Monday Morning Mule – September 29, 2014

Monday Morning MuleSenior Kayleigh Thies stopped by the Muhlenberg men’s soccer game after field hockey practice on Wednesday night and thought, “I’m going to get me one of those.”

Well, that’s not exactly how it worked out. Thies arrived just for the end of the game, too late to see classmate Lance Dotzman complete his first career hat trick in an 8-2 win against DeSales. But 48 hours later, it was Thies notching her first career hat trick in a 5-2 defeat of Johns Hopkins.

Hat tricks are somewhat rare in both sports, but less common in soccer. Dotzman’s was only the fourth for the Mule men’s soccer team since 2000. The field hockey team has had 13 hat tricks, including the one by Thies, since 2000.

The last field hockey hat trick until Friday night came in 2008 by Nicki Notarianni, whose younger sister Claire is a freshman on this year’s team.

And if a recent trend continues, Thies will have company soon. Every time a Muhlenberg field hockey player has recorded a hat trick since 2000, a teammate also recorded a hat trick later in the season.

Lance Dotzman, Kayleigh ThiesThe last time Muhlenberg saw hat tricks in both men’s soccer and field hockey in the same season was 2008 (a year that also included a hat trick by a women’s soccer player, making it a hat trick of hat tricks). And since 1980, the shortest period of time between a men’s soccer hat trick and a field hockey hat trick had been four days, in 1988.

More important than the historical significance of the two hat tricks was that they came in wins. And both teams will look for more significant contributions from their hat-tricksters in key games this week. Undefeated men’s soccer (6-0-2) hosts Swarthmore Tuesday night in a matchup of two teams that were ranked in the NSCAA top 25 last week, while field hockey (5-2) travels to Haverford Wednesday to face a team that it lost to twice last year – once in the Centennial Conference playoffs.

Football: It’s been a season of many happy returns for the Muhlenberg football team.

The Mules did not score an offensive touchdown in Saturday’s 42-26 loss to Johns Hopkins, but they had the ball with a chance to go ahead in the fourth quarter because they scored in other ways: on a 41-yard blocked punt return by Josh Messina and a 66-yard interception return by Jeremey Thomas.

It was the second time this season Muhlenberg scored in both of those ways. Matt Pagano returned a blocked punt 25 yards for a score in the Homecoming game against Franklin & Marshall, and Chris Flynn brought an interception back 31 yards for a score last week at McDaniel.

That gives the Mules four touchdowns on returns this year, the most since the 2006 team scored five non-offensive TDs. Less than halfway through the season, Muhlenberg is just two short of the school record for touchdowns on returns, set in 1947 and matched in 1999 and 2002.

The Mules have already tied the record for most blocked punts for touchdowns in a season, previously achieved in 2002 and 2012.

Flynn and Thomas are the first pair of Mules to return interceptions for touchdowns in back-to-back weeks since John McCusker and Chuck Smith scored on pick-sixes (although they probably weren’t called that then) in games against Ursinus and Dickinson, respectively, in 1977. Touchdowns on interception returns in three straight weeks hasn’t happened since 1947.

Volleyball: The Muhlenberg volleyball team was presented with a schedule that would show right away where it stood in the Centennial Conference.

So where do the Mules stand? On top.

On Saturday, Muhlenberg completed an 11-day stretch in which it played the other three 2013 CC semifinalists. The Mules defeated all three, including defending regular-season champion Franklin & Marshall and defending tournament champion Johns Hopkins.

The league figures to be as competitive as it has ever been, top to bottom, so the 3-0 start is just that – a start. It’s the first time the Mules are 3-0 in the CC since1994; the team’s best CC start (4-0) came in 1993, the first year of the league’s existence. This year’s team can match that with a home win Saturday against Dickinson.

Before that, Muhlenberg will face a Moravian team it has already defeated this year. A win Wednesday would put the Mules at 16-2 for the first time ever. The 1992 and 1993 squads both started out 15-2 but lost their 18th match.

Muhlenberg’s eight-match winning streak is tied for the third-longest in program history. The school record is 11, set in 1993.

Weekend Preview – September 26-28, 2014

weekend previewFor the second weekend in a row, two Mule teams square off against teams they played in the Centennial Conference playoffs last year. Plus, a big football game that could determine a trip to the NCAA playoffs.

