PACSN Blog

W&J To Face Wittenberg In NCAA First Round

by Randy Gore

NCAA logoWhen it comes to winning football programs at the Division III level, two of the most successful are Washington & Jefferson College (9-1) and Wittenburg University (9-1). In the opening round of the NCAA playoffs, the Presidents and Tigers will go head to head on Saturday at noon from Edwards-Maurer Field in Springfield, Ohio. While these teams have been regulars in the NCAA D-III playoffs, 41 appearances combined, this is only the third meeting all time between the two schools with the last coming back in 1930.

An overtime loss to Waynesburg University in the regular season finale prevented the Presidents from hosting a playoff game and instead has W&J traveling three hours west to face Wittenburg.  However, W&J still enters the postseason as champions of the Presidents’ Athletic Conference for the third consecutive season. The Presidents are looking for their first NCAA playoff win since 2008 when they reached the quarterfinals with victories over Christopher Newport, 35-29, and Millsaps College, 35-20, before bowing out to Mary Hardin-Baylor.

Wittenberg completed an undefeated run through conference play with a 52-21 win over Allegheny on Saturday, capturing its fifth North Coast Athletic Conference crown in the last six seasons. Like W&J, this is the third consecutive trip to the NCAA playoffs for the Tigers.  In the past two playoff appearances, the Tigers earned first round victories before being upended in the second round.  Last season Wittenberg posted a 59-17 opening round win and then fell to the eventual national runner-up Mount Union, 56-21, in the second round.  The Purple Raiders also cut short the President’s 2013 campaign with a 34-20 win in the NCAA first round.

RyanRuffing

W&J junior Ryan Ruffing

A quick glance at Saturday’s meeting reveals an intriguing matchup between one of the best offenses in the nation against one of the most opportunistic defenses in the country.  W&J has imposed its will on opponents this season with the third best offense in D-III, racking up 548 yards per game.  A well-balanced offense, head coach Mike Sirianni compliments the passing of sophomore quarterback Pete Coughlin with the legs of running back Ryan Ruffing.  The junior from Thomas Jefferson high school has toted the football for 1,565 yards and has scored 24 touchdowns, ranking him second in the nation.  Thomas More’s Dominique Hayden leads D-III with 25 rushing scores. Ruffing ranks No. 1 in scoring with an average of 16.8 points per game.

The Presidents will face a ball-hawking Wittenberg team that ranks sixth in the nation in turnover margin with a plus 17. The Tigers defense has recovered 16 fumbles and has 14 interceptions this season.  Of the thieves in the secondary, junior Winston Thomas has pirated four enemy passes and senior Victor Banjo has three picks.

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Wittenberg senior Zach Culvahouse

Some notables on the Wittenberg offense: junior receiver Zach Culvahouse has 1,010 yards and a school single-season record 71 receptions this season.  Culvahouse started the year in a big way, reeling in a school single-game record 14 passes in the season opener against Butler on September 6. The passing game is certainly a strength for this Tigers team and quarterback Zack Jenkins has thrown for 2,499 yards and 23 touchdowns with only four interceptions.  Junior running back Sean Gary is the team’s leading rusher with 549 yards and five scores. Gary averages only 3.3 yards per carry and 54.9 yards per game.

Kickoff for Saturday’s NCAA first round game between W&J and Wittenberg is set for noon.  The winner will face the winner between Mount Union (10-0) and Adrian (8-2) in the NCAA second round. For a look at the entire NCAA playoff bracket, click here.

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A Look Back & A Look Ahead For The PAC Soccer Champs

By John D’Abruzzo

PITTSBURGH – Thomas More College collected some extra hardware for its trophy case last weekend. Both its men’s and women’s soccer teams captured Presidents’ Athletic Conference championships Nov. 8 at Highmark Stadium.

Highmark

A sunny start to the day on Saturday at Highmark Stadium for the PAC Soccer Championships.

