HAVERFORD, Pa. – The Haverford College men's soccer team is set to host the Centennial Conference Tournament this weekend. This year marks the third time in four seasons, and fourth time in the last six, that the conference's automatic qualifier to the NCAA Tournament will be decided on Walton Field by virtue of the Fords' (12-4, 8-1 CC) first-place finish during the regular season.
The Fords lifted the conference trophy during each of the last two times Walton Field served as the host site in 2015 and 2016. Those occasions marked the first time in Centennial Conference history a team has both hosted the tournament and won the Centennial Conference title in back-to-back seasons. Haverford begins its postseason journey on Saturday at 11 a.m. against fourth-seeded Dickinson (11-5-2, 5-3-1 CC). Second-seeded Johns Hopkins (13-3-1, 7-2 CC) and third-seeded Franklin & Marshall (12-2-3, 5-1-3 CC) will play in the second semifinal which will start one hour after the Fords and Red Devils finish. Sunday's championship game between the two semifinal winners is slated for a 1 p.m. start.
Haverford met Dickinson just two weeks ago and the Fords emerged with a 2-0 victory on Walton Field behind goals from Nick Jannelli and Max Krieg. The Red Devils, who are coming off of a 1-0 victory against Gettysburg during the first round match on Wednesday, held a 15-13 advantage in shots during that first contest. However, eight saves from Haverford keeper Michael Iacono kept Dickinson off the scoreboard.
Saturday's semifinal will be a matchup of the top goal-scoring threats in the conference as Jannelli and Dickinson's Kevin Gilbert are both tied for the conference lead with 12 goals. Dickinson is leading the conference with an average of 2.22 goals per match. Haverford is averaging just under two goals per contest. Jannelli is also tied for the conference lead with seven assists and leads all of his conference peers with six game-winning goals and 31 total points. Jannelli scored eight of his goals and added three more assists against Centennial foes during the regular season for a conference-leading 20 points in those matchups.
Peter Baroff and Michael Carr add multiple scoring options for the Fords. Baroff is second on the team with five goals while Carr has scored three times this season (all game-winning efforts). Both players have three assists on the year. Sykes Cargile and Noah Schwab has also found the back of the net on multiple occasions this year. Overall nine of Haverford's players have started at least 14 of the team's 16 matches during the regular season.
Iacono has seen most of the time in goal this year, stopping nearly 75 percent of the shots he faced while posting four shutouts and splitting time in another. Jeremy Astesano returned late in the season and has made two starts, allowing just one goal in over 256 minutes of playing time. Haverford is allowing just over one goal per game, while Dickinson is conceding 1.41 goals per outing.
Johns Hopkins and Franklin & Marshall will bring the top-rated defenses into Saturday's second semifinal. F&M conceded just 0.75 goals per game during the regular season, while JHU held opponents to 0.81 goals per contest. A.J. Kopacz and Connor Whitacre are tied for the Diplomat lead with six goals each. Alejandro Maclean and Pablo Martinez also led the Blue Jays with six goals apiece.
The Fords defeated Johns Hopkins during the regular season by a 1-0 score with another one Jannelli's goals just over three minutes into that match. Haverford is a perfect 8-0 on Walton Field this fall. Franklin & Marshall was the only team to defeat Haverford in CC play during the regular season, but needed overtime in Lancaster to do so after the Fords took a lead early in the second half.
Haverford is making its eighth straight trip to the Centennial Conference Tournament. The Fords have made it to the conference championship match five times during the team's previous seven postseason appearances. That includes championship performances in 2012, 2015, and 2016.
Haverford will be meeting Dickinson for the fifth time in Centennial Conference Tournament history. The Red Devils got the best of the Fords in last year's first round match, but the good news for the Fords is that the teams have alternated wins each time they have met in the postseason. Haverford's most recent playoff victory over Dickinson came in the 2015 championship game on Walton Field.
Haverford is 3-0 all-time against Franklin & Marshall in the Centennial Conference Tournament, with the most recent victory coming on Walton Field to help the team lift the 2016 championship trophy. Haverford has met Johns Hopkins five previous times in postseason play. The Fords are 3-0 in such matchups since joining the Centennial Conference with the most recent meeting coming in the 2015 semifinals.
The winner of this weekend's Centennial Conference Tournament will earn the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. However, the Centennial Conference was well-represented in the latest NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional Rankings with each of the semifinals teams ranking among the top six of the rankings release which ultimately leads up to the selection of at-large bids for the national tournament. The NCAA selection show is slated for 1 p.m. next Monday, November 5.