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November 26, 2012

Women's Semifinal 2 Preview

Other Previews: Women's Semifinal 1 Men's:  Semifinal 1 | Semifinal 2

By James Matson

NCAA Division III Women's Soccer - National Semifinal 2

Friday, November 30 — 7:00 pm CT

No. 17  Misericordia (20-2-2)

vs.

No. 1  Messiah (22-1-1)

How they reached the Final Four

Misericordia: Freedom Champions (AQ) | 1st Rnd: W2-0 Lesley (N) | 2nd Rnd: W1-0 Middlebury (A) | Sweet 16: T0-0(2ot)(6-5 pks) Ithaca (A) | Elite 8: W2-0 Brandeis (N)

Messiah: Commonwealth Champions (AQ) | 1st Rnd: W2-1 Roger Williams (H) | 2nd Rnd: W3-0 Grove City (H) | Sweet 16: W5-0 MIT (H) | Elite 8: W3-0 Johns Hopkins (H)

2012 Statistical Overview

Misericordia: 20-2-2 (.875) | 3.11 GSA, 0.49 GAA (+2.62) | Avg. OWP: .565 | Last Ten: 9-0-1

Messiah: 22-1-1 (.938) | 3.51 GSA, 0.25 GAA (+3.26) | Avg. OWP: .622 | Last Ten: 10-0-0

Misericordia Season Review

Misericordia had high hopes for the 2012 season. And why not? Coach Mark Stauffer and his team had earned a spot in the 2011 NCAA tournament, won their first ever post-season match, and only lost one senior to graduation. The Cougars finished the 2011 season at 14-5-2, playing three top ranked and eventual Final Four teams in Messiah, William Smith, and Ithaca. With a handful of seniors and a solid, experienced line-up, Misericordia set out to win the conference and move into new territory in the NCAA bracket. This year’s 20-2-2 record and the strong play from both seniors and freshmen, the Cougars have achieved two goals by winning the Freedom Conference tournament and by moving into the Final Four. Last season’s second round loss to Amherst is now just a statistic.

As with last season, Misericordia scheduled another round of strong non-conference opponents for 2012. After starting off at 4-0, the Cougars faced Richard Stockton (17-4-3) and played to a 1-1 draw. After collecting two more wins, the 6-0-1 Cougars fell 0-2 at No. 1 Messiah, and then were edged 0-1 to No. 6 Ithaca at home. But out of that close match with Ithaca (shots were even), Misericordia rebounded and is now on a 13 match unbeaten streak.

Misericordia plays a fast-paced game and attacks the goal, outscoring their opponents 76-12 on the season (3.17 gsa). The Cougars have also produced twice as many corner kicks as their opponents. The ability to score, combined with the strong defensive and the effectiveness of freshman keeper Maureen Ciccosanti, provides most of the reason that Misericordia is playing in a national semifinal.

Seniors Sam Helmstetter (18g, 9a) and Laura Roney (14g, 11a) provide most of the firepower for the Cougars, scoring frequently off of restarts and crosses. But sophomore midfielder Megan Lannigan (10g, 7a) and freshman forward Meghan Antrim (10g, 1a) apply plenty of their own pressure, and have combined for five game winners. Senior Nicolette Hensel (1g, 11a) and sophomore Danielle Hesler provide support for the back line.

After defeating Lesley 2-0 in the first round on the road, Misericordia faced No. 19 Middlebury in what was their toughest post-season match. Outplayed by an assertive Panther side (23-5 shot advantage), Ciccosanti had what might be her best match of the season with nine saves. The sectional set up another contest with host Ithaca, which resulted in a victory via PKs after a closely fought scoreless 110 minutes. The 6-5 shootout win was set-up with a key save by Ciccosanti, and a successful strike by Hesler. The trip to San Antonio was then a lock with the 2-0 Elite 8 victory over Brandeis.

Messiah Season Review

The season for top-ranked Messiah has in many ways been predictable. But that’s only in hindsight as the defending national champions were everyone’s favorite target in 2012. And regardless of the Falcon’s four national titles in seven years, every senior on the team wants 2012 to be their year and hoist the bronze and walnut in San Antonio. That goal is only two matches away as the Falcons have earned their way back to their 13th straight Final Four on the back of a high pressure offense and very stingy and effective defensive strategy (not an easy feat with the graduation of the 2011 D3soccer.com Defender of the Year Kelsey Gorman).

