SWEET 16: Men's Soccer Takes on Franklin & Marshall

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MECHANICSBURG, Pa. – The Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology men’s soccer team will take on yet another history-making challenge when the Engineers travel to Mechanicsburg, Pa., to take on No.19 Franklin & Marshall College in the NCAA Sectional Semifinals on Saturday night.

Making their first appearance in program history in the NCAA Division III Men’s Soccer Championship Sweet 16, the Fightin’ Engineers (12-5-5) will look to build upon its second-round upset over No. 1 Ohio Wesleyan with Saturday’s 7:45 p.m. matchup with the Diplomats (16-3-2) of Lancaster, Pa.

The match will be the second of the NCAA Sectional Round, which will feature a contest between No. 3 Messiah College (20-1-1) and Kenyon (16-4-3) beginning at 5 p.m. at Messiah’s Shoemaker Field, located within the campus’ Starry Athletic Fields Complex.

The winners of the sectional semifinals will advance to Sunday’s final, set to begin at 5 p.m. on Shoemaker Field.

Saturday will mark the first-ever meeting between Rose-Hulman and Franklin & Marshall.

The Diplomats enter the Sectional Round fresh off a 3-0 victory over Centennial Conference rival Dickinson, a team they also defeated 2-1 in overtime to capture Franklin & Marshall’s first Centennial Conference tournament championship.

225 Smyser FmpreviewFranklin & Marshall used a Zach Fried goal with 2:47 to play in the opening round of the NCAAs to pick up a 1-0 win over Catholic and give the Diplomats their first NCAA tournament win since 1981. This season marks F&M’s fourth appearance in the tournament, all under head coach Dan Wagner, who entered his 12th season at the helm in 2013.

The Diplomats are led by senior forward Ben Beaver with 13 goals, and junior T.J. White has started 19 contest in goal for F&M, leading the squad with 56 saves, an .836 save percentage and a 0.56 goals-against average. White has given up just 11 goals in 2013, collecting 10 shutouts in the process.

Rose-Hulman enters the match fresh off the biggest victory in program history after Saturday’s 1-0 win over No.1-ranked and previously undefeated Ohio Wesleyan in the NCAA second round. Sophomore Mike Smyser (Grand Rapids, Mich./Forest Hills Northern) scored the game winner in just the 5th minute and the Engineers’ defense held strong for the rest of the contest to give RHIT the upset.

The victory marked the first time in school history that the Engineers defeated the No. 1-ranked team in the NCAA Tournament in any sport, and gave the Rose-Hulman athletic program its third appearance in the Sweet 16, joining men’s basketball (1977 and 1982).

The Engineers advanced to the NCAA Second Round for the first time in program history Nov. 14 when Rose-Hulman defeated host Penn State Behrend in the penalty kick round, 9-8, after the two squads battled to a 0-0 draw. Junior keeper Drew Miller (Cincinnati, Ohio/Bishop Fenwick) stopped 10 shots in the match and senior Marshall Ishmael (Knoxville, Tenn./Farragut) delivered the deciding kick in the PK round.

Miller has helped the Engineers tally a school-record 13 shutouts this season, as his goals-against average (0.49) is ranked sixth in all of Division III, while Rose-Hulman’s team save percentage (0.88) is ranked fifth in the nation.

This marks the third appearance in the NCAA tournament for the Engineers, who captured their third Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament championship with a 1-0 win over Transylvania in the second overtime Nov. 9 in Terre Haute. Senior Drew Belk (Jasper, Ind./Jasper), who leads Rose-Hulman with 13 goals, connected on the game winner 16 seconds into the second overtime to lift the Engineers to victory.

All three NCAA tournament appearances have come under the leadership of sixth-year head coach Sean Helliwell (Southern Indiana, 1996), who has compiled an overall record of 73-34-16 while at Rose-Hulman, which also includes three HCAC regular-season titles.