Field Hockey vs. Johns Hopkins (Friday, 7:00)

Muhlenberg (4-2) was on a roll before dropping its Centennial Conference opener at McDaniel last Friday and has had a week to prepare for this game. Johns Hopkins (4-4) won its first CC game in double-overtime against Washington last Saturday.

Both teams have prepared for the season with strong schedules. The Mules’ five non-CC opponents are a combined 21-13 (which includes an 0-6 by Drew) against other teams, and Muhlenberg is responsible for the only loss by ninth-ranked Montclair State. The Blue Jays’ last two losses were to the teams ranked second (Salisbury) and third (TCNJ) in the most recent Division III poll.

Johns Hopkins has won the last four meetings to extend its series lead to 18-5. Last year, Muhlenberg could not hold an early 1-0 lead and lost, 2-1.

Live stats | Live video

Football vs. Johns Hopkins (Saturday, 2:00)

The lone home event on Saturday is a powerhouse matchup of the two pre-eminent programs in the Centennial Conference this century.

Since the start of the 2000 season, Johns Hopkins is 81-24 (.771) in CC play and has won or shared nine championships. Muhlenberg is right behind at .714 and seven titles. No other team is close.

Johns Hopkins, the five-time defending champion, has won 32 of its last 33 CC games and is ranked 12th in the AFCA poll. Muhlenberg, which has finished second three straight years, is ranked 23rd. It is believed to be the first CC game ever between two top-25 teams.

And while it’s still early in the season, the winner of this game has gone on to represent the CC in the NCAA Tournament every year but one since 2002.

Both teams are 3-0, with only one close game (the Blue Jays’ 27-20 win at Susquehanna). Muhlenberg, which has won nine straight regular-season home games since a 2012 loss to Johns Hopkins, has outscored its first three opponents by a combined 118 points.

Muhlenberg leads the all-time series, 23-22-1, but Johns Hopkins has won four of the last five meetings. The last three years, the Mules led 10-7 in the third quarter, trailed 13-7 at halftime and trailed 14-13 late in the second quarter but wound up losing all three games by double-digit margins.

Live stats | Live video

Volleyball at Johns Hopkins (Saturday, 1:00)

A rematch of the 2013 Centennial Conference championship match pairs up the two hottest teams in the CC. Muhlenberg (14-2, 2-0) has won seven in a row, while Johns Hopkins (9-8, 1-0), which faced many nationally ranked opponents in the early part of its schedule, has captured its last six.

The CC has been characterized by tightly contested matches this season, with four of the seven matches – including both played the Mules – going a full five sets. Hopkins won its opening CC match in three sets against Washington.

The three-time defending CC champion Blue Jays lead the all-time series, 18-5, and have won the last five meetings, including a 3-0 sweep in the regular season and a 3-1 win in the CC final last year. Muhlenberg’s last series win came in Baltimore in 2009.

Live video

Women’s Soccer at Johns Hopkins (Saturday, 1:00)

Muhlenberg (6-1-1, 2-0) is looking to rebound from its first loss of the season, a last-minute heartbreaker against Scranton on Tuesday. A win would put the Mules at 3-0 in the Centennial Conference for the first time since 2001.

Johns Hopkins isn’t the ideal opponent for a team trying to return to the win column: The Blue Jays (7-2, 1-0) are ranked eighth by and are 32-1-1 in their last 34 CC regular-season games.

Hopkins leads the all-time series, 16-9-1, and won both meetings last year, 5-0 in the regular season, when it was ranked No. 1 in the country, and 8-0 in the CC semifinals. Since 2009, the Mules have posted three upsets of Blue Jay teams ranked in the top 10, including a 2-0 win in 2012.

Live stats | Live video

Men’s Soccer at Gettysburg (Saturday, 4:00)

Undefeated Muhlenberg (6-0-1, 1-0) hits the road for the first time this season for the first of three games in seven days against regionally ranked Centennial Conference opponents. The Mules are ranked third in the region themselves and appear in the top 25 in both Division III polls.

Gettysburg (7-1, 1-0), which has not made the CC playoffs since 2010, is off to a 7-1 start, its best in eight years. The Bullets are ranked seventh in the Mid-Atlantic Region, their lone loss coming to top-ranked Messiah.

