It is playoff time for the Marauders mens soccer team. Last season the Marauders fell in come-from-behind fashion in the PSAC title game to the California University of Pennsylvania Vulcans 3-2.
Then they made it all the way to the National Quarterfinals when they lost in penalty kicks to Northern Kentucky 5-4 after a 1-1 game went undecided.
“It’d be tough to pick a team MVP,” coach Steve Widdowson said. “Matt Langione has broken several records this year including individual and team shut out records, and became the winningest goalkeeper in program history. Kyle Loughlin is also the team’s leading goal-scorer and has several important goals for us. It’s hard to decide between the two.”
The playoffs kick off on Wednesday night with a 6 p.m. start time against PSAC East foe, Bloomsburg, at Chryst Field. Everyone come, wear your black, and support your Marauders during the playoffs. The Marauders have played Bloomsburg twice, both 2-0 wins.
The first win came with both teams sporting matching 2-0 records at Chryst Field. Millersville jumped out to a 1-0 lead just 13 minutes into the game when Loughlin scored his first of 11 goals of the season. Then in the 46th minute Aaron Roland made it a 2-0 lead off an assist from Thomas Bargmann.
The second win came with the PSAC East title on the line for the Marauders up at Bloomsburg. Once again, Loughlin opened up the scoring for Millersville 25 minutes into the game. Then after halftime at the 62 minute mark Ethan Daubert made the score 2-0 off of a feed from Kyle Loughlin to clinch the PSAC East championship for a second straight year.
“We are focused on the PSAC Championship only,” Widdowson said. “We want it [National Championship] to be a bonus for us, not a backup plan as it was last year after the loss in the PSAC championship game.”
It will be interesting to see how the Marauders play with a large target on their backs this year. Last year they were able to come into the season under the radar so to speak. This year, they have led the PSAC wire-to-wire.
“We have had a target on our backs all season, especially in the PSAC. This year, because of our high national ranking, teams have had extra incentive to beat us,” midfielder Patrick Baffuto said, “Going into playoffs we have more added pressure, but we aren’t letting it get to our heads. We know if we play our game, and play it well, no one can beat us.”
For the first time ever, the Marauders are now ranked No. 1. In the latest NSCAA Division II poll, released Tuesday, the Marauders vaulted from the No. 2 spot, to No. 1 after former first place, Lees-McRae, a college in North Carolina, lost Saturday night.
PSAC foe Slippery Rock, and Wilmington, the only team to beat Millersville this season, finished 12th and 13th respectively in the final regular season National poll. The Atlantic regional rankings include five PSAC teams, Millersville, Slippery Rock, Mercyhurst, California, and Bloomsburg; ranking at 1, 2, 4, 6, and 8 respectively. In all likelihood, however, only the top four teams will qualify for the NCAA tournament.
“Every game this season has been a battle, and a struggle,” Widdowson said, “We know we are everybody’s biggest game, so we’ve been in the environment before. For us, the atmosphere and the pressure will not be something new. We have experienced it many times before and know what it is going to be like. This game [PSAC Semifinal against Bloomsburg] will not be any different for us. We know how much everyone wants to beat us, and Bloomsburg will be no different.”
The biggest surprise this year is the fact that they are playing so well with such a young team. This year’s team is led by a handful of juniors and sophomores. Record setting goalkeeper Langione, leading scorer Loughlin, defensive extraordinaire Jeremy Yoder, and versatile midfielder Matt Wilson are all juniors. While the second leading scorer Baffuto, forward Aaron Roland, defender John Claffey, and forward Dan Prian are all sophomores.
The only seniors on this team are Steve Melnick, Anthony Pagnotti, Thomas Bargmann, and Zack Lieb. Of those four, only Bargmann is a regular starter. This team could be even better next year, which is scary for the PSAC and the rest of the Division II soccer world.
Come out and support your NUMBER ONE Marauders over this playoff run. As a potential high National seed, expect many games at home. Wear your black each and every time.