November 20, 2010

Sweet Saturday: HSU, Oshkosh are on to Texas

In men's action, it was an NESCAC championship rematch in the Elite 8 and a Lynchburg shock win over sectional favorites Trinity.  Meanwhile UW-Oshkosh booked a spot in the Final Four for the second time in seven years, officially ending the possibility of Calvin's redemption from last year.

   Updated Men's Bracket

   Saturday's results and Sunday's schedule on the scoreboard

Despite Babson and Amherst's challenges, they were unable to land a spot in the Elite 8 in their sectional semis, as Bowdoin and Middlebury won out in their Sweet 16 matches. Babson was probably the most surprising Sweet 16 competitor in their section, as they downed a dangerous Williams side to book a date with NESCAC champions and No. 23 Middlebury. But Middlebury, who is seeking to relive their 2007 national championship, scored a vital goal with just ten left in the match. Otis Pitney was the hero after a brave finish, coolly slotting home following a beautiful throughball from Tyler Macnee. Babson's challenges were stemmed to just a few shots, while it was Middlebury who maintained an advantage in possession and shots throughout the match.

No. 16 Bowdoin's second time facing Amherst proved to be the thriller the nation expected, with Bowdoin sealing their spot in the Elite 8 after a dramatic round of penalties. In each others' first match of the season, Bowdoin and Amherst played to a bore stalemate, but a Sweet 16 match that saw back and forth action with flurries of chances a piece was much different. Coincidentally, both goals came from goal-mouth scrambles, with Bowdoin drawing first blood in the 15th minute, and Amherst levelling late-on in the 72nd minute. Despite the match full of chances, the round of penalties was dour, with Amherst able to convert just one, spelling doom to their hopeful run into the Final Four. Excitingly, this match sets-up an exciting match between Middlebury and Bowdoin, who played to penalties in their conference championship. Both teams were unquestionable locks for Pool C, regardless of their finish- hence the tepid approach from both- but with the loser bowing out, the intesity should rival any match in the tournament. Middlebury won the first match in penalties, but a different result is almost sure to ensue.

Senior Tyler Wall had the game winning goal for Ohio Wesleyan in their 1-0 win over Johns Hopkins

No. 5 Ohio Wesleyan finds themselves playing a very tricky match against a Lynchburg side that has spent their entire national tournament defying the odds, and shocking the nation. Ohio Wesleyan will rest knowing they knocked-off a very deadly 19th-ranked Johns Hopkins side on Saturday, but rest easy they won't, for their match against Lynchburg will undoubtedly raise questions; how good is Lynchburg? Was Trinity just over-rated? Will they be next in line for fall victim to Lynchburg's devastatingly potent offense? Lynchburg made short work of Transylvania, then stole the show from bye-recipient Emory in the dying moments of the match, and finally (but could very well not be such the superlative) stunned No. 3 Trinity 2-0 with two late goals three minutes apart from each other. Ohio Wesleyan actually escaped a furious Johns Hopkins attack to squeeze through to the Elite 8, but as has occurred so often this campaign, the Wall brothers connected to devastating effect, creating a goal in the 13th minute. That was all that was necessary to set themselves up with a powerful Lynchburg team.

Freshman Ryan Hanna eludes a Calvin defender in UW-Oshkosh's quarterfinal victory photo by LarryRadloff,

No. 11 UW-Oshkosh became the first team of the 2010 campaign to land themselves in the Final Four, and they did it in style with a massive two goal wins over North Park and Loras, and then an impressive 1-0 win over Calvin. No. 10 Calvin was desperately trying to recover their loss to Messiah in last years' national championship, and a meeting between the two seemed eminent, with Messiah the firm favorites to progress from their sectionals, and Calvin in place to advance from theirs. All seemed as planned after Messiah cruised past fairytale Medaille, but Calvin's push came to an abrupt halt one round shy when Oshkosh's impregnable defense shut them down, just like any other team they've faced this year. With their strength of schedule called into question so often this year, Oshkosh has responded by shutting down every opponent, and still remain unbeaten (obviously). Quite an accomplishment at this phase in the campaign. Maybe they should give Arsene Wenger a ring for some advice in the perpetuity of their undefeated form.  Nonetheless, their Final Four match will probably be toughest of them all, particularly if all goes as planned- safe to say Messiah will win.

