BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Moravian College women's soccer team is the No. 4 seed in the 2013 Landmark Conference playoffs and is set to travel to top-seeded The University of Scranton in a semifinal match on Wednesday at 7 p.m. under the lights.
On Saturday at the HUB Quad, the Greyhounds (7-9-3, 2-2-2 Landmark) could have clinched a berth in the postseason tournament with a win over Goucher College, but the match ended in a 3-3 draw. Moravian then actually had to root for a positive result from Scranton, one of its biggest conference rivals since the league's inception in 2007.
The Royals drew with The University of Catholic, eliminating the Cardinals from contention and effectively awarding the Greyhounds the fourth and final spot in the tournament. Now the Hounds' attention turns to preparing for the No. 1 seed.
"We feel we have a shot at the title," head coach Brienne Smith said. "People may count us out, but the talent, drive and desire are there. We're two wins away from a title, and man, that would be sweet. We've worked so hard to get there."
The two sides played to a 2-2 draw in their 2013 regular season meeting in Scranton on Oct. 23. The Royals got off to a 2-0 lead before halftime, but the Greyhounds responded with two unanswered goals in the second half, including a tally by junior forward Kirsten Schall with 1:45 left on the clock to force overtime. Freshman defender Christine Miklas got the Greyhounds on the board in the 58th minute.
The semifinal on Wednesday marks the 20th all-time meeting between Moravian and Scranton with the Royals holding a 13-3-3 advantage overall, and an 8-1-2 mark since they both joined the Landmark Conference in 2007. The Royals won conference semifinal matches against the Greyhounds in 2010 and 2011, and won the league title last season with a 2-0 win over Moravian in Scranton. The Hounds were also Landmark tournament runners-up in 2007 after a 4-2 loss to the Royals.
"Scranton has knocked us out of this tournament three consecutive years," Smith said. "I expect our girls to play with a chip on their shoulder because of that. Despite their success, the Royals do not enjoy when the Greyhounds come to town because of how pumped we get for this matchup. There's no question we will be ready to attack from the opening whistle."
Schall leads the Moravian offense with both a knack for goal, and the skill to distribute from the corner flag and set plays. Her 31 points ranks third in the Landmark Conference, while her nine assists are tied for tops in the league and her 11 goals are fourth.
A number of Schall's assists have gone to her favorite target on corner kicks, the freshman Miklas, whose height and airborne prowess allows the defender to push up the field on set plays. Miklas is second on the club with six goals this season.
Sophomore forward Micaela Kwochka received a big boost in minutes when Schall went down with an injury and missed three matches in October. Kwochka quickly emerged as a dangerous scoring threat for the Greyhounds, and her 11 points on five goals and an assist are tied for third on the squad. Senior midfielder/forward Caroline Clark also finished the regular season with 11 points on three goals and five assists.
Freshman forward Valentina Margiottiello, sophomore midfielder Melissa Pavia and junior defender Kaylan Bruzzone all have two goals this season, while senior midfielder Taylor DiSora, sophomore defender Taylor Blake, sophomore midfielder Catherine Lamplugh and freshman midfielder Marissa Martin have all tallied once.
The Greyhound goalkeeping contingent has combined on six shutouts this season, with senior Genevieve Chaleff starting all but one match in net. The senior has a 5-7 record to go with a 1.93 goals-against average and 39 saves. Sophomore Jacqueline Zalis is 2-2-2 with one start between the pipes this season to go with Landmark-leading marks of a 0.82 goals-against average and a .848 save percentage.
The Royals (14-2-2) finished the 2013 conference slate undefeated at 4-0-2 to earn the top seed and home field advantage throughout the playoffs if they advance. Scranton has not lost a match since starting the season 0-2 at the Messiah/F&M Tournament in August. They are also undefeated this season on their home pitch.
The Royals spread the wealth in their high-powered offense, with 12 different players notching a goal in 2013, including two in double figures. Samantha Russo and Kelsey Bacon both have 10 goals for Scranton, which is tied for fifth in Landmark.
Christina Akalski has seven goals this season, while Gianna Vitolo has added five. Kelly Egan has two goals and is tied with Schall for the Landmark lead in assists with nine. Ellen Walker, Stephanie Gonnella and Erin Casey also have two tallies, while Kaitlyn Greeley, Michaela Arbus, Andrea Ricketti and Katie Hennigan have all scored once this season.
Akalski and Arbus were the first-half goal scorers in the 2-2 draw with Moravian two weeks ago.
Senior goalkeeper Kelsy McAnelly has started in all but two matches for the Royals in net and owns a 12-2-2 record. Her 0.86 goals-against average is second to Zalis in the conference to go with her 47 saves and six shutouts.
Follow live stats of the Landmark Conference semifinals here: http://livestats.prestosports.com/scranton/ and follow @MCGreyhounds on Twitter and @MoravianAthletics on Instagram for live updates during the match.