Muhlenberg has allowed a CC-low three goals all season, while Gettysburg is coming off back-to-back four-goal games against Ursinus and Marymount.

The Mules lead the all-time series, 35-19-6, but had their eight-game series winning streak snapped with a 2-1 overtime loss last year.

Live stats/video

Women’s Golf at Susquehanna Fall Invitational (Saturday); at Gettysburg Invitational (Sunday)

The Mules will log plenty of time on the golf course this weekend, competing on back-to-back days for the first time this year.

Men’s Tennis at ITA Southeast Regional (Saturday and Sunday)

The men’s tennis team travels to Mary Washington for the annual regional championship.

Alumni Profile – Meredith Erickson ’99

Even though the volleyball team was away Homecoming weekend, returning alumna Meredith (Cole) Erickson ’99 still found a great way to reconnect with her Muhlenberg past.

Erickson, who played volleyball as a Mule from 1995 to 1998 and still ranks in the program’s all-time top 10 in blocks (third) and hitting percentage (sixth), contributed two items to the 2nd Annual Alumni Juried Exhibition, which is on display through Tuesday in the Galleria Lobby of the Baker Center for the Arts.

A product designer for the home furnishing company West Elm since 2002, Erickson’s display at the exhibition consists of two striking black soapstone and brass pieces.

Meredith Cole - Visage

“The collection on display I designed for West Elm is called Visage because of the simplified reference to a face,” she explained. “The collection comprises of two pieces, a box and a sculpture. I am inspired by minimalist sculptors like Noguchi and Brancusi.

“The spherical box can stand alone as an object and also hold precious mementos. It becomes a capsule holding a memory further representing the mind behind the face. I selected these pieces for the show because they reflect the influences of my studies at Muhlenberg.”

Meredith ColeErickson, who attended a reception for the alumni artists on Homecoming Saturday, graduated with a double major in psychology and art.

“I loved the diversity of opportunities at Muhlenberg. It was a place I could be active in many different arenas,” she said. “I was co-captain of the volleyball team, I choreographed and performed a dance piece that was shown on local TV for Martin Luther King Day, and I double majored.”

It was that diversity that attracted Erickson to Muhlenberg, as well as the influence of volleyball coach Frank Marino.

“I came to Muhlenberg because [Coach Marino] encouraged me to spend a weekend at the campus, and after meeting the team and spending time on the campus I decided to apply early decision,” she recalled. “Coach Marino was competitive yet humble. He wanted to win and also wanted us to be healthy, well-rounded, successful individuals, and you could feel his support on and off the court. Those values attracted a wonderful group of teammates and I think it is why I am in contact with so many of them today.”

Meredith ColeNow a resident of Manhattan with two small children – Cole (3½) and Luke (8 weeks) – Erickson still has strong feelings for Muhlenberg and looks back fondly at her college experience.

“It was a pleasure to be back on the campus and meet up with friends that I made freshman year,” she said. “Even though Muhlenberg has changed and evolved over time there’s still a connection. It still feels like a home.”

Click here for information on the exhibition.

Chemistry on the Line

In averaging 452 yards and 45 points through the first three games of the 2014 season, the Muhlenberg football team has shown great chemistry on offense: between the quarterback and receivers, between the running backs and offensive line, and between the linemen themselves.

It helps that two of the veteran starters on the line know a thing or two about chemistry.

Juniors Bryan Auvil (right tackle) and Andrew Kincaid (center) are not only third-year starters on the offensive line, but they are both chemistry majors who spent this past summer doing research on campus. Both presented their projects at Muhlenberg’s Summer Research Poster Session last Friday.

Bryan AuvilAndrew Kincaid

“It was pretty awesome that we were both on campus doing research,” said Kincaid. “We got to work out together, and that definitely helped us prepare for the season.”

Auvil was mentored by Dr. Sherri Young for his project, “Synthesis of Peptoids to be Used as Blood-Brain Barrier Shuttles.” Here is how he described it:

Bryan Auvil“Inflammation is a major cause of Alzheimer’s Disease and many other central nervous system (CNS) disorders.  To date, there is no cure for AD, likely because drugs, called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which would be able to treat the inflammation, are unable to penetrate the blood-brain barrier, a membrane that prevents most molecules from entering the brain.