But then again, no one expected the Merchant Marines to advance as far as they have, and they've done so upending Kean, Brockport, and Muhlenberg, three very talented teams. No. 1 Messiah may find themselves out in the Elite 8 for the first time in eight years if Merchant Marine can continue their form, and they've been in quality form for most of the season, losing just two games up to this point. Their Saturday win against Muhlenberg in the Sweet 16 was unexpected for most, but not for Merchant Marine who came out firing, and bagged the winner early on in the 18th minute. In an even match from that point on, they were able to hold off No. 25 Muhlenberg for an historic first time trip to the Elite 8. Messiah should be worried. They kept it close- and very late- against a Montclair State that was lucky to receive a bid (one wonders how they were lucky enough to be paired with SUNY Maritime), and then were able to find the net only twice out of 34 shots against Medaille. Merchant Marine won't be so generous with their defensive responsibilities, and their offense has the ability to strike at the right time, to great effect. If Messiah fails to find their scoring form, doom could loom for the most prolific and deadly team in NCAA Division III history. Enticing stuff. . .

Junior Jamie Sawyer grabbed William Smith's first goal in their 2-1 win over Oneonta State photo by Kevin Colton

The Women's tournament is ensuing with fewer and fewer surprises, as Hardin-Simmons landed their predictable spot in the Final Four, Messiah and Johns Hopkins await their Sunday rematch, William Smith placed themselves in pole position to progress, and Otterbein remained unbeaten.

No. 2 Hardin-Simmons finished the demolition of their entire side of the bracket, finishing Saturday the job Saturday with an uncharacteristically nervy 2-1 win over No. 8 Emory. All seemed normal when the Kuykendalls (anyone surprised?) moved the ball fluidly to set up Miranda Bersosa with an opener in the 10th minute. Amy Kuykendall then converted her's from the spot three minutes later. All was not normal, however, when deep into the second half, Kelly Costopoulos pulled one back for Emory, and Hardin-Simmons finished with their backs against the wall. They face the winner of Otterbein v Denison. Here is the match recap and videos of the goals and Cowgirl celebration.

No. 3 Otterbein's progression to the Elite 8 is no surprise, but Denison's is definitely surprising. They began their tournament with a tight victory over Penn State Altoona, then carried on upsetting CCIW powerhouse No. 7 Illinois Wesleyan 2-nil, and then proceeded to oust No. 16 UW-Stevens Point in penalties. Denison opened their account first in Saturday's match with Stevens Point, but determined not to lose out to the underdogs, they leveled at the death to send the match into extra time. Denison held out, however, and was rewarded in the shoot-out, with Andrea Karl pulling off a massive save to ensure the win. They will face a miserly Otterbein, who throughout the season has not been one of the best offensively, but superior defensively. Otterbein, too, needed penalties to book their spot in the Elite 8 following a match with few chances. Steadying their defenses, both teams seemed prepped for a war of attrition, and Otterbein won out to maintain their undefeated record.

William's senior Sara Wild scored the first goal in the Eph's 2-0 win over Eastern Connecticut

No. 1 Messiah and No. 11 Johns Hopkins set themselves up with an exciting rematch to see who progresses to the Final Four. Messiah are the obvious favorites, boasting a 22-0 record with just two goals yielded all season- ironically one was to Johns Hopkins- and claiming the head-to-head advantage from the two teams' earlier bout. Johns Hopkins, on the other hand, did lose to Messiah at the beginning of the year, claims two other losses, plus several more goals allowed. With the odds stacked against them however, Johns Hopkins has experienced a very successful national tournament, dealing both Hamilton and The College of New Jersey losses. Not to mention, the result in their first match with Messiah nearly fell in their favor, but they were unable to complete their comeback. Messiah's tournament still has ensued with much greater success. While Johns Hopkins was grinding out a win against a highly talented and 9th ranked TCNJ, Messiah was dealing an otherwise deadly Dickinson a 3-0 loss. Note: Johns Hopkins recently lost to No. 25 Dickinson. It is true that Johns Hopkins cruised past Farmingdale State and Hamilton 2-0 in each of their first round matches, Messiah trounced Manhattanville and 15th ranked Rowan 4-0 in each of their first round matches. It's a mountain for Johns Hopkins to climb, but not one that is insurmountable.

In the New York and New England derbies No. 20 Williams ended No. 19 Eastern Connecticut's dream season, and No. 10 William Smith sent Oneonta State packing to set up another Elite 8 rematch. In this case, the odds heavily favor William Smith, who put Williams to sword in their prior meeting by a score of 3-1. Williams has found themselves in sensational form in the last half of their season, and it could very well be a different Williams that William Smith played earlier as opposed to the one awaiting a trip to San Diego. If all goes smoothly, however, William Smith will earn their double win over Williams, and book a date with other Final Four probables, Messiah.

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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