For the second year in a row, the Rowan University women’s soccer team will get their shot in the NCAA Division III Championship tournament. Unlike with the 2015 run, however, the brown and gold find themselves heading on the road this weekend for the first round — and potentially second round — of nationals.
Monday’s DIII Selection Show saw Rowan, the two-time reigning New Jersey Athletic Conference champion, placed in a grouping at Johns Hopkins University, set to face off against Christopher Newport University.
“We were right on the borderline of hosting, and we watched the men’s selection call and once they got selected to host, we knew we weren’t hosting,” head coach Scott Leacott said.
Despite the likelihood of once again holding a field of the opening rounds, the Profs instead begin their playoff push on Saturday a short two hours or so south of Glassboro.
Was the news surprising? Somewhat, since they did win their conference, but for the team it is more about the eagerness of picking back up with tournament action.
“We’re excited to go, especially to a new place like Maryland. We haven’t been there yet,” said senior forward Maxine New. “I think we’re all just excited to go at it again. Last year we went to Sweet 16 and I think our goal is to go further than that.”
“I think everyone’s just really amped up,” senior midfielder and team co-captain Megan Carchidi said. “It just added more fuel to our fire that we won [the NJAC].”
Like the Profs, who held off The College of New Jersey to take the NJAC title, the Christopher Newport Captains are coming off a stellar regular season capped off with a conference championship. CNU earned its first Capital Athletic Conference title on Saturday by defeating Frostburg State University, 1-0.
No history exists between Rowan and Christopher Newport; the two programs have never met. A possible measure, then, to compare the teams is their play against shared opponents this season, of which there were two.
Virginia Wesleyan College defeated Christopher Newport in the second week of September before then being blanked by Rowan just days later. CNU also faced NJAC member Rutgers-Newark, a team which the brown and gold sees annually. Both the Captains and the Profs posted shutout wins in their respective matchups.
The greatest similarity between Rowan and Christopher Newport really lies in their records: 16-1-2 and 16-2-1, respectively.
Leacott said Monday that the team would get scouting reports and more information about CNU from other teams throughout the week. Still, their routine is what it is. “We’re just going to go out to practice and just go about our regular business,” he said.
The Profs, for good reason, are not looking to stray from their game plan coming into the matchup. One particular strongpoint they hope to maintain is their constant pressure. New noted the way the team was able to overpower The College of New Jersey in the NJAC final.
“We just kept going at them, we had the grit,” New said. “I think that’s the biggest thing that we have to work on, just keeping that high energy and pressure on these teams.”
The Profs’ victory over TCNJ also reminded them how well they can handle and close out close games. The team has 14 shutout wins thus far, a handful of which were clear routs. In the eight others, however, the Profs were able to score two or fewer goals while still shutting down the opposition.
Given the team’s aspirations of going far in the tournament, that facet could prove to be the most valuable.
“We have experience in it. We’ve played in tight games,” Leacott said. “At this time of year, everything’s going to be a little bit added pressure. I think we’re OK with it because last year we got a great taste of it. This year it’s nothing different.”
Rowan battles Christopher Newport in the first round Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. A victory would have the team advance to play the winner of Western Connecticut State and host Johns Hopkins the following day at 5 p.m.
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