November 3, 2010

Wednesday conference tourney results

Rarely is a conference final breezy, but the chances of a conference final evolving as the scene of a top-25 battlefield are possibly just as rare; the Capital Athletic Conference, however, will pit No.13 York against No.17 Salisbury. Sure, New England Small College, New Jersey, and Centennial, at times, sport two of the nation's best in their finals, but with upsets and reserved performances- sometimes at-large bid recipients are too obvious (dare I say unwarranted?)- the top teams don't always fulfill the probability. The Capital Athletic's final will undoubtedly be a salivating one, as both top teams emerged as the finalists on Wednesday. York breezed past a Mary Washington desperate for a win, who unfortunately let in a goal right off the mark, and shipped another just seconds before the break to eventually lose 2-0. Salisbury, however, will sigh with relief after holding their nerves to seal the win in penalties. A loss to York in the final will surely not be enough to condemn their fine season to a premature end, and the same can be said about York.

Kenyon had, before them, a golden opportunity to set up a dream final between they and Ohio Wesleyan, but faltered in their endeavors, losing 2-1 in an absolute thriller. Denison came flying out of the gates to go two goals-to-the-good by the 33rd minute, but Kenyon responded immediately to pull one back. With 55 minutes and up just one goal against the No.18 team in the nation, Denison held their nerves to progress to the final, where they will battle for an unlikely championship against No.4 Ohio Wesleyan. Ohio Wesleyan pulled-off a convincing 2-0 win against Allegheny.

No.20 Johns Hopkins entered their post-season campaign with a bang, punishing Gettysburg 4-1 in their Centennial play-in game. Scott Bukoski fired home to draw first blood for Hopkins in the 26th minute, but a volatile 3 minutes in the second half would prove sweet and sour for Hopkins as Brandon Sumpio doubled the lead at the 54th minute, Corey Adams completing the team treble in the 55th, Sean Coleman receiving a double-booking and ejection in the 56th, and Scott Bukoski completing his brace in the 57th minute. Gettysburg was able to pull a consolation back, but Hopkins have bigger problems to worry about, with junior forward Sean Coleman forced to sit in the semi-final against a deadly Swarthmore on Saturday.

The CCIWfinal will host another heated rivarly between conference stalwarts Wheaton and a dangerous North Park side, after they claimed semi-final victories over Augustana and Carthage, respectively. Augustana nearly claimed a stunning victory to displace Wheaton from the final for the first time in conference history, but an own goal in the dying moments of the match broke Augustana hearts, and spared Wheaton's blushes. Thanks to goals from Jamie Kritico and Kris Grahn, North Park claimed a solid 2-0 victory over Carthage, with whom they drew in a scoreless game two weeks ago. The two will meet in championship for the third time in six years.

In the highly competitive Liberty League, St. Lawrence proved again tonight that they are the dominant force with a thrilling overtime win against a tough Hamilton, as they look to make a significant impact in the national tournament, something they've done so many times in the past. In their semi-final thriller, Hamilton twice grabbed the lead, forcing two come-backs from St. Lawrence, but after holding on in the remainder of regulation, Brian Gilloran slid home the winner with just over a minute left.

Calvin claimed vital points against MIAA foe Albion to put pressure on leaders, Hope, who won convincingly against former leaders Kalamazoo, 2-0. Miles Colago opened the scoring for Calvin who soon doubled the lead thanks to a Scott Hooker penalty to seal-the-deal. Calvin conceded a penalty late to grant a consolation, but their bigger problem was Hope's victory that keeps them top with one game left to play. Both teams have testy matches this weekend to conclude the season, with Calvin playing Trine, and Hope playing Olivet; pressure a bit more on Hope to win it all, as Calvin will most-likely pick-up an at-large berth into the national tournament.