The season didn’t start according to plan and although Emory was ranked No. 2 coming into the match, Messiah hadn’t lost a match at Shoemaker Field in six years – the confidence was high for another unbeaten season. But lose they did, falling 1-2 to the Eagles in overtime. It would be a rare match where the Falcons were outshot and could not get off a single corner kick. Just a week later, Messiah continued their challenging schedule, hosting then top-ranked William Smith. Messiah dominated most of the statistics in the match, yet had to settle for a 1-1 draw, putting the Falcons at 2-1-1 early in the season. But perhaps as a response for the fans, Messiah reeled off nine straight wins without allowing a goal, including a 2-0 shutout of Misericordia. After close calls against Lebanon Valley and Arcadia, the Falcons finished off the schedule with two shutouts in the Commonwealth Tournament and prepared for the post-season.

The Falcons are a fast team, yet their biggest advantage might be their precision passing and strong ball control. The transition through the midfield catches many teams off guard, especially with the quickness of 2011 D3soccer.com All-America senior Alex Brandt (17g, 13a). Senior Rachel Scheibeler (14g, 6a) also adds scoring power from the midfield position. Junior forward Alicia Frey (12g, 4a) and freshman forward Nikki Elsaesser (10g, 11a) add to opponent’s coverage problems, as one can’t shut Messiah down by limiting any one player. Seniors Elizabeth Phillips (5g, 1a) and Anne Trapp (2g), and junior Ali Rogers (2a) bring experienced leadership to the back line, proving support to freshman keeper Audra Larson.

The Falcons hosted the first and second rounds, defeating a feisty Roger Williams side 2-1, and blanking Grove City 3-0. In the sectionals, Messiah again hosted and grabbed two more shutouts, cruising by MIT 5-0 and shutting out a strong Johns Hopkins squad 3-0.

Head Coaches

Misericordia

Mark Stauffer, 13th year (2000-2012)

Overall: 170-81-14 (.668)

NCAA's (6 of 13 yrs.): 4-5-1 (.450)

Coach Mark Stauffer is in his 13th year at Misericordia. His teams have earned a spot in the NCAA post-season in six of those years, and in 2011 his Cougars won their first tournament match and made it to the second round for the first time in program history. Stauffer is 34-7-4 in the past two seasons, including play against the top teams in the nation, and is building a tradition of excellent soccer at Misericordia. While the Final Four is new to Coach Stauffer, he and his team has seen this level of competition four times this season and thus should be ready for the battle against Messiah on Friday.

Messiah

Scott Frey, 13th year (2000-2012)

Overall: 274-14-13 (.932)

NCAA's (13 of 13 yrs.): 45-7-4 (.839), Champion - '05,'08,'09,'11, Runner-Up - '02,'07,'10, Final Four - '04,'06

There is not a more experienced coach in Division III women’s soccer than Coach Scott Frey. He has coached his Falcon team to 13 straight NCAA post-season tournaments, and has won four national championships. His record also includes a number of Final Four losses, so Frey has no illusions about the difficulty in winning at this level. His 274 wins puts him 27th on the all-time list of winningest coaches, while his winning percentage of .932 puts him at the top of the all-time standings.

Seniors' 4-year Record (through Nov. 18)

Misericordia: 54-26-6 (.663) overall | NCAA's ('11,'12): 4-1-1

Messiah: 94-2-3 (.965) overall | NCAA's ('09,'10,'11','12): 21-1-0, Final Four - '10,'12', Champion - '09,'11'

Experience

Misericordia: Of the teams in San Antonio, Misericordia has the least amount of NCAA post-season experience. And while this fact need not be a negative, there are examples of teams who have not dealt well with the pressure of a national semifinal or final. If the Cougars are to make up for their freshman status, they need to focus on their regular season experience: they have already played Messiah, and their match with Ithaca won’t prove to have been very different from anything they’ll face against Messiah or the other two sides in San Antonio.

Messiah: For all of Messiah’s talent, their experience and ability to perform under pressure may be their biggest advantage. The current seniors have won championships in ’09 and ’11, and lost in 2010. In last season’s title match, Messiah was down 0-1 to Wheaton before coming back to win 3-1. Coming back from behind is tough to do in the Final Four, yet Messiah always expects to win, no matter the score. Adding to this depth of experience, the Falcons lost the 2010 title match to Hardin-Simmons 2-1, failing to come from behind and living the disappointment of a loss in the final match of the season. As a result, Messiah clearly has a depth of Final Four experience that is unmatched in this year’s field.

 

Other Previews: Women's Semifinal 1 Men's:  Semifinal 1 | Semifinal 2
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