponents that combined for a 2.60 GSA and 0.87 GAA.
The Kenyon scoring is fairly evenly spread out among all their starting and substitute forwards and midfielders. Freshman forward Tony Amolo (11g, 8a) has been a revelation for the Lords and sophomore midfielder Jeremiah Barnes (5g, 8a) has delivered when it has counted most. Senior midfielder Andrew Pamelee's (5g, 0a) influence has only been tempered by his absences due to injury. On the defensive side junior defenders Sam Justice and Cameron Scott lead the backline whose protection has been especially crucial given their goalkeeper's rather low .788 save percentage, and the backline came up huge in denying two Ohio Northern efforts that had the keeper beaten to preserve their first round shutout.
Messiah Season Review
At first glance Messiah's season seems like the same-old, same-old. What might be most noteworthy about this season's results is the lack of shutouts in the early going. Their 10 shutouts and 0.54 GAA to date don't measure up to the Falcon standard, 2009 excepted, but with an offense scoring at a typical Messiah pace of 3.42 (GSA) and the defense never allowing multiple-goal games, they've got a typical looking 20-1-1 record. Their only loss, 1-0, came at the hands of York (Pa.) who has become their biggest rival and bogeyman (York went 3-0-1 against Messiah from 2006-2009 and in last year's sectional semifinal became only team to score twice against them in more than two seasons). The scoreless conference semifinal and PK loss to Lycoming perhaps highlighted the Falcons unimpressive SOG percentage and shot conversion rate, although that may reflect how many teams try to counter Messiah's quality (pack the box and make it hard to ever get a clear look on goal) as much as it speaks negatively about the Falcon's shooting ability. Any kinks in the Messiah armor were not on display when they shutout #9 Salisbury 3-0 on the road to book their place in the Sweet 16 for the fifteenth time in the last sixteen years.
There's no shortage of quality in the Messiah squad, but you have to mention 5th-year senior Josh Wood whose 20 goals not only eclipsed his 19-goal tally as a freshman, but is the most for the team since 2005. Junior midfielder Jeremy Payne (14g, 8a) has followed up last year's Player of the Year campaign with another superb season, and the player to most stand out down the stretch may be junior wingman Jack Thompson (5g, 16a) who is playing better than ever as he stretches defenses wide. Sophomore Matt Kyne has proven a very dependable sidekick to junior All-American Carter Robbins in central defense, allowing the latter to push further up field. Lastly, you can't forget about Messiah's bench. This team is as deep as any in the nation and substitutes has scored 21 goals led by freshman midfielder Danny Brandt (7g, 1a).
Seniors' 4-year Record (through Nov. 17)
Rose-Hulman: 48-23-12 (.651) overall | NCAA's ('11-'13): 1-1-1, Sweet 16 - '13
Franklin & Marshall: 47-18-8 (.699) overall | NCAA's ('13): 2-0-0, Sweet 16 - '13
Kenyon: 42-21-10 (.644) overall | NCAA's ('10-'13): 3-1-0, Sweet 16 - '13
Messiah: 84-3-4 (.945) overall | NCAA's ('10-'11-'12-'13): 11-1-1, Sweet 16 - '10-'12-'13, Elite 8 - '10-'12, Final Four - '10-'12, Champion - '10-'12
Rose-Hulman went one-and-out two years ago, but nine of the starters from that game will be suiting up this weekend, at least seven as starters. But the experience that the Engineer's will most draw on is the most recent—their successful effort against Ohio Wesleyan six days ago. Kenyon was a surprise winner over York in 2010's first round before being sent home by Ohio Wesleyan the following day. Only the three seniors on this year's squad featured in those two games. Franklin & Marshall's squad is the only without any prior tournament experience, but Rose-Hulman's and Kenyon's players have never been to the Sweet 16 so only Messiah has any real advantage in tournament experience at this stage of the run to the Final Four and the title. Messiah, of course, has two national titles sandwiched around their shock one-and-done in 2011.
Rose-Hulman and Franklin & Marshall have never played each other, while Messiah and Kenyon have meet each other just once—a season opener in 1996. Though not necessarily relevant, it's interesting to note that Kenyon went on to be national runners-up that year, the last time they advanced to the Sweet 16 until this year. Messiah, on the other hand, would miss out on that year's tournament, but haven't missed one since, and have been to the Sweet 16 all but two seasons since 1996.
Looking ahead to potential sectional final match-ups, Rose-Hulman and Kenyon did play an early season game four years ago that this year's seniors would have participated in. Messiah and Franklin & Marshall haven't faced-off since 2002 despite the proximity of the schools. As an aside, F&M's coach was a standout player at Messiah in the early- to mid-90's. Kenyon and Franklin & Marshall have never met nor have the Falcons and Engineers.
Why they will advance to the Final Four
Rose-Hulman: The Engineers scored on the #1 team in the nation and then protected that lead for 96 minutes to gain the win. Any team that can do that needs to be taken seriously. Moreover, F&M hasn't scored at the level of Ohio Wesleyan, and Lycoming showed that Messiah can be kept off the scoreboard, so Rose-Hulman can fancy their chances of frustrating their sectional opponents in the same way they did Ohio Wesleyan. Good defense is a more reliable path to a championship than offense, and what they showed so far this tournament is good defense. Finally, they have nothing to lose and can play without the weight of any expectations which can be be a recipe for success against a favorite (although that's somewhat true of all but Messiah in this sectional).
Franklin & Marshall: The Diplomats just went up against probability and won when they defeated Dickinson for the third time in the same season to advance to the Sweet 16, so what's to stop them from making the Final Four? Getting Rose-Hulman instead of Ohio Wesleyan means a very winnable game to reach the Elite 8 and if any team in this group can try to match Messiah's midfield play and keep the Falcons from dominating the midfield battle, it's probably F&M. And this team can be explosive as the 3-minute 3-goal spurt against Dickinson and the ten-minute onslaught following half-time against Catholic showed. In tight games, a short flurry that catches the other team by surprise can be the difference. So if they put on their shooting boots, they have all the tools to pick up a pair of wins this weekend.
Kenyon: Kenyon beat two ranked teams to get here and certainly will have had their confidence justifiable buoyed by those results and the manner in which they were achieved. They also played Ohio Wesleyan twice this year—a team of similar quality, style, and depth as Messiah—and managed a 1-1 draw the first time. That will have learned from those two encounters and that will have them better prepared than most teams to face Messiah. The combination of peaking at the right time, riding the wave of momentum and confidence from last weekend, and the experience from twice playing Ohio Wesleyan will see them oust the defending champions and whoever gets in their way on Sunday.
Messiah: Is "This is Messiah—winning tournament games is what they do" an acceptable entry here? Really, what more can be said of a team of this quality, depth, and incomparable track record. They've already picked up their quality loss (York, mid-season) and their it-was-just-one-of-those-days game (Lycoming in the conference semifinal), so no one can count on Messiah being due for a loss. The team seems to be kicking it up a notch as they usually do come tournament time, and they are known for playing their best this time of year. Finally, even though it's cliché, practically-speaking the highly touted freshmen are sophomores by this point of the season and are making their "B" team very dangerous. If their starters don't beat you, their substitutes can and regularly do. It's 90 relentless minutes for the opposition, and few team can deal with that.
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