“The goal of our project is to modify NSAIDs to increase their membrane penetrability. We plan to do this by linking NSAIDs to small peptoids (similar to peptides) that should be able to act as a shuttle to carry the drug across the blood-brain barrier.  I spent most of my summer developing a method to synthesize and purify these peptoids. “

Andrew KincaidKincaid worked with Dr. Robert Fuller on his project, titled “Measurement of Interfacial Tension in a Model Water-Oil System.”

“I studied the surface tension between the major component of orange oil and water,” he explained. “Learning about the surface tension of these oils allows us to make emulsions. Emulsions allow water and oils that usually shouldn’t mix to do exactly that. This is very useful in creating fragrances.”

Kincaid recalled that he and Auvil got plenty of comments about how different it was to have two football players in the lab during the summer. And by trading in their helmets and pads for goggles and lab coats, they may have lent credence to the notion that, because of the complex blocking schemes they have to learn, offensive linemen are among the smartest players on a football team.

“You can print that!” said Auvil with a laugh.

Andrew KincaidKincaid (left) became very interested in his topic as he conducted his research and is continuing his studies this semester, taking a special course on the chemistry of fragrances. “I could definitely see myself getting into that field,” he said.

Auvil, meanwhile, plans to go to medical school and was happy to find an organic chemistry-type project that has a medical application.

Both Muhlenberg student-athletes relished the experiencBryan Auvile as they do springing a back for a long run.

“The research is an awesome experience as an undergraduate, especially coming out of sophomore year,” said Auvil (right). “At larger schools, usually the graduate students do the research.”

“It’s awesome that we go to a place where we have all these opportunities,” added Kincaid. “To be able to do research in the summer and then play football in the fall … I’m pretty grateful for that.”

Monday Morning Mule – September 22, 2014

Monday Morning MuleGoals scored by opponents have been extremely rare at Muhlenberg soccer games in 2014. Losses suffered by the Mules have been rarer still.

The two Muhlenberg teams played four times last week and combined to go 2-0-2, allowing only one goal in the four games, three of which went into overtime.

That’s how it’s been all year for the Mules, who have little company in Division III when it comes to soccer success this fall.

• Muhlenberg is one of only four schools in Division III with two undefeated soccer teams:

  • Muhlenberg women 6-0-1 men 5-0-1
  • Emory women 4-0-2 men 7-0-1
  • Luther women 7-0 men 6-0
  • Messiah women 7-0 men 8-0

• Muhlenberg is one of only two schools in Division III whose soccer teams have combined to allow three goals or fewer:

  • Muhlenberg women 6-0-1, 2GA; men 5-0-1, 1GA
  • Texas-Tyler women 4-1, 2GA; men 4-0-1, 1 GA

• The Mule men are tied with four other teams for the Division III lead in fewest goals allowed this season:

  • Muhlenberg 5-0-1, 1GA
  • Lycoming 6-0-2, 1GA
  • Middlebury 4-0-1, 1GA
  • Oneonta State 6-0-1, 1GA
  • Texas-Tyler 4-0-1, 1GA

Muhlenberg allowed its goal in the first game of the season and has a current unscored-upon streak of 518 minutes. The Mules have recorded five straight shutouts for the first time since 2009; the last time they had six clean sheets in a row was 1990.

The men host DeSales, which has scored only five goals in seven games this season, on Wednesday before traveling to regionally ranked Gettysburg for their first road game of the year on Saturday. The Mules will have to go past those two teams – way past – to get to the school record for consecutive shutouts: 13, set in 1988.

Defense has been the key for the women going undefeated through their first seven games for the first time in program history. Despite using three starting goalies, the Mules have allowed only two goals and played with a lead or tied for all but 76 of their 654 minutes. And they’ve gotten just enough offense to win six of those games.

On Saturday, it was a goal by Abby Lazofsky with 54 seconds left in the first overtime that gave the Mules all the offense they needed to knock off McDaniel, 1-0. And that was rare in its own right.

wsocceleb_mcdanielThe “golden goal” was the first for the Mules since a 2012 game at Gwynedd Mercy and their first at home since a 2010 game against Haverford. An overtime goal to win a game 1-0? That hadn’t happened since 2001.