What started out as a sunny and beautiful fall afternoon down in Pittsburgh’s Station Square, slowly became brisk, chilly and overcast by the end of the day. Nevertheless, fans from both Thomas More and Grove City made up nice-sized crowds as the conference took its soccer championships away from the college campus and into the home of the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.

If you didn’t get a chance to attend either game, don’t worry. Both games can be streamed online on the PAC Sports Network home page at www.pacstream.net or on the Network’s archive page.

The two-game event started with the men’s match between the Saints and Wolverines, and that contest began with a pretty interesting play. Just five minutes into the game, Thomas More’s senior forward Jake Plummer drew a red card after he used his hand to knock down a Grove City shot. Despite losing a man for the rest of the match, Thomas More never appeared as if they were shorthanded. And while the Wolverines battled hard the entire game, they were unsuccessful with each opportunity.

Just when most might have begun to think that the game could end up in overtime or possibly a shootout, senior defender Pat Jacobson (Washington Borough, N.J.) came through for the Saints when he booted the lone goal of the game. From the far side of the field, Jacobson drilled a 30-yard shot that hit the top corner of the net and scored an unassisted goal at the 58:39 mark.

“I was able to get the ball from my teammate [senior defender] Jack Little,” Jacobson told the PAC Sports Network after game. “I saw an opening so I cut across. I told myself I was going to hit this [shot] and hope it goes in. All of my teammates then were screaming. It was just so surreal.

“That goal means so much for me. I haven’t scored that much in my career, so it meant I was able to give back to my team for all they have given me.”

While Jacobson was as named the Foster Law’s Player of the Game, his teammate, senior goalkeeper Matt Kees (Covington, Ky.) also deserved a lot of credit in the win. The veteran goalminder was vocal the entire match and helped set up the Saints’ defense during each corner kick attempt by Grove City. Kees made nine saves to record the shutout.

The victory gave Thomas More its sixth consecutive men’s conference championship. The Saints also improved to 17-2-1.

Soon after that game ended, the women’s teams from the same two institutions took the pitch.

Thomas More entered the game as the three-time defending champion and was believed to be the heavy favorite. Grove City still hung with the Saints early and tried to control possession during the first half. Once the second half started, however, the Wolverines lost their momentum.

Thomas More’s Julia Flagge-Echols (Colerain, Ohio) displayed impressive footwork and ball control the entire match. The freshman phenom netted the game’s lone score a little more than two minutes into the second half. Star junior forward Olivia Huber (Woodlawn, Ky.) earned the assist. Huber also displayed her offensive presence and had many shots on goal.

“Our goal is to win,” Flagge-Echols told the PAC Sports Network after being named the Foster Law’s Player of the Game. “Every game, we have to work harder than the last time.”

The Saints held on the rest of the way to win their fourth-straight and fifth overall conference crown. The shutout also set a new school record as it was their 19th of the season. Ranked 10th in the nation, Thomas More improved 20-1 and earned an automatic bid into this weekend’s NCAA Division III Championship Tournament.

Thomas More’s home field, The Bank of Kentucky Field in Crestview Hills, was selected by the NCAA earlier this week to host the first two rounds on Nov. 15 and Nov. 16. Maryville (Tenn.) College, Emory University and Kenyon College also will participate in the two-day tournament. Thomas More and Maryville will play at 11 a.m. Saturday before Emory and Kenyon take the field at 1:30 p.m. Maryville enters this match 14-6-1 after winning the USA South Athletic Conference Tournament.

Thomas More’s men’s team, on the other hand, also advances to the first round of the NCAA Division III tournament and will face North Park University at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Kenyon College’s Mavec Field. North Park University is 13-5-1 and earned an at-large bid after finishing as a semifinalist in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW) tournament last week.

PAC Women’s Soccer Championship Preview

by John D’Abruzzo

For the third consecutive year, the Presidents’ Athletic Conference women’s soccer championship will be decided between Thomas More College and Grove City College.

