Preview: Women's Soccer Shrugs Off Injuries to Make Playoffs

Tuesday, November 4, 2014
 

At the start of the 2014 season, Audrey Zamichow and her fellow seniors noticed that the Muhlenberg women’s soccer team was deeper than in the past. Little did they know that the Mules would need all of that depth to get through the year.

Audrey Zamichow They not only got through it, they flourished. Muhlenberg finished the regular season with a record of 11-5-2 – its most wins in five years – to earn the fourth seed in the Centennial Conference playoffs. The Mules will host fifth-seeded Swarthmore tomorrow night at 6:00 in a first-round game, with the winner going on to travel to top-seeded Gettysburg for a semifinal matchup on Saturday.

Injuries – from concussions to leg injuries to an emergency appendectomy – have resulted in the team constantly changing personnel, and the personnel who have escaped the injury bug constantly changing positions. The Mules have used 13 different starting lineups in their 18 games and will probably field a 14th different one tomorrow.

“It seems like we’ve just gotten unlucky,” said Zamichow, who began the season on the injured list but is healthy now and scored her fourth career goal in Saturday’s regular-season finale. “But if the players we do have bring their A game, it doesn’t matter who’s on the field. We’re good enough to win.”

The five senior captains have done their best to keep the team together through the turmoil, and the team’s record is a testament to the job they’ve done.

Colleen Touhey “We want everyone to have confidence in themselves, even if they’re not playing,” remarked Zamichow (left). “I’ve been in that boat. Knowing you can rise to the occasion is important to us. We also have a really hard-working team, not the type to give up at all.”

Muhlenberg, ranked 10th in the Mid-Atlantic Region, has risen time and again in a season characterized not only by changing lineups, but also by close games. The Mules have gone into overtime six times, tying a school record with three overtime wins, and of the other 12 games, six were decided by one goal.

Zamichow said the character and toughness of the team showed early on.

“The McDaniel game [a 1-0 overtime win in a rematch of last year’s first-round playoff game] gave me a good feeling for the year about the persistence of this team,” she recalled. “That’s the type of thing you can’t teach. It was good to see that right from the beginning, and I don’t think it’s gone away.”

The Mules will need all their persistence to get past a Swarthmore team out for revenge after a disputed ending to their regular-season meeting two weeks ago. With the game scoreless in the first overtime, freshman Carly DeNigris sent a shot to the upper 90 that the Garnet goalie caught for an apparent save. But the linesman ruled that she was inside the goal, and after a brief discussion, Muhlenberg could celebrate its 1-0 win.

Swarthmore (11-6) is making its second postseason trip to Allentown in the last three years. In 2012, the Garnet scored just before halftime for the lone goal in a first-round matchup. That was the first playoff win since 2006 for Swarthmore, which has qualified for the CC playoffs seven of the last nine years.

Muhlenberg is making its 10th CC playoff appearance – good for third in league history behind Johns Hopkins (13) and Gettysburg (11) – but has not won a game since 2008; last year, the Mules advanced to the semifinals on penalty kicks.

“We’re ready for them,” said Zamichow. “People say it’s tough to beat a team twice. I think we can do it.”

pictured at right: Senior Colleen Touhey, one of only four Mules to have started every game this season, is second on the team with 11 points.