HAVERFORD, Pa. – The Haverford College men's soccer team will be looking to advance to the Centennial Conference championship for the third consecutive year when it takes on visiting Dickinson College on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. in semifinal action at Walton Field.
Earning a spot in the Centennial tournament for the first time in 2011, the Fords (11-4-2) showed the rest of the league they planned to remain among the conference's elite for some time when they claimed the program's first Centennial title last season.
Cast in the unfamiliar role of defending champions, Haverford returns to the playoff stage with a roster of battle-tested veterans that includes eight seniors. The stage however will be very familiar as the Fords will host the final four at Walton Field by virtue of their first-place finish at the conclusion of the regular season.
"Playing in front of your home crowd is a huge advantage," said head coach Shane Rineer. "The boys have worked hard over the past few years and I am glad they could be rewarded with the opportunity to host."
Adding to Haverford's feeling of familiarity will be its semifinal opponent--Dickinson College. The Red Devils and the Fords had never met in the playoffs until the championship game in 2011 that saw Dickinson raise the trophy after a penalty kick shootout. In last season's reprise Haverford ended the Red Devils' hopes of a repeat with a 1-0 victory in the semifinals.
Don't underestimate the value of homefield advantage against fourth-seeded Dickinson as the Red Devils (13-4-1) are a pedestrian 3-3-1 on the road this year.
Experience also runs deep on the Dickinson sideline as the Red Devils roster includes seven seniors. Saturday's game will mark the seventh time the two senior classes have met with Haverford holding a slim edge (3-2-1).
Two of the top-five point producers in the conference will be on display in the contest as Dickinson senior Derek Kachadurian ranks third in the conference with 23 points (eight goals, seven assists) and Fords senior Ford Bohrmann is tied for fourth (nine goals, four assists, 22 points). When Bohrmann scores, the goals usually matter as nine of the forward's 13 career goals have been game-winners including both of his squad's goals in last year's Centennial tournament.
Each team also benefits from a solid supporting cast. Red Devils senior Javier Mena, the 2012 Centennial player of the year, has tallied double figures in points with five goals and five assists for a Dickinson attack that paced the conference in goals scored this season (36).
Haverford sophomore Sam Yarosh followed up a standout rookie campaign with six goals and two assists in the regular season despite receiving a lot of attention from the opposition's defense. The Fords offense received a boost from freshman Tejan Walcott and senior David Robinson down the stretch. Walcott tallied three of his five goals in the final four games of the regular season and Robinson contributed three assists over that same time period.
Haverford's defense has been at the heart of the program's recent resurgence and expect another strong effort on Saturday from a unit spearheaded by seniors Adam Morollo, Matt Johnson and Jamie Reingruber. If the Fords can limit the Red Devils to one goal or less on Saturday, the odds will be in their favor as Dickinson, ranked third in this week's regional rankings, is just 1-4-1 this season when it doesn't score two goals in a game. Senior Kyle Schwab anchors the visitors' backline.
Haverford goalie Sam Miller will be making his initial appearance in the conference playoffs but the freshman has shown he is ready for the challenge. Miller (4-1-2) leads the conference in save percentage (.850) and has allowed just six goals in over 700 minutes of action protecting the net for the Fords. The Red Devils, on the other hand, have used three keepers over the course of the season with junior Reed Milbrath earning a team-high seven wins.
Dickinson enters the game with just three wins in its last five outings including a 2-1 victory over fifth-seeded Johns Hopkins University in opening-round playoff action.
Haverford, ranked eighth regionally, went 3-0-2 in its last five conference contests of the season including wins over the other two semifinalists--Franklin & Marshall College and Swarthmore College.
Saturday's opening game at 11 a.m. should also be a good one as F&M is ranked 21st nationally in goals against average and Swarthmore tops the conference in shots per game (16.9).
The semifinal winners will play for the Centennial crown, and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, at Walton Field on Sunday at 1 p.m.