HCAC Title Preview: Men's Soccer vs. Transylvania

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TERRE HAUTE, IND. -- A spot in the NCAA Division III national tournament is up for grabs when two of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference's biggest rivals face off in Saturday's HCAC men's soccer championship match.

Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, the No.2 seed, will play host to No.4-seed Transylvania University Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Intramural Field. The winner will capture the 2013 HCAC Tournament title and earn a berth into the NCAA tournament, set to begin Nov. 15.

The two teams are no stranger to each other in the title game, as Saturday marks the third time the Fightin' Engineers and the Pioneers have squared off for a conference tournament championship.

Rose-Hulman (10-5-4) reached the title round after defeating three-seed Hanover College 3-0 in Tuesday's semifinal in Terre Haute. Senior Drew Belk (Jasper, Ind./Jasper) netted two of his team-best 14 goals in the victory and sophomore Mike Smyser (Grand Rapids, Mich./Forest Hills Northern) scored the match's first goal to give the Engineers an early lead.

225 Belk107Senior forward Will Senat (Edmond, Okla./North) and classmate Ben Green (Frisco, Texas/Centennial) are two more Engineers to watch, as Senat brings in eight goals and five assists in 2013, including his first-ever hat trick in a 6-0 win over Manchester to cap the regular season. Green adds three goals and eight assists -- a mark that ties for best in the HCAC. Freshman Ben Lyon (Westfield, Ind./Westfield) has been a major threat off the bench, as he's connected for four goals in his rookie season.

Junior keeper Drew Miller (Cincinnati, Ohio/Bishop Fenwick) has been stellar all season in goal, as his goals-against percentage (0.58) and save percentage (.853) are ranked first and second, respectively, in the HCAC.

Transylvania (12-4-3) defeated top-seeded Earlham College on the road in dramatic fashion in Tuesday's semifinal, beating the Quakers on penalty kicks, 4-2, after the two teams played to a 1-1 double-overtime draw.

Senior foward Kyle Smith leads the Pioneers with a conference-best 18 goals in 2013 and classmate Eric Froschauer adds seven scores.

Sophomore Cody Waltrip (eight starts) and junior Taylor Nossokoff (nine starts) have played nearly equal time at goalkeeper, with Waltrip allowing nine goals (0.87 GAA) and Nossokoff eight (0.88 GAA). Nossokoff picked up the victory in Tuesday's shootout win.

Rose-Hulman and Transylvania battled to a 1-1 draw in double overtime in the two team's only meeting this season in Lexington, Ky. The Pioneers struck first in the 40th minute in goal by Matt Melzer, but RHIT's Ben Lyon netted the equalizer in the 61st minute to put the match in its final deadlock.

The Engineers are 2-1 in the HCAC title game and 2-0 when the championship match is played at home. Rose-Hulman won its last tournament championship in 2011 when the Sean Helliwell-led squad defeated Earlham 5-1 in Terre Haute. The Engineers also won in 2008, defeating Transylvania 1-0. The Pioneers defeated RHIT 3-0 in the 2006 championship match in Lexington.

More tournament history notes:

•  RHIT–Transylvania men’s soccer is the most accomplished rivalry of any two teams in any sport in the HCAC.  The Transylvania (7) and Rose-Hulman (2) men’s soccer teams will have earned every HCAC Tournament title and NCAA Tournament appearance for the last 10 years after one team advances on Saturday.

•  How competitive?  Rose-Hulman and Transylvania have tied their last two meetings and have tied three of the last four times.  Neither team has beaten the other since 2011.  The Fightin’ Engineer senior class is 0-1-3 against Transylvania.

•  Both teams shared the 2012 HCAC regular season championship with each other.

•  Transylvania is 9-2 all-time in the HCAC championship match.  Rose-Hulman has a 2-1 record in the title match.  (Transylvania joined the league in 2001, Rose-Hulman joined in 2006.)

Live stats will be available for the title match at http://client.stretchinternet.com/client/rhit.portal

Admission to Saturday's match is $6, with Rose-Hulman and Transylvania students, faculty and staff admitted free with valid identification.