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Team On A Mission

This is an article I wrote for The Stute prior to the Final Four weekend and certainly I will be writing one about this weekend shortly, but here is the previous one.

“We are 5-3-2 in the NCAA Tournament over the past five seasons, so as a program we are looking to take the next step and reach the national semifinals for the first time.”

Those were the words of Men’s soccer coach Tim O’Donohue (7th season – 132-16-17) in the season preview release way back in August. The Ducks have gone 2-0-2, with 2 dramatic penalty kick wins two weeks ago here in Hoboken to reach that national semifinal for the first time.

Although the season is far from over with the Ducks still having the possibility of playing two of the biggest games in program history, they have already had quite a season. They started things off by defeating Redlands University from California, then ranked #8 in the country, by a 2-1 margin which would be the first of five consecutive wins the Ducks had to start the season. That start would push the team to a #5 ranking of all teams in D-III soccer but that would be as high as they would get as the Ducks because facing Swarthmore, a ranked opponent for the second time that week proved to be a little too much as they went down 2-0.

The loss stopped Stevens’ home unbeaten streak at 62 games going back to a October 2002 loss to United States Merchant Marine Academy. Since the loss on September 13th, the Ducks have lost only one game in their last 19 contests including a stretch of seven straight shutouts – six of which came in either the Empire8 Championship tournament or the NCAA Division III Men’s Soccer Championship. To date, Stevens’ defense has allowed 1 goal in 400 minutes in the NCAA tournament.

Going up against Amherst in the semifinal, the Ducks enter the matchup with an impressive 18-2-4 record and have truly gotten here through a complete team effort. The first round was a lone goal by Todd Sheridan that put the Ducks past Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The following day it was two crucial goals by Nolan Sandberg that propelled the Stevens squad to the regional semifinals for the fifth time in six years.

Then came the weekend in Hoboken.

It would turn out to be “Pandemonium in Hoboken” as the play-by-play announcer for Stevens Athletics and Empire8.tv Matt Fitzsimmons would proclaim after senior captain Craig Moquin knocked home the final penalty shot against defending national champions Middlebury Panthers. The Ducks were still dancing and the fans had stormed the field on back to back nights in probably one of the most memorable sports weekends for Hoboken in recent history.

The Ducks scored 1 goal in 220 minutes of game time. After keeping the game scoreless and constantly battling off a relentless attack by Johns Hopkins in the sectional semifinal, the Ducks were able to advance on remarkable goalkeeping by sophomore sensation Zach Carr who saved four out of the five penalty shots he faced.

The national semifinal on Saturday, December 5th against Amherst is scheduled to start off at approximately 1:30 PM following the 11 AM matchup featuring Messiah College and Loras College – both of those teams advanced to the national semifinals in 2007. The NCAA Division III Men’s Soccer Championship Final is scheduled for the following day.

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