November 21, 2010

NCAA women: Sunday's wins are a ticket to Texas

William Smith head coach Aliceann Wilber has 423 career wins - tops in Division III women's soccer
Photo by Kevin Colton/Hobart and William Smith (includes cover photo)

Messiah faced a challenge from Johns Hopkins, Otterbein needed a strong performance from their keeper, and William Smith fought back Williams to make it two in one season - and  head coach Aliceann Wilber pushed her career record to 423 wins, which puts her in first place on the NCAA Division III women’s soccer all-time list.

No. 1 Messiah nearly found themselves reeling for the first time this season, as they were forced to stave off a flurry of Johns Hopkins attacks in the second half, but steadied their nerves to walk out 2-1 winners in possibly the most thrilling match of the year. The nation awaits the showdown between undefeated wonders and 2nd ranked Hardin-Simmons and holders Messiah, but No. 11 Johns Hopkins nearly ruined those chances as their push to equalize in the second half was thwarted by the woodwork. 11 minutes in however, and Messiah placed themselves in full control of the match, going two goals to-the-good through sophomore Corrine Wulf and senior Joanna Haqq. Not down and out, Johns Hopkins responded brilliantly with a strike from junior Paulina Goodman, and took over from there. Unfortunately for Hopkins, Messiah's defense proved all too strong, and Messiah again won 2-1 against Johns Hopkins, as they did in their first meeting early this season. The holders maintained their undefeated form, and set up a Final Four date with William Smith.

Senior BreLynn Nasypany celebrates the Heron's win over Williams photo by Kevin Colton

Like Messiah, No. 10 William Smith downed their Sunday opponent Williams in a rematch from earlier this season. No. 20 Williams landed themselves in the Elite 8 with a massive win against Eastern Connecticut, but their post season brilliance came to abrupt end against William Smith, as was projected. William Smith, who beat Williams 3-1 in the first bout, needed just one goal from senior BreLynn Nasypany to advance to the Final Four, and present Coach Aliceann Wilber with the national record for wins as a coach. The Herons return to the semifinals for another run at Messiah - in 2008 at the Final Four in Greensboro, NC, Messiah was a 3-0 winner over William Smith.  Many of the players on both sides of the ball remember this match and those on the Heron side of the pitch will be eager for a rematch and a chance at their first national title since 1988.  William Smith may be underdogs against the mighty Falcons, but if any fact is to be elicited from their match with Johns Hopkins, it is that Messiah is not immortal, and can be beaten. It just hasn't happened yet, and William Smith will undoubtedly look to end that trend.

Senior keeper Tara Carter had two saves in the penalty kick round with Denison Otterbein athletics photo

It's two in a row for very fortunate Otterbein side, as they sealed their second tournament win in penalties. The No. 3 team in the nation felled Loras first, then ousted Denison Sunday to progress to the Final Four. Denison looked set to topple the undefeated favorites after a corner was diverted home by freshman Libbie Randolph, but the celebrations were short-lived as sophomore Rachel Dens hammered home just 40 seconds later for Otterbein, who eventually won it in penalties. Senior keeper Tara Carter had two saves in the shoot-out. Denison was a bit of a surprise Elite 8 team, as they defeated both No. 7 Illinois Wesleyan and No. 16 UW-Stevens Point to land themselves in battle with an undefeated Otterbein, but Otterbein ensured there would be no surprise teams heading to San Antonio. Otterbein's dreams of a championship could very well be dashed, as they face another undefeated team in Hardin-Simmons. Three unbeaten teams will compete for a national championship: Hardin-Simmons, Otterbein, and Messiah, while William Smith claims just two losses, both at the beginning of the season.

Jim Matson, Christan Shirk, Ryan Harmanis, and other staff writers and contributors help cover the games and results across the nation.

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