This year’s title match will be held in Pittsburgh at Highmark Stadium on the South Side. The women’s game has been set for 3 p.m. and will follow the men’s championship game, which starts at noon. Coincidently, the men’s game also will feature Thomas More and Grove City.

The PAC men’s and women’s championship games will both be broadcast live on the PAC Sports Network at www.pacstream.net.

As the top two teams in the women’s conference tournament, Thomas More (19-1) and Grove City (9-9-2) each punched their ticket into the championship contest following semifinal wins on Wednesday. While top-seeded Thomas More cruised past Washington & Jefferson, 5-0, Grove City worked extra hard to beat Westminster.

LacyHarkrader

GCC Freshman Lacy Harkrader

The Wolverines battled through a scoreless double-overtime draw before winning 7-6 in a nine-round shootout. Grove City freshman forward Lacy Harkrader (Mineral, Va.) ended up with the game-winning goal. She broke a 6-6 tie in the shootout after No. 3 Westminster missed its final shot.

Sophomore Lindsey Reichert (Northbridge, Mass.), freshman Megan Van Kirk (Allison Park, Pa.), junior Sammie Wild (Carmel, Ind.), junior Kristin Thomas (Ellicott City, Md.), sophomore Jordyn White (Mars, Pa) and junior Abby Mathes (Charlottesville, Va.) each scored for Wolverines during the shootout.

During the regulation and overtime sessions, Grove City outshot Westminster, 15-13. Grove City’s senior goalkeeper Kristi Lathrop (Flemington, N.J.) stopped five shots on net.

Three-time defending champion Thomas More posted its fourth shutout victory of the season by blanking No. 4 Washington & Jefferson.

Junior forward Olivia Huber (Woodlawn, Ky.) put the Saints on the board at the 1:54 minute mark when she headed in a corner kick by senior defender Emily Sanker (Alexandria, Ky.). Huber helped Thomas More take a 2-0 lead with an assist to freshman forward Julia Echols-Flagge (Colerain, Ohio) at 15:10. Thomas More took a 3-0 lead into the half after freshman midfielder Ally Wimmers (Cincinnati, Ohio) scored off an assist from freshman forward Abby Stadtmiller (Alexandria, Ky.) at the 41:14.

The Saints, who are ranked No. 10 in the country, jumped out to a 4-0 advantage at 52:32 when the ball bounced off a W&J player. Flagge-Echols helped seal the victory with an assist to Stadtmiller, who scored at the 62:07 mark.

Thomas More outshot W&J, 28-1. Sophomore goalkeeper Megan Barton (Florence, Ky.) earned the win and recorded one save. She played the first half, while sophomore Christy Smith (Washington Courthouse, Ohio) played the final 45 minutes in net.

The Saints enter the championship game riding an impressive 10-game winning streak. Each of those victories were by way of a shutout. Thomas More, which has surrendered only two goals in 20 games, hasn’t lost since dropping a 1-0 decision against non-conference Ohio Northern on Sept. 27.

TMC Junior Olivia Huber

TMC Junior Olivia Huber

Huber, a 5-foot-9 junior, has been a guiding force behind the Saints’ high-powered offense. She has been named the conference player of the week six times this season. Huber also set a new program record with 31 goals during the regular season.

Grove City, however, has a variety of scorers in freshman midfielder Katherine Kouzelos (five goals, three assists), Mathes (five goals, two assists), Thomas (five goals, two assists) and Harkrader (five goals, two assists).

Behind nine-year coach Jeff Cummings, who also is the head coach of the men’s team at Thomas More, the Saints looks to secure a fourth-straight league title and fifth since joining the conference. Grove City hasn’t won a women’s crown since 2001 and is coached by Melissa Lamie, who is in her 22nd season with the Wolverines.

These two teams recently met in a regular-season finale on Nov. 1. Thomas More’s Kait Owens (Cold Springs, Ky.), a junior midfielder, and Huber each scored during the Saints’ 2-0 win against the Wolverines.

