The Emory University women's soccer team will make its first appearance in the NCAA Semifinals this week, as the 16th-ranked Eagles will take on 11th-ranked Wheaton College (Ill.) on Friday, November 30th at 6:00 PM ET, for the right to play for the NCAA Championship on Saturday.
NCAA Final Four
In addition to the Emory and Wheaton game on Friday, a second semifinal match between 10th-ranked Misericordia College and top-ranked Messiah College will be held at 8:30 PM ET on Friday. The winners of each of the semifinals will play for the National Championship on Saturday, December 1st at 6:30 PM ET.
The men's final four will also be contested at the site on Friday, with Messiah taking on Loras at 12:00 PM ET, and Ohio Northern facing Williams at 2:30 PM ET. The men's championship game will be held at 2:30 PM ET on Saturday.
The NCAA Semifinal and Championships matches will be held at the Blossom Soccer Complex in San Antonio, Texas, and is co-hosted by Trinity University and San Antonio Sports. Tickets are available for purchase in advance by going to http://www.sanantoniosports.org/d3.html. Day passes are available for $10 for general admission, $8 for seniors, students and military, and $4 for children ages 3-12. All-tournament passes can be purchased for $15 for general admission, $10 for seniors, students and military, and $5 for children ages 3-12.
There will be both live stats and a webcast of all of the NCAA Tournament games this weekend. Fans can go to ncaa.com or http://www.ncaa.com/sports/soccer-women/d3 to gain access to the live stats and webcast when they are made available.
Emory University will be making its first appearance in the NCAA Division III Women's Soccer Semifinals. Utilizing one of the nation's top defenses and one of the highest-scoring offenses in the program's history, the Eagles are 14-1-7 in 2012, and are currently ranked 16th in the latest NSCAA Division III Poll, and eighth in the D3Soccer.com poll.
After opening the season with a 2-1 overtime win at currently-top ranked Messiah College, the Eagles climbed to the top of the polls by the fourth week of the season, staying there for five weeks while the team extended its regular season undefeated streak to 40 games. Emory fought through a tough conference schedule, finishing in third-place in the University Athletic Association (UAA) with a 3-1-3 record, and receiving an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Eagles earned a pair of 2-0 victories in the first two rounds, defeating DePauw University and seventh-ranked Centre College, before claiming a 2-1 win over 19th-ranked Loras College in the round of 16. Emory battled 17th-ranked Carnegie Mellon University to 110 minutes of scoreless play and 13 rounds of a shootout, before sophomore Jennifer Grant was able to bury the decisive penalty kick and give Emory an 11-10 win in the shootout. The Eagles are now 13-11-5 all-time in NCAA Tournament play.
The Eagles' strength over the last three years has been its defense, which ranks ninth among NCAA Division III programs with a 0.416 team goals against average and 17th with a 0.636 shutout percentage (14 shutouts in 22 games). The Eagles' defense, led by two-time UAA Most Valuable Player Lauren Gorodetsky, all-UAA selection Lauren Drosick, co-captain Ashley Kaiser and Kaelyn Lucas, has limited opposing teams to just 6.5 shots and 3.3 shots per game this season. Emory has utilized the goalkeeper tandem of seniors Erica Stein (9-0-1, 0.46 GAA, .857 save %) and Kaele Leonard (5-1-6, 0.41 GAA, .861 save %), with Stein playing the first half and Leonard the second half and overtime.
Emory has scored 52 goals this season, the fourth-most in the program's history, and the team's 58 assists are the second-most in a season in the school's ledger. The Eagles are ranked 88th among Division III teams with 2.36 goals per game this season. Emory's offense has been spread out among 15 goal scorers this year, including seven players with over 10 points. Leading the Eagles offensive production have been junior Veronica Romero (eight goals, four assists), sophomore Charlotte Butker (five goals and 10 assists), junior co-captain Kelly Costopoulos (eight goals and three assists) and sophomore Emily Feldman (seven goals and four assists). Emory averages 23.3 shots and 10.5 shots on goal per game.
Emory is led by head coach Sue Patberg, who has now reached the NCAA Tournament in six of her eight seasons at Emory, and 14 times during her 19-year career, which includes stays at the Division I University of Minnesota and the University of Georgia. She holds a 110-23-24 record during her time with the Eagles, good for a .775 winning percentage, and a career ledger of 256-111-42. Patberg is assisted by Rachel Moreland and Mike Wentzler.
The Thunder will enter Friday's game with an overall record of 21-3-2, including a 2-0-0 record in neutral games and a 12-1-0 record in all games away from home this year. Wheaton entered the tournament as the 11th-ranked team in the NSCAA poll, and the 12th-ranked squad in the D3Soccer.com poll.
Wheaton reached the NCAA Tournament with an automatic berth, by virtue of winning the College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin. Playing at home, the Thunder won their first two tournament games by a combined 11-0 score, before coming from behind to defeat Hardin-Simmons College 2-1 in overtime in the round of 16, and Washington University (Mo.) 3-1 in the quarterfinals.
With a variety of strong scorers, Wheaton's offense ranks among the best in the country this season, as the squads' 3.08 goals scored per game is the 27th-best average in Division III. The team is led offensively by Leah DeMoss (21 goals and 10 assists) and Ally Witt (20 goals and six assists), while Sarah Guidera has added 13 goals and six assists during the campaign. The Thunder average 22.7 shots and 11.7 shots on goal per game this season.
Defensively, the Thunder rank 51st in Division III with a 0.73 goals-against average, 67th with a 0.500 shutout percentage, and 82nd with an 0.833 save percentage. Goalkeepers Kelsey Graham (11-1-1, .812 save percentage, 0.65 GAA) and Hillary Barreto (10-2-1, .848 save percentage, 0.82 GAA) have each made 13 starts for Wheaton throughout the season. The team's defense, which has recorded 13 shutouts this season, has limited opponents to averages of 9.8 shots and 4.4 shots on goal per game this season.
Wheaton is led by head coach Pete Falske, who has gone 407-98-28 during his 25 years with the team, which include three National Championships (2004, 2006 and 2007) and 16 NCAA Tournament appearances. He is assisted by Jen Binger and goalkeeper coach Cesar Gomez.
This will be the third meeting all-time between the two teams, with Emory holding a 0-1-1 record against Wheaton, and each of the games having been played on neutral ground. The teams played for the first time on September 11, 2004 in Cary, NC, with the Thunder coming away with a 3-0 win. However, when the two teams played in the round of 16 of the NCAA Championships on November 19, 2010, it would be the Eagles who would advance with a 9-8 shootout victory following a 1-1 double-overtime tie. The shootout victory gave Emory its first-ever NCAA quarterfinal appearance.
In the 2010 matchup, after falling behind 1-0 in the seventh minute, the Eagles evened the contest behind a goal by former player Sara Belsole in the 22nd minute, off an assist from current junior Clare Mullins. Both teams would play a scoreless second half an overtime, with Kaele Leonard making three saves over 65 shutout minutes in goal. Emory outshot Wheaton 17-11 in the game, including an 8-5 edge in shots on goal.
Emory will enter the semifinals with a 13-11-5 all-time record in NCAA Tournament games, including a 7-2-2 mark over the last three seasons… The Eagles are 3-0-5 against nationally-ranked opponents this season, including 2-0-1 in tournament play… Over the past three seasons, Emory is 9-2-10 against teams ranked in the top-25… Friday will mark Emory's ninth game against a nationally-ranked team this season, the most in a single season in the program's history… The Eagles still feature seven starters and 11 total players who saw the field in the 2010 NCAA game against Wheaton, while the Thunder have five starters and six players from the 2010 game.