Men’s Soccer Opens NCAA and Volleyball Advances to OAC Championship Match
Posted Nov 10, 2023
It’s an exciting weekend to be a Cardinal, with two great teams making plays for national spotlights.
The Otterbein men’s soccer team will make its second NCAA appearance in the last three years On Nov. 11, making a quick trip over to Gambier for its first-round match against Washington College (Md.).
Host Kenyon will open the regional pod (one of 16 in this national bracket) on Saturday morning against Dominican. The Cardinals and Shoremen will then take the pitch for their opening kick around 1:30 p.m. See the REGIONAL PAGE.
Otterbein (12-3-4) garnered an at-large bid out of the Ohio Athletic Conference, winning the league’s regular season but coming up short in the OAC Tournament Final. The No. 25-ranked Cardinals played a very difficult non-league schedule and went on a lengthy unbeaten streak from September 20 to November 4.
“Our guys have encountered so many different situations this year,” said head coach Jason Griffiths, currently 82-31-12 in seven years at the helm. “We have been leading, trailing, tied, playing a man-down, in penalty kicks, all of the above. Those experiences come back to help this time of year, and let you know there is always a chance for anything. I think those moments build character.”
Washington (11-2-5) also received an at-large bid playing out of the Centennial Conference, falling to Johns Hopkins in the semifinals of the league tourney. The Shoremen won 10 of their last 12 to end the schedule, with both defeats coming at the hands of JHU (which made the NCAA Quarterfinals last year).
WC, soaring to No. 18 in the most recent national poll, landed seven players on the all-conference team. Leading those honors were senior Chris Comber (Defensive Player of the Year) and Roy Dunshee (Coach of the Year), while goalkeeper Anthony Pinto and midfielder Ben Strine joined the first-team selections.
“All teams are good at this stage… and difficult to beat,” Griffiths continued. “Everything is a one-off game. Your results in the past don’t necessarily matter now as you try to prepare for a different format, which is (hopefully) back-to-back matches in the same weekend. Washington is an experienced and deep program with recent success. I hope they think the same about us. It should be a good matchup.”
Otterbein also had seven different players land year-end honors within the OAC, spearheaded by seniors Casey Thompson (Goalkeeper of the Year) and Mark Wischmeyer (Defender of the Year) anchoring a stout back line. Will Isaac and Drew Holman joined them to make a quartert of Cards on the first team.
The Cardinals are familiar with the venue and could enjoy a little home-field advantage, having scrimmaged Kenyon at Mavec Field back in August. Otterbein is located just about an hour away while Washington will be traveling nearly eight.
“Not everyone gets a chance to play in this tournament… and it doesn’t even happen every year for those who do make it,” Griffiths added. “I want our guys to enjoy it, but also remember the work that we have done over the last 12 months. We didn’t get in last year and had to live with that into spring workouts and over the summer. Now it’s time to give it everything so there are no regrets.”
Fans can follow the action through LIVE STATS and LIVE VIDEO. More details can also be accessed on the team’s SCHEDULE PAGE.
The women’s volleyball team will host Mount Union on Saturday, Nov. 11, at 1 p.m. for a rematch from the regular-season finale, with the league’s automatic bid to the upcoming NCAA Championships on the line.
On Thursday night, the Cardinals hosted the Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament Semi-finals. They took some challenging points early in the night and random adversity along the way, but top seed Otterbein did what it’s done all season in staying the course for a 3-0 sweep against a game Ohio Northern team.
The Cardinals, winning by scores of 27-25, 25-22, 25-19, advance to host the Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament Championship match for the second year in a row come Saturday afternoon. Otterbein will be looking to defend its crown against third seed Mount Union, which stormed back from a 2-0 deficit to win a five-set thriller at Marietta.
ONU, seeded fourth, ends its season at 17-10 overall. The Polar Bears emerged from an OAC quarterfinal earlier in the week before succumbing to the Cards for a second time this year.
A very tight opener featured multiple lead changes and, despite ONU inadvertently receiving an extra point midway through, Otterbein found a way to weather the misfortune via extra point. The Polar Bears held leads of 20-17 and 22-19 before the Cardinals came charging back in crunch time… Otterbein jumped in front (23-22) with a 4-0 run before ensuing deadlocks at 24 and 25. In the end, an ONU attack error and kill from Morgan Hartman allowed the home side to escape.
The middle frame encountered a 15-15 tie and saw Otterbein clinging to a 19-18 lead shortly thereafter. Three-straight points, including a pair of kills from Kennedy Hoffman, helped create a bit of separation and just enough down to the finish.
ONU came out firing to snag an 8-4 lead. However, the Cardinals kept swinging and ripped off a massive 12-2 run that proved to be a difference maker. The Polar Bears never got closed than four the remainder of the way.
BOX SCORE LOOK:
- Otterbein hit .220 for the night while holding the visitors to just a .102 output. That defensive effort was in large part to recently named OAC Libero of the Year Amanda Troyer, who tallied 21 digs from start to finish.
- Hoffman hit 14-2-31 (.387) to lead all players in kills while Hartman, the newest OAC Player of the Year, added a double-double charge with 13 kills and 10 digs.
- Olivia Vitaz handed out 28 assists from her setter position while Madison McCoy played yet another huge role in the blocking game, getting involved in five.
- Erin Wagner, a first team All-OAC pick, paced the ONU offense with nine kills.