Centennial tournament preview: Is another OT thriller in store?

BALTIMORE, Md. – Haverford College and Gettysburg College will square off Friday evening in the semifinal round of the Centennial Conference's 2013 women's soccer tournament, and the game at Johns Hopkins University's Homewood Field will likely mimic the regular-season contest won 2-1 by the visiting Fords in double-overtime on an own goal by the Bullets.

Both second-seeded Haverford and No. 3 seed Gettysburg earned first-round byes by virtue of finishing second and third, respectively, in the regular season league standings. The difference between the two squads in those standings could easily be viewed as the Fords' narrow victory on the road in late September. If the game had even ended in a tie, Gettysburg would have slipped past the Fords in the final standings by a single point.

Friday's game at Hopkins, the regular season champion and host for Friday's semis and Saturday's championship final, will probably play out to another low-scoring affair between the Fords and Bullets, and could come down to which goalie comes up with that one last, big save.

Haverford netminder Robin Chernow carries the conference's third-best save percentage (.851) and second-best goals-against average (.55 goals per game) into the match-up, but Gettysburg goalie Eliza Gray is first in save percentage (.855) and in goals-against (.855 per game).

Those numbers might be misleading, though, as both teams' defenses have proven to be instrumental in limiting opportunities on frame. Gray's total of 47 saves is second-fewest among the league's starting keepers, and Chernow's 57 saves is fourth-lowest.

Haverford will look to senior Elizabeth Newman to continue to quarterback the last line of defense in front of Chernow. Michelle Babicz has been a constant and equal companion of the physical Newman on that line and Babicz has proven quite adept at winning the 1-vs.-1 battles in her defensive third.

The Bullets' defense is also experienced with senior Mallory Sheer and junior Mary Kamovitch starting each of the team's 17 contests this fall.

The stauch defenses on the field Friday will force creativity from the forwards and midfielders and each team has a leader in that area, but neither teams' offense is limited to just two threats.

The Fords' Meg Boyer is tied for fifth in the league with eight goals, and four of those markers have been game-winners. Georgia Ferguson leads Gettysburg with seven goals but splits the game-winner lead on her team with Brigid Behan, each with two on the year.

To win and advance into the championship final, the Fords or Bullets will need to find a finishing touch in the attacking end.

Gettysburg is fifth in the league in shots per game (16.8) but only ninth in shots on goal percentage (.467) while Haverford is fourth in shots per outing (16.9) but 10th in shots on goal percentage (.448).

History and tournament experience are probably as even as the statistics seem to show.

The Fords, the 2012 conference playoff champions, are in their seventh straight Centennial tournament and playing in their fifth straight semifinal round. Gettysburg has qualified for the league postseason each of the past three seasons and advanced into the semis the past two tournaments.

In their last 10 games against each other, the Fords have a 6-4 edge on the Bullets including this year's overtime thriller and a 1-0 semifinal win last season in Baltimore.

As for the most recent history from each squad, Haverford brings a 14-game unbeaten streak -- 10-0-4 -- and a five-game win streak into the affair while Gettysburg is coming off a loss to visiting Hopkins, which ended the Bullets' seven game unbeaten string (6-0-1).

The early game Friday pits Hopkins, No. 6 in the most recent national poll, against Muhlenberg College which advanced into the semifinals on penalty kicks Wednesday afternoon after a 0-0 tie with McDaniel College.