The women, who posted a tie and a win against teams ranked ahead of them in the region last week, will look to keep their undefeated record intact when they host 3-3-1 Scranton tomorrow. On Saturday, they travel to nationally ranked Johns Hopkins for what is sure to be a big challenge to their undefeated and defensive accomplishments.


Weekend Preview – September 19-21, 2014

weekend previewThe first full weekend of Centennial Conference play features two playoff rematches.

Field Hockey at McDaniel (Friday, 7:00)

Muhlenberg (4-1) begins its quest for a second consecutive playoff berth with a trip to Maryland. The Mules come in with a four-game winning streak and have allowed only three goals – tied for the fewest in the CC – in five games.

McDaniel (4-2) brings a three-game winning streak into its CC opener. The Green Terror has not made the playoffs since 2006 and had a 3-7 CC record – its worst since 1999 – last year.

Muhlenberg leads the all-time series, 12-9, and has won the last two meetings. The last game played in Westminster was a wild back-and-forth affair in which the Mules came from behind twice before winning, 4-3 in overtime.

Live stats | Live video

Volleyball vs. McDaniel (Saturday, 12:00); vs. Cedar Crest (Saturday, 4:00)

Fresh off its win against defending CC regular-season champion Franklin & Marshall on Wednesday, Muhlenberg hops right back into the fire against a McDaniel team that it faced – and beat – in the CC semifinals last year.

The Mules (11-2) have won four in a row and lead the CC in kills per set (11.89), hitting percentage (.254), assists per set (11.09) and points per set (16.2). McDaniel (9-2), coming off a five-set loss to 13-1 Catholic, is the top blocking team in the CC, averaging 2.11 blocks per set.

Muhlenberg leads the all-time series, 15-8, and has won the last four meetings, including both last year.

The final match of the day pits Muhlenberg against 1-6 Cedar Crest. A win against McDaniel would put the Mules at 2-0 in the CC for the first time since 2002. A sweep would give them their best record (13-2) through 15 matches since 1993.

Live stats | Live video

Men’s Soccer vs. McDaniel (Saturday, 4:00)

This is one of five games that open the 2014 CC men’s soccer season, and the early non-league results point to a highly competitive campaign ahead. CC teams have combined for an outstanding 42-12-4 (.759) record so far and occupy seven of the 10 spots in the NSCAA regional rankings released earlier this week.

Muhlenberg is looking to return to the playoffs after two years away, while McDaniel is seeking its first CC playoff berth since 2005.

The Mules (4-0-1) bring an unscored-upon streak of 428 minutes into the game; through Wednesday’s games, they were one of only nine teams in Division III to have played at least five games and allowed fewer than two goals. McDaniel (5-1) counters with the CC leader in goals and points.

Muhlenberg has won the last nine meetings to extend its series lead to 33-7-1, but seven of those nine games were decided by a single goal, including a 1-0 match last year in which the goal was not scored until the 72nd minute. The Green Terror’s last series win came in 2001 in the semifinals of the CC playoffs.

Live stats | Live video

Women’s Soccer vs. McDaniel (Saturday, 7:00)

Muhlenberg and Bryn Mawr got the jump on the 2014 CC season last Thursday, but for the other nine teams in the league, Saturday is Opening Day. Of the five games scheduled, this is the only one featuring two teams that made the playoffs last year.

CC teams have done very well in non-league games, combining for a 38-19-4 (.656) record and placing five teams – including these two – in the regional top 10.

The first goal could win the game, as both of these teams have been very stingy. McDaniel has given up just one goal all season and Muhlenberg only two.

The Green Terror (5-0-1 and ranked ninth in the region) brings in a scoreless streak of 473 minutes. The Mules (5-0-1 and ranked 10th in the region) have set a school record for longest unbeaten streak to start a season and are coming off a very strong performance in a 1-1 tie against Lebanon Valley (ranked eighth in the region).

Muhlenberg holds a 14-6-2 series lead and has suffered only two losses to McDaniel since 1997. The teams met twice last year, with the Mules winning the regular-season meeting, 1-0. In the first round of the CC playoffs, the teams played to a scoreless draw, and Muhlenberg won the shootout to advance to the semifinals.