Thomas More is 10-2-4 all-time against Grove City. The winner of the PAC championship game will receive the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Championships next week.

Admission for this conference championship game, as well as the men’s game, is $5. If you can’t make it to the game, the title tilt will be broadcast live on the PAC Sports Network at www.pacstream.net.

PAC Men’s Soccer Championship Preview

by John D’Abruzzo

The table has been set for this year’s Presidents’ Athletic Conference men’s soccer championship game.

Five-time defending champion Thomas More College (16-2-1) returns to the title match and will face Grove City College (12-6-1) at noon on Saturday afternoon at Highmark Stadium in Pittsburgh. Both the Saints and Wolverines needed double-overtime sessions to advance past their respective semifinal opponent.

Tim Knauer

TMC sophomore Tim Knauer

Thomas More, which entered the conference tournament as the top seed, knocked off No. 4-seed Geneva, 2-1, at home on Tuesday. Sophomore defender Tim Knauer (Batavia, Ohio), notched the game-winning goal at the 108:58 minute mark. Sophomore midfielder R.J. Best (Lorton, Va.) and senior forward Jake Plummer (North Olmsted, Ohio) were credited with the assist.

Sophomore midfielder Matthew Spanyer (Lexington, Ky.) helped give the Saints a 1-0 lead 33:32 into the game when he chipped in an unassisted goal. Geneva tied the game at the 66:58 mark when Gib McCracken put the ball past Thomas More’s senior goalkeeper Matt Kees (Covington, Ky.).

Thomas More dominated possession and out-shot Geneva, 26-2. Kees made 10 saves in net and allowed just one goal to pick up the win.

Grove City, the No. 2 seed, also needed a second overtime to beat Waynesburg, 2-1, at home on Tuesday. Sophomore midfielder Stephen Betteridge (Pittsford, NY) provided the game-winning goal at the 103-minute mark.

StephenBetteridge

GCC sophomore Stephen Betteridge

Sophomore Dale Reese (Rocky Hill, Conn.) notched his sixth goal of the season seven minutes into the game to give the Wolverines and early 1-0 lead. Sophomore defender Nick Leaman (Lancaster, Pa.) hit Reese with a long pass to get credited with the assist.

Freshman keeper Malcolm Blake (Moreland Hills, Ohio) made his first collegiate start in net. He made seven saves to earn the win as the Wolverines out-shot the Yellow Jackets, 32-25.

Grove City will make its first championship appearance since 2005. Last season, the Wolverines lost to Washington & Jefferson during the semifinals. The Presidents topped the Wolverines, 4-3, in a shootout.

Grove City’s Seth Loew (Center Valley, Pa.), a junior forward, led the conference in scoring with 10 goals and 29 total points. He also ranked second in the conference with nine assists. Senior forward Jonathan Rothgeb (State College, Pa.) and Reese both follow with six goals.

Thomas More has won seven straight since tying Geneva on Oct. 9. The Saints, who are averaging three goals a game, haven’t lost since dropping a 1-0 decision against non-conference Anderson on Sept. 13.

Sophomore forward Brian Runyon (Parkersburg, W.Va.) has been the Saints top scorer with 19 points. He’s scored eight goals and had three assists this season. Sophomore midfielder RJ Best follows with six goals and five assists. Kees has nine shutouts this season.

These two teams recently played Nov. 1 in a regular-season finale. Thomas More won that match, 4-1. The Saints jumped out to a 3-1 advantage in the first half and never looked back.

Thomas More is 6-5-1 all-time against Grove City. The winner of the PAC championship game will receive the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Championships next week. Admission for the conference championship game, as well as the women’s title game, is $5. If you can’t make it to the game, the title tilt will be broadcast live on the PAC Sports Network at www.pacstream.net

View older blog posts at our former blog at http://pacsportsnetwork.blogspot.com/