Center-back Greg Gasbarro
The Case Western Reserve University men's soccer team is two wins away from going to Disney World.
"It is absolutely true!" laughed Palmer. "We're in the Sweet 16, and one game away from the Great Eight and two from going to the Final Four. We have accomplished a great deal. Right now we are just thinking about Saturday, and if we get through that we will think about Sunday, and if we get through that we will think about what to pack."
After a first round bye, the Spartans defeated Denison University 2-0 Saturday at home in the second-round of the NCAA tournament. Case advanced to the sectional, which they will host at Case Field this weekend. They face Ohio Wesleyan University Saturday at 11:00 a.m. and then Montclair State University will play Dominican University at approximately 1:30 p.m.
The winners of Saturday's matches will meet in the sectional final Sunday at 1:00 p.m. That regional champion advances to the Final Four, which will be held on the Disney's property in Lake Buena Vista, Florida on November 24 and 25.
One of the more interesting facts surrounding the Spartans' success this season is the four seniors on the roster won only two games their freshmen year and three their sophomore season, Coach Palmer's first season at the helm. That's a 15-game (17-2-1, 1-0 NCAA) swing from 2003 to 2006.
"It's amazing and hard to believe," said senior midfielder Adam Eiseman. "All four of us came from pretty successful high school teams and we did not win many games when we got here. Now we are to the point where we are expected to win. We like to attribute it all to senior leadership."
The four seniors include center-back Greg Gasbarro (Hudson, OH), midfielder Noah Marciniak (Dayton, OH), outside-back Scott Christensen (Rochester, NY) and Eiseman (Tarentum, PA). Eiseman is the only one that does not start but he is a major contributor to this team's success.
"Nobody on the team works harder than Adam does, and he pushes everyone on the team to get as much out of them as he possibly can," said Palmer. "He makes the players around him better and is a very important part of this team."
Sophomore forward R.J. French (Zionsville, IN) and sophomore forward Kevin Bigart (Naperville, IL) lead the way in scoring this year. French has a team leading 11 goals and 11 assists (33 points) and Bigart has 11 goals and seven assists (29 points). Sophomore goalkeeper Konrad Karasek (Prospect Hts., IL) has recorded 6.5 shutouts this season with a 0.34 goals against average on defense (Record: 9-0).
"There have been some games when we have had trouble scoring and kept the other teams out of the net, so one goal was enough for us to win," said Palmer. "There have been some games where we didn't defend quite as well as we are capable of, and we needed two or three goals to get the win."
Ohio Wesleyan (14-0-5, 2-0 NCAA) moved into the sectionals with a 1-0 win over Ohio Northern University in second-round action on Saturday. In the first-round, the Battling Bishops advanced on penalty kicks after a 1-1 tie with Hope College. OWU is making its 27th NCAA Division III playoff appearance in 29 years and its NCAA-record 29th overall. They have won an NCAA-record 48 Division III playoff games. Ohio Wesleyan won the 1998 national championship and finished as runner-up in 1990 and 1992.
"I feel them coming to our place is a huge advantage for us," said Eiseman. "It is our first time compared to their many appearances. They always say experience is the best, but we do not know any better. We are just going to play our best."
Dominican (20-1-1) won the Northern Athletic Conference championship with a 9-0 record, then won the NAC tournament title, advancing past Edgewood on penalty kicks and defeating Aurora in the title game. The Stars received a Pool B bid to the NCAA Division III tournament and are making their fifth consecutive and fifth overall NCAA tournament appearance. Dominican defeated Aurora, 6-0, in first-round action and defeated St. Norbert (Wis.), 2-0, to advance to the sectionals.
Montclair State (20-1-0) won the New Jersey Athletic Conference championship with a 9-0 record, the Red Hawks' first NJAC title in 17 years. Montclair State then won the NJAC tournament with wins over Kean and New Jersey City. The Red Hawks received a first-round bye and defeated Wesleyan (Conn.), 1-0, in the second round to advance to the sectionals. Montclair is making its first NCAA Division III appearance since 1998 and its seventh overall
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