Oct. 18, 2012
WEST POINT, N.Y. -
The Army women's soccer team has a pair of pivotal matches this weekend as the Black Knights are in the midst of jockeying for a Patriot League Tournament (top four teams at the conclusion of the regular season) berth.
The Black Knights (6-9-0, 1-3-0 PL) host Navy (15-1-1, 3-0-1 PL) in the "Star" match Friday evening under the lights at Clinton Field and American (5-8-2, 3-1-0 PL) Sunday afternoon on Senior Day. The Midshipmen are tied with Colgate for first place in the league standings with 10 points (three points for a win, one for a tie), and the Eagles are third with nine points.
The pressure is on Army as the Black Knights can ill afford a loss or tie in their quest to earn a third straight tournament bid, but a lot is at stake for Navy and American as well. The Midshipmen are in the hunt for their seventh regular-season league crown and first since 2008, while American is looking to clinch its first tournament berth since 2009.
After starting off league play 0-3-0, Army's 2-1 come-from-behind win over Lehigh last week put the Black Knights back into contender status, but the defending champions will need help as they find themselves in a "must win" situation in their final three league matches.
A sweep of Navy and American this weekend would boost the Black Knights' point total to nine with just Lafayette (4-9-2, 1-3-0 PL) remaining next weekend. A sweep of its final three matches gives Army 12 points. What could help bolster Army's chances further would be if Bucknell and Holy Cross, who are tied for fourth place (2-2-0) with six points, could be swept or held to just one win over their final three games. If Army would tie either for the final playoff berth, the Black Knights would be eliminated from postseason consideration having lost to both at the start of league play.
The Black Knights are led offensively by junior Joey Molacek with seven goals and two assists for 16 points to list in the top 10 in the league in both. The Army forward netted the tie-breaking goal against Lehigh last week as Army overcame a 1-0 deficit. Freshman Candace Stewart scored the equalizer with her second goal of the season to tie classmate Anna Lail for third place in goals and scoring (four points).
Junior Kim An lists second on the team in goals (four) and points (12) and ranks first in assists (four) and game winners (three) to list tied for third in the league in the last two categories. She also lists first on the team in shots (44). In goal, sophomore Linda Rosas shows 1.56 goals-against average, 57 saves and two shutouts.
Navy enters the game riding the nation's second longest unbeaten streak at 16. The Midshipmen's 15-game win streak was halted in last weekend's 1-1 overtime tie with Colgate.
Ashlynn Soellner and Morgan Dankanich top the Midshipmen with 24 and 23 points, respectively, along with combining for six game winners. In the latest NCAA statistical rankings, Navy lists sixth in scoring offense at 2.76 goals per game. Individually, Soeliner ranks 19th in game winners (four), while Dankavich is 31st in goals (10) and 37th in points (23). Goalkeeper Elizabeth Hoerner is second in the league with a 1.23 GAA.
THE SERIES: The Army-Navy rivalry is like no other, and in the previous 23 meetings, 13 games were one-goal decisions with the Black Knights on the winning end nine times. Only one game in the series has been decided by more than two goals. Six games went into overtime with Army showing a 3-1-2 advantage. The last time the teams went into overtime was in the championship finals at the conference tournament hosted by top-seeded Navy in 2008 with Army a 1-0 winner.
Army won the last meeting at West Point, 1-0, in 2010 to hold a 4-3-2 lead in the series at Clinton Field. Navy, however, holds an 11-10-2 all-time lead in the series that began in 1994. Army won the inaugural game, 2-1, at West Point en route to sweeping the first five matches before Navy snapped that streak and went on to win a series-best six games.
The Black Knights have won two of the last three games, to include a 2-0 decision in the championship game of the Patriot League Tournament last year that earned Army its second title and automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament in four years.
American defeated Lehigh (1-0), Lafayette (3-0) and Bucknell (1-0) for its longest three-game win streak in league play since 2009, the same year as the Eagles' last tournament appearance. American's lone league loss was to Navy, 1-0, in its opener.
Heading into the weekend, the Eagles rank second in the league standings behind Navy (0.98) in GAA with a 1.28, but trail Army in points (42-51) and goals (14-18). American is led by Jasmine Mohandesi and Michelle Montilio with four and three goals, respectively, and each has nine points. Charlene Belanger shows a 1.25 GAA along with three shutouts.
THE SERIES: Army's 3-0 decision over American last year clinched a playoff berth and snapped the Eagles' nine-game series unbeaten string for the Black Knights' second win in the series and first since 2002.
The Eagles, who hold a 5-2-5 lead in the all-time series that began in 2001, battled Army to a 0-0 draw in the last meeting at West Point in 2010.
American visit Holy Cross (2-2-0) Friday evening in Worcester, Mass. The Crusaders are looking to clinch their first tournament berth since 2000.
HOW TO FOLLOW THE WEEKEND ACTION: Friday's game with Navy and Sunday's match with American will be video streamed live via Knight Vision, Army's expansive multimedia outlet. Fans can sign up for the subscription-based multimedia service by logging onto Army's official athletics website (www.goARMYsports.com).
Live stats for both matches will be available via GameTracker. The link is accessible by logging onto Army's website and navigating to the women's soccer page. In-game Twitter updates will be offered as well via the official handle of women's soccer (@Army_WSoccer).