2013 ODAC Championship: Men's Soccer Hosts Marlins at 7 p.m. Saturday
LYNCHBURG, Va. -- It's a game that needs no introduction and is the culmination of an entire year's worth of hard work and preparation.
In addition to the trophy that comes with winning, the conference's top team will earn an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament. Pairings will be announced at 1 p.m., Monday on NCAA.com.
About at the WildCats:
Randolph earned the top seed in the ODAC tournament after becoming the first team in ODAC history to reach 10 regular season conference wins.
Jurney repaid a favor to Khalili, who set up his first career goal earlier this year against that same Guilford squad.
That game marked just the second time in 19 contests this year that the 17-1-1 WildCats were held to fewer than two goals, with a 1-1 draw against Greensboro being the other.
The win pushed the WildCats into the ODAC semifinals for the fourth straight year. The WildCats leveled their record in such games to 2-2 with a win on Wednesday over Washington & Lee.
After a scoreless first half, Randolph finally broke through when senior Jacob Lusczek (Fredericksburg, Va./Chancellor) found himself free down the wing, allowing the forward to center the ball into the box where classmate John Adams (Lynchburg, Va./E.C. Glass) awaited, striking to put the WildCats up.
Lusczek extended his program record in career and season assists later with a feed to classmate Corey Sindle (Gloucester, Va./Gloucester), who found Jurney for the dagger.
Randolph is 1-0 all-time in ODAC title games, taking a 2-1 win over Lynchburg in 2011 after a pair of Nick Cornell (Front Royal, Va./Warren Co.) assists, one to Adams and one to Will Wolf (Goldsboro, N.C./Cardinal Gibbons).
A record-setting crowd of 1,176 attended that game at WildCat Stadium.
13 of Randolph's 17 participants in that contest are on this 2013 squad.
In the D3soccer.com poll this week, the WildCats are up to No. 17, up two spots from last week. The team is one win shy of the program record for wins in a season.
About the Marlins:
Virginia Wesleyan got hot at the right time, sitting on an unbeaten streak of 10 games and winners of the last eight. The Marlins sit at 15-4-1.
The team's strong finish pushed the Marlins up to the No. 2 seed, giving them two home games to start their ODAC run.
Against Bridgewater, VWC broke a scoreless deadlock with under 14 minutes left, but conceded an equalizer with under four to go.
Overtime lasted just 18 seconds as Kyle Fisher took a feed from Brian Cornell to win it.
In the semifinal against the only team to beat Randolph this year, Lynchburg, Virginia Wesleyan scored first, but conceded two straight to fall behind 2-1 heading into halftime.
Once again, the Marlins used a quick restart, scoring just 10 seconds into the second half to level. Two more goals provided the winner and insurance to push the Marlins through.
The Marlins have nine ODAC titles all-time, tied for second place with Roanoke behind Lynchburg's 13. Their last title came in 2008 over Roanoke, 1-0.
The Maroons took home a double-overtime win in last year's final over the Marlins on a header with 23 seconds remaining until penalty kicks to finish with the same score as the 2008 final.
About the matchup:
This will be the second time this year that the Marlins come to WildCat Stadium, with the home fans hoping for the same result.
Randolph scored the first four goals of the game, two in each half, to cruise to a 4-1 victory.
Sindle had a pair of goals on one-on-ones before intermission as the WildCats headed to the break up by two. On the first, Wolf provided a long ball over the back line, putting Sindle in. On the second, first-year Brian Anderson (Yorktown, Va./Grafton) provided Sindle with another opportunity after getting a contested ball over the defenders.
After the break, Adams was set up by Lusczek and first-year Blake Heatherly (Jacksonville, N.C./Jacksonville) to pad the lead.
Lusczek and Heatherly teamed up once again for the final goal before the Marlins got one back late.
The win allowed Randolph to match its program record for longest unbeaten streak, eight, which it blew past, finishing at 14.
Before that win, each meeting between these two teams since 2008 had been as competitive as two teams can get. In those contests, two had gone to each team with one contest a draw. Three of the five games were double-overtime thrillers and each win had been decided by one goal.
Each of Randolph's two wins came in its 2011 ODAC championship season, where the WildCats won 1-0 in the regular season and 2-1 in the ODAC playoffs, both games in double overtime.
In terms of common opponents in the regular season, each team won against eight of the same ODAC teams. Randolph bested a Bridgewater team that beat the Marlins, while Lynchburg, who beat Randolph, fell to the Marlins. That meant the head-to-head match determined the top seed.
In non-conference play, both teams battled a strong N.C. Wesleyan squad, with both games going to overtime. Randolph came out victorious in the extra session, while VWC took a draw. Both teams cruised over Southern Virginia, as well.
Against Mary Washington, Randolph won, 3-0, while VWC fell in overtime, 3-2.
About the tournament:
It was all chalk in the first round of the tournament, as the top seeds each took care of business on their home fields.
None of the games were easy, however, as each contest was decided by one goal. The three games that finished in regulation were all decided by 1-0 scorelines, while Virginia Wesleyan looked to finish with the same score before Bridgewater forced overtime in the final four minutes.
In the semifinals, both home teams won again, making hosts 6-0 in the playoffs so far.
What to watch on offense:
Sindle and Lusczek are the two most prolific point-scorers in Randolph history and are the record-holders in all nine categories regarding points, goals and assists in a single game, season and career.
Sindle has 50 goals, 19 assists and 119 points in his storied career. His point total puts him sixth in ODAC history, but just two points behind fourth all-time. He became the sixth player in ODAC history to score 50 career goals, and is seven behind the league's all-time record.
He broke a four-game point drought last time out with an assist.
Lusczek's two assists on Wednesday marked the sixth game this year in which the mohawk-sporting forward had been involved in multiple Randolph goals in a single game.
Spelling Lusczek and Sindle has been a combination of Jurney, Khalili and first-year Kyle Unruh (Raleigