November 21, 2010

NCAA men: Welcome to San Antonio!

Kyle Smyczak hit a stunner as Lynchburg toppled Ohio Wesleyan, Messiah ran riot on Merchant Marine, and Bowdoin reversed fate against Middlebury, as all three teams booked their tickets to San Antonio for a salivating Final Four.  On Saturday, UW-Oshkosh earned their ticket with a shutout of Calvin.

Lynchburg's freshman keeper Michael Releford kept both Trinity and Ohio Wesleyan off the board.
Lynchburg athletics photo

Updated men's bracket

Lynchburg shocked the nation once again with a massive win over No. 5 Ohio Wesleyan Sunday night, a match that places them in the Final Four for the first time in their program's history. Unlike their match with Final Four favorites Trinity, where they bagged two late goals to shock the 3rd ranked team in the nation, Lynchburg stunned the sectional hosts in front of their home crowd when junior Kyle Smyczak hammered a loose ball home following a corner. The Ohio Wesleyan barrage ensued, but freshman keeper Michael Releford's heroics prevented any shots from leveling. Lynchburg continued with a fair amount of chances as well, and with just seconds left on the clock, countered Ohio Wesleyan's full throttle push for an equalizer, where junior Shane Spanninger rounded off the night with fine strike to win it 2-0. Lynchburg's shock run can continue, but it will be difficult as they face a tough and talented Bowdoin side. If anything about Bowdoin's season is troubling for a Lynchburg team that has yet to seem troubled by 'favorite' statuses, it will be the fact that Bowdoin advanced out of the nation's toughest conference, and forged ahead in the tournament against those same nationally-ranked teams. Lynchburg however, has spent the tournament bringing about disaster for teams that seemed locks for advancement, and Bowdoin could very well be a footnote in Lynchburg's campaign history as they challenge for the national championship in San Antonio.

Bowdoin freshman Zach Danssaert scored with seconds to play, breaking the back of Middlebury and sending his team to San Antonio.
Bowdoin athletics photo

The quarterfinal match between No. 16 Bowdoin and No. 23 Middlebury did not follow the same storyline as their bout in the NESCAC championship match as Bowdoin put Middlebury to the sword in extra time. In the NESCAC championship match, regular season champions Bowdoin fell victim to Middlebury through a penalty shoot-out, but Bowdoin secured the win when it truly mattered most. Middlebury stole the show just after the break through senior Bret Brazier, but Bowdoin completed an excellent second half with a solo goal in the 81st minute from junior Eddie Jones to draw it all level. Bowdoin would leave it late once again, but this time scoring with just a minute left in the first period of extra time, this time with a solo goal from freshman Zach Danssaert, and Bowdoin moves into the nation's top four teams. Forget the fact that Middlebury proved susceptible in the dying moments of the match, this will be especially difficult to stomach considering Middlebury dealt Bowdoin two losses prior to this point in the campaign. Early on, Middlebury dealt Bowdoin a solid 2-nil loss, and then saw them off for a second time, that time in the conference championship, that time via shoot-out. Those were the only two losses for Bowdoin all term, and they were determined it would not happen again; not at this point in the campaign at least, and they will arrive in San Antonio as first time Final Four participants. But just like Emory, Trinity and Ohio Wesleyan, they should be very wary of a Lynchburg side that has knocked-off every ranked team that has come their way.

Junior Danny Thompson scored one of Messiah's three goals in their shutout of Merchant Marine.
Photo by Jeff Levy, d3photography.com

Some believed Merchant Marine would give top-ranked Messiah a weighty challenge in Sunday's Elite 8, potentially fulfil a cinderella story, possibly book their place in the Final Four for the first time in school history. . . they didn't. Messiah did enter this match on the back side of shaky performances. Yes they pounded Medaille, but were only able to net twice despite an astounding 34 shots. And in the preceding match they needed extra time to kill off a Montclair State team that, based on nationwide consensus, was lucky to enter the tournament. But they somehow get stronger the more they fight. Or maybe it's just the experience that kicks in throughout the latter stages, but Messiah is now looking virtually unstoppable. Merchant Marine used talent, but also a system of overwhelming organization and a tough defense, which could have been problematic to Messiah. Messiah, however, was two goals to-the-good by the 20th minute, and looking comfortable, even though fortune favored with a Merchant Marine own goal to start. In the 69th minute freshman Drew Frey pounced on a deflected shot to seal the deal at 3-0. Their meeting with No. 11 UW-Oshkosh in the Final Four will be one heavily watched, for Oshkosh has yet to lose all season, and they've shipped just five goals compared to Messiah's 10. And while Messiah's strength of schedule greatly exceeds that of Oshkosh's, it hasn't seemed to have an effect on Oshkosh, who ran through Calvin, Loras, and North Park this tournament. At this point though, one can hardly fathom Messiah not continuing on to victory for the seventh time in nine years.



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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Nov 22: Getting to know the 2013 men's Sweet 16
Nov 10: Men's at-large berth analysis and predictions
Nov 7: AQ's, Pool B and Pool C? What does it all mean?
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Nov 14: Welcome to the Sweet 16, Part 2: the Men
Nov 13: Welcome to the Sweet 16, Part 1: the Women
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Nov 6: At-large berth analysis and predictions
Nov 4: So what's this talk about AQ's, Pool B and Pool C?
Oct 24: Week 8 Flyby Distractions
Oct 19: NCAA Regional Rankings (aka 'The Rankings that Matter')
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Dec 4: Messiah takes the title in overtime
Dec 3: The stalwart against the upstart
Nov 30: Men's NCAA semifinal preview
Nov 30: Women's NCAA semifinal preview
Nov 21: NCAA men: Welcome to San Antonio!
Nov 21: NCAA women: Sunday's wins are a ticket to Texas
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