November 6, 2013

Centennial tournament preview: Quick rematch for Fords, Mules

HAVERFORD, Pa. – The field hockey rematch between Haverford College and Muhlenberg College comes much sooner than anticipated as the two teams that squared off against each other in Saturday's 2013 season finale are paired up for the opening-round contest of the Centennial Conference playoffs on Wednesday night.

The Fords (10-7, 6-4 C) won Saturday's game, 2-1, against the host Mules (8-9, 6-4) in overtime when Haverford's Megan Holt blasted home the game-winner less than three minutes into the extra session.

That victory allowed Haverford to slip past Muhlenberg in the league standings, earning the Fords the No. 4 seed in the league playoffs which carries the right to host the quarterfinal match-up on Wednesday.

Saturday's result wasn't surprising given the recent history between the two squads.

In their last 10 meetings the Fords, courtesy of the taut overtime win, edged out to a narrow 6-4 advantage against the Mules. Haverford coming out on top in Saturday's battle also aligned with recent history as it was the fourth consecutive win by the Fords over Muhlenberg.

All bets are off Wednesday, however, as the teams compete against each other for the first time in league-playoff history.

Haverford might have the upper hand in experience as it has now qualified for its fifth straight conference tournament. Muhlenberg has only earned a postseason Centennial spot three times in its history (2000, 2006, 2007).

The Mules enter Wednesday with a 6-3 record over their past nine contests, but the last two of those games are losses and they carried a four-game losing streak into that stretch run. Haverford was only 5-5 in its last 10 but were 3-0 in the games before and have won at least two in a row on four occasions this fall.

The Haverford attack is spread equally between four scorers, led by Jen DiMaria's 23 points from nine goals and five assists. Bryn Bissey is the goals leader with 10 and her two assists add up to 22 points. Catherine Aronowitz is next on the production list with 20 points (seven goals, six assists) followed by Holt's 19 points (nine goals, one assist). This quartet has produced 35 of the team's 41 goals.

In contrast, and though led far and away by forward Kayleigh Thies' 11 goals and 30 points, a total of 12 players have scored at least one goal for Muhlenberg as it accumulated 37 goals on the year.

Each team's defensive third is spurred by key defenders and the goalkeepers.

Haverford's Lindsey Lopes has produced a 1.80 goals-against average between the posts which is fifth-lowest in the league. Out in front of the cage the Fords get spirited play from Sarah Waldis who consistently cancels out scoring threats, while Allison Martin has come up with a team-leading three defensive saves of the Fords' nine.

Muhlenberg's Ashley DeAngelis has come up with five defensive saves, of nine by the team, to aid goalie Sierra Lenker who posts the conference's fifth-best goals-against average (1.91) and the fourth-highest save percentage (.759).

Wednesday's game between the Mules and Fords at 7 p.m. will likely be another taut conflict with the team on the losing end coming up short on offense, if history holds. The last time a winning team in this match-up surrendered more than one goal was Haverford's 3-2 overtime victory in 1999.

The winner advances into the semifinals on Saturday against top-seed, tournament host and seventh-ranked Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa. The second semifinal at F&M pits No. 17 Ursinus College against third-seed Dickinson College. Semifinal winners will battle for the championship crown Sunday in Lancaster at 1 p.m.