MIAC crown within reach for men after playoff win

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With its 1-0 victory over Hamline on Wednesday, Macalester avenged an early season tie and moved one step closer to the MIAC Playoff Championship; something the team has yet to win in the Championship’s three-year history. The MIAC semifinal win pits Macalester against St. John’s University in the final on Saturday.

This latest victory comes on the heels of a successful regular season. Macalester closed out it regular season last week in Texas with an overtime win versus Southwestern University.

The team finished with a 12-3-2 regular season record, their 19th straight wining season and their best since 2002 when the Scots went to the National Quarterfinals.

In the MIAC the Scots went 7-1-2 to share the conference title with Gustavus, the seventh time in nine seasons the Scots have clinched the title.

Currently the Scots are ranked 25th in the nation and the team is also ranked fourth in the West region, behind Whitworth (Wash.), UC-Santa Cruz and Wartburg, who the team beat 2-1 on Sept. 3.

Macalester looks to forget last year’s disappointment and hopes to return to the NCAA tournament after a two-year hiatus.

“We are more confident this year and we are playing much better,” Eddie Powers ’06 said. “For the seniors our careers are kind of coming full circle and we hope to return to the NCAA tournament like our freshman year.”

After dropping their first game against UW-Whitewater, the Scots started the season strong going on an eight game win streak before falling to St. Thomas, their only loss at home so far this year.

“From the start we were more organized,” head coach Ian Barker commented. “And after a summer of conditioning our players came into the season in great shape which has helped us avoid injuries.”

The team stumbled somewhat in October, going 5-2-2, losing some critical MIAC points. After the St. Thomas loss the team was able to bounce back and defeated the defending MIAC champions, Gustavus and a strong St. John’s team. But later in the month Macalester dropped critical MIAC points and the outright MIAC championship with ties against Hamline and Carleton.

“Like last year we have great talent on the team,” Barker said. “The difference this year is we have a little luck and we are winning the close games.”

Coming into the season Macalester had to replace a deep graduating class, but the holes were filled by an equally strong senior class who helped lead the team to the National quarterfinals when they were freshmen.

“The seniors have really performed this year,” coach Barker said. “After their freshman season the team assumed it would go back to the NCAA quarterfinals every year. This year is their last chance to return and their last hurrah.”

This year the Scots have had strong defense–allowing only 13 goals–led by Ian Ritz ’06, Devin Homme ’06, and Michael Melamed ’06. In goal, Ryan Palmer ’08 had a breakout year with seven shutouts and a goals against average of 0.69.

In the midfield the Scots have been led by 2004 All-Conference picks Andrew Wissler ’06 and Magnus Oppenheimer ’07, along with Powers. The Scots received goal production from Oppenheimer with seven goals and two assists and Joe Wertz ’06, who led the team with 18 regular season points.

Macalester now finds itself in the conference championship game and on the verge of an automatic NCAA Tournament berth. Macalester will play St. John’s, who beat the MIAC Co-Champions Gustavus 4-3 on penalty kicks after playing to a 0-0 tie through two overtime periods.

A win will guarantee the Scots join the women’ soccer team in the NCAA Tournament, which starts November 9th. A loss will most likely signal the end of Macalester’s season unless the team is granted an at-large bid, which is unlikely.