Live stats | Live video

Football at McDaniel (Saturday, 2:00)

There was a time when the trip to Westminster was a dreaded one for the Mules: From 1990 to 2006, they lost nine straight games there. But the last three trips have been much more fruitful: three Muhlenberg wins by a combined score of 111-6.

The Mules (2-0) have won eight consecutive regular-season games and came within three minutes of opening a season with back-to-back shutouts for only the second time in 66 years last week.

McDaniel (1-1) is a building program that improved from 0-10 in 2012 to 2-8 last year. The Green Terror opened the 2014 season with a stirring comeback win at Catholic, scoring 20 points in the final 6:35 to pull out a 34-31 win. Last week, McDaniel dropped its CC opener to Moravian, 28-7.

Muhlenberg has displayed the ability to produce big plays both on the ground and through the air and will try to take advantage of a McDaniel defense that allowed an average of more than 450 yards in its first two games. The Mule defense will be tested by a Green Terror passing attack that has thrown the ball 90 times for 511 yards in the first two weeks.

McDaniel leads the all-time series, 22-19-3.

Live stats | Live video

Cross Country at Dickinson Long/Short Invitational

Dickinson is hosting its annual two-for-one meet, which features a 4K race for both men and women in addition to the standard distances. The meet will give the Mule teams a chance to run on the course that will be used for the NCAA Mideast Regional come November.

Women’s Tennis at ITA Southeast Regional (Mary Washington); Women’s Golf at McDaniel Fall Invitational (Saturday)

Both teams are traveling south, tennis to compete in the regional championships and golf to open its season.


Eye of the Keeper

Even an emergency surgery couldn’t prevent the record start of the Muhlenberg women’s soccer team.

The regionally ranked Mules have set a program record for longest unbeaten streak to start a season – six, following a 1-1 tie with Lebanon Valley last night. Defense is a big reason why: through games of last weekend, Muhlenberg was one of only 12 teams in Division III that had played at least five games and given up fewer than two goals.

Not bad for a team that had to change goalies unexpectedly.

Jen Mermelstein

Jen Mermelstein

Junior Jen Mermelstein started the first two games of the season, recording shutouts in both. On the night of Tuesday, September 2, she went to bed with a stomach ache. When the pain became too great in the middle of the night, she went to the hospital.

Not long after, she underwent surgery to have her appendix removed.

That was Wednesday, two days before the Mules’ next scheduled game. Sophomore Tori Gonzalez got the news in class when a teammate texted “good luck” to her.

Although Gonzalez had no previous game experience at Muhlenberg, she was a logical choice to step into the starting role.

Mermelstein was visited by some teammates in the hospital, and the topic of her replacement came up. “We felt if someone was the most game ready, it was Tori,” she recalled.

Tori Gonzalez

Tori Gonzalez

Gonzalez has rewarded her teammates’ faith in her, allowing only two goals in her first four starts.

“I think she’s done a really good job,” said Mermelstein. “She didn’t have any time to mentally prepare [to be the starter]. She’s stepped up to the challenge.”

Maybe “rising up to the challenge” would be a better way to put it. Gonzalez had her own way of mentally preparing – she watched all four “Rocky” movies the night before and the day of her first start.

“I love those movies,” she said. “That got me pumped up.”

Jen MermelsteinGonzalez says she was nervous for about the first 20 minutes of her first start, against Delaware Valley, but then her years of playing goalie all came back to her and she began to feel more comfortable. Her confidence and comfort level have continued to increase since then.

Still feeling the effects of her surgery, Mermelstein attended Gonzalez’ second start, a game against Gwynedd Mercy on Saturday, September 6. It was Mermelstein’s 20th birthday, and her presence was a sort of present for Gonzalez.

“I liked having Jen there a lot,” she said. “She’s very stable mentally and was able to help me out when I was a little bit nervous.”

Tori GonzalezMermelstein returned to classes on September 9 and ran with the team for the first time this week. Her legs are fine, but she needs to have less pain in her upper body to be able to dive like a goalie. She hopes to return to action next week as the Mules get into the heart of their conference season.

And who will be the starting goalie then?

“I want my spot back,” admitted Mermelstein. “But if Tori is more deserving of it at the point when I come back, then why switch?”