In the Old Dominion Conference, Hampden-Sydney booked themselves a surprise ticket to the final against Lynchburg after their hard-fought win against other mid-table dwellers Washington and Lee. Washington and Lee standout goalkeeper William Dorrance recorded 7 saves, but a team defense that allowed 16 shots-fired, eventually buckled.

In women's action, the heated New Jersey Athletic Conference kicked-off tonight while the second half of the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin came to a conclusion to determine the finalists in the nation's toughest conferences in the nation in women's soccer this term.

In the NJAC, William Paterson, who just last week dropped out of the national rankings earned an outstanding victory in penalties over a dangerous, 13th ranked Rowan, while The College of New Jersey continued to shrug-off the mid-season blues putting a hopeful Richard Stockton to the sword in their 2-1 victory. After grabbing a 2-goal lead, TCNJ endured a nervy finish when Dailey Todd pulled one back for Stockton, but they were able to absorb any further attack as they booked their place to the finals on Saturday. While William Paterson held the edge in the shots-fired margin, both teams took a very defensive approach, forcing the scoreless tie into penalties. Rowan blanked on their first two, handing the victory to William Paterson who connected on all four of theirs.

 On Tuesday, No.4 Wheaton continued their surge in the CCIW to annihilate Millikin en route to their typical spot in the championship. Kishkunas began the route with a brilliant screamer of a free-kick, bending the shot around the wall for the first goal in the 5th minute. Downhill from there for Millikin, they collapsed in the 11th minute to allow Wheaton to double. Despite putting much pressure on Wheaton's defense, Millikin was unable to penetrate to effect, and shipped another late in the game.

The most electrifying of the conference semis was the match between No. 7 Illinois Wesleyan, and No.11 Augustana. Coming off of their regular season thriller, which ended in a draw, the two met just two weeks after, and the result and energy was no different. While the match ended in a draw after regulation and extra time, both teams were able to unlock each other's defenses with lone goals. On into penalties, and Illinois Wesleyan proved the better (or luckier?) team, setting up a dream final with Wheaton. Although Wheaton won by a long-shot in their first meeting with Illinois Wesleyan, all that was required of Illinois Wesleyan was shutting down Wheaton's dead-ball ability, and the result would have been much closer. Interesting to see how they cope with Kishkunas and co.

Cal-Lutheran suffered a devastating defeat to Redlands in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, after such a dominant conference campaign. No.15 Cal-Lutheran suffered just one loss all season, that being to the chasing Occidental, and just two weeks ago hammered Redlands 3-0. To make the loss worse, both goals resulted from a pure lack in defensive organization, as Redlands capitalized on two bouncers in the box to slam home two vital goals. They will meet Occidental in the final, who squeezed by on penalties against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps.

Allegheny nearly found themselves in the same position as Cal-Lutheran, but ran out winners in Occidental's fashion after their North Coast semi-final nearly turned sour. No.20 Allegheny pulled ahead at the 51st minute, but Wooster drew level in the 58th through a Paige Piper blast, forcing the match into extra time. However, it was keeper Emily Karr's heroics that enabled Allegheny to avoid an embarrassing exit.

Messiah promised a post-season rampage, by kicking it off with a 6-0 win against a helpless Alvernia. Amanda Naeher opened the holders' account with a majestic 30 yard floater, and closed her own account with a brace in the second half, as they look to defeat Arcadia again in the final on Saturday.

No. 3 Otterbein booked themselves a spot in the Ohio Athletic Conference final after a hardfought 1-0 win against Wilmington, with Adrienne Novak burying the winner in the 66th minute.

In New York, No. 8 William Smith came out on top in a close Liberty League semi-final with Skidmore. After taking the lead through Brelynn Nayspany in the 11th minute, Jessie Tarantino doubled. And like a many other matches tonight, William Smith's hard-earned two goal lead nearly dissolved as Skidmore clawed their way back in the match, scoring in the 66th minute. William Smith held on to book their championship date with Vassar who needed extra time to bury a valiant Hamilton (tough night for Hamilton soccer).

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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