Monday Morning Mule – September 15, 2014

Monday Morning MuleOur new feature takes a look at some weekend leftovers and previews the upcoming week.

This week marks the beginning of Centennial Conference play for most teams.

Soccer: It’s been a great start for the Mule soccer teams. The women are 5-0, tying the best start in program history, while the men are 4-0 and received votes in last week’s NSCAA Division III poll.

Muhlenberg is one of only four schools in Division III whose men’s and women’s soccer teams are undefeated and untied at this stage in the season. The others are Luther, Messiah and Tufts.

How long can the Mule soccer teams keep it up? It will be quite the challenge once they start playing CC games regularly. (The men open Saturday at home against McDaniel, and the women, who played an early league game last week at Bryn Mawr, also host McDaniel on Saturday.)

The 11 CC women’s teams have a combined record of 33-18-2 (.642), with Dickinson, McDaniel and Haverford joining Muhlenberg in the undefeated ranks. And Johns Hopkins (5-2) is ranked in the top 20 in Division III.

The CC men’s teams have done even better, going 9-0 on Saturday to improve their combined record to an amazing 38-8-2 (.813). Franklin & Marshall, Dickinson, Johns Hopkins, Gettysburg, Swarthmore and Muhlenberg are all receiving votes in at least one of the Division III polls.

boll_powVolleyball: The 10-2 Mules, off to their best start in 20 years, have a huge opening week of CC play. On Wednesday, they host defending regular-season champion Franklin & Marshall, which has won 15 consecutive regular-season CC matches. On Saturday, they welcome McDaniel in a rematch of last year’s CC semifinal, won by Muhlenberg.

As in soccer, CC volleyball teams have fared very well in the opening part of the season, setting up what should be a competitive league race. CC teams are a combined 69-38 (.645).

Muhlenberg went 3-1 at Neumann’s tournament over the weekend, and it was announced yesterday that junior Katherine Boll was named to the all-tournament team. It was the third straight all-tournament nod this season for Boll, who leads the CC in blocks (38) and is second in hitting percentage (.371).

Field Hockey: The CC … you guessed it … is strong in field hockey too, with every team except 0-6 Swarthmore at .500 or better. Muhlenberg (3-1) opens at McDaniel (3-2) on Friday night.

The Mules’ success this season has been fueled by their defense, which is very apparent if you look at their scores. They have allowed only three goals in four games; the last time they started a season giving up no more than one goal in their first four games was 1991.

The defense looks even more impressive when you look at the opponents’ scores. Take away the Muhlenberg games, and Scranton, Montclair State, Elizabethtown and Drew have combined to score 64 goals in 17 games, an average of 3.8 goals per game.

An 83-Year Climb

One of the big plays in yesterday’s Homecoming football win against Franklin & Marshall was an 83-yard touchdown run by freshman Max Cepeda. But that wasn’t the only significant thing about the number 83.

Nick Palladino Class of 2017 Quarterback Allentown (N.J.) High School

Nick Palladino
Class of 2017
Allentown (N.J.) High School

The 42-7 victory improved the Mules’ all-time record to 497-497-41. It’s the first time they’ve been at .500 since 1931 – 83 years ago.

The Mules defeated St. Joseph’s, 7-0, in the fourth game of the 1931 campaign to put their all-time record at 115-114-22. They lost their next game to Ursinus to fall back to .500 and dropped the following contest to Lehigh to slip under .500.

And that is where they stayed for the next 83 years – until yesterday. Muhlenberg’s low-water mark came midway through the 1998 season, when a 34-31 loss at Johns Hopkins dropped its all-time record to 61 games under .500.

The Mules have made up that ground in fast order, going 114-53 (.683) over their last 167 games to get back to .500.

So where do they go from here? They can move above .500 with a win at McDaniel this Saturday. All-time win number 500 is on the horizon. The school record for games over .500 (10, when the 1927 season ended with an all-time record of 104-94-21) is within reach in the near future if the teams goes at its current pace.

Ferdinand Palladino Class of 1932 Quarterback Allentown (Pa.) High School

Ferdinand Palladino
Class of 1932
Allentown (Pa.) High School

The current Muhlenberg squad certainly does not want to go the way of the 1931 team, which represented the start of a downward slide for the program. That team finished with a record of 2-8 and scored only 51 points all season – a total the 2014 Mules needed only six quarters to surpass.

But the teams are linked, not only by their all-time record at one point during the season, but also by an incredible coincidence that stands as further proof that truth can be stranger than fiction: One of the members of the 1931 Muhlenberg football team was a quarterback from Allentown High School named Palladino.

Weekend Preview – September 12-14, 2014

weekend previewAn early Homecoming weekend features home games in field hockey, football and men’s soccer and the closest thing the cross country teams have to a home meet. Plus, volleyball competes in a tournament for the third straight weekend and men’s tennis opens its year with a home tournament.

Field Hockey vs. Drew (Friday, 7:00)

Muhlenberg (2-1) plays its fourth straight home game to start the season against a Drew team that was 16-4 last year but is winless in four games so far this fall.

Defense has been the key for both teams: The Mules have allowed only two goals, the only one in the last 204 minutes coming on a penalty stroke. The Rangers, on the other hand, have allowed 18 goals in four games, the most coming in a 7-1 loss to Montclair State, which was undoubtedly eager to take out its anger on someone after losing to Muhlenberg.

Drew holds a 15-13-1 series lead, including a 6-1 win last year, but the home team has won the last five meetings.

Live stats | Live video

Volleyball at Knights Invitational: vs. Eastern (Friday, 6:00); vs. Neumann (Friday, 8:00); vs. Moravian (Saturday, 1:00); vs. Widener (Saturday, 3:00)

After going 7-1 at Gettysburg and in its own tournament the last two weekends, Muhlenberg travels to Neumann for another tournament. The Mules’ first opponent, Eastern, reached the NCAA semifinals in 2011 and the quarterfinals last year and is currently ranked 12th in Division III.

Host Neumann is 4-0, Moravian is 5-5, and Widener is 1-6.

Cross Country Co-Hosts Cedar Crest/Muhlenberg Invitational (Saturday, 10:00)

The Mules, running a short distance from campus, will aim for a repeat of last year, when they swept both the team and individual titles. Senior Luke Munyan is the defending men’s champion.

Football vs. Franklin & Marshall (Saturday, 1:00)

The Centennial Conference opener for both teams could turn out to be one of the key games of the year. Muhlenberg and F&M, both of which opened the season with wins last week, have received ECAC bowl bids each of the last two years and have their sights set on unseating five-time defending champion Johns Hopkins.

In the CC preseason poll, Muhlenberg was picked second (with six first-place votes) and Franklin & Marshall was tabbed fourth.

Franklin & Marshall leads the all-time series, 53-43-1. Since 2005, the teams have traded two-game series winning streaks, with Muhlenberg winning in 2007-08 and 2011-12 and the Diplomats prevailing in 2005-06 and 2009-10. F&M won last year, 28-21.

The Mules come into the game with an all-time record of 496-497-41. With a win, they will climb to .500 for the first time since 1931.

Live stats | Live video

The live video will feature highlights from the Mules’ win vs. Wilkes at halftime.

Men’s Soccer vs. Stevens (Saturday, 7:00)

The biggest win for the Muhlenberg men’s soccer team in recent years came at the expense of Stevens. In the second round of the 2010 NCAA Tournament, the Mules won 2-1 in double-overtime, handing the Ducks their first NCAA loss (other than by shootout) since 2005 and snapping their 34-game home unbeaten streak.

None of the players from that game and only one of the head coaches will take part in this year’s Homecoming rematch (only the second regular-season meeting between the two teams since 1973), but the memory will linger on in both programs for years to come.

Muhlenberg is 3-0 for the first time since 2011 and receiving votes in the national Division III poll. Stevens, which has won at least 15 games for the last 12 years, is off to an uncharacteristic 2-2 start after losing only one regular-season game all of last season.

Live stats | Live video

Men’s Tennis hosts Mule Fall Classic (Sunday, 9:00)

The Mules welcome Drew, Moravian and Oneonta State for their first competition of the year.

Men’s Golf at Allegheny’s Guy W. Kuhn Memorial Invitational (Sunday and Monday)

Fresh off their win at Moravian, the Mules travel to western Pennsylvania for a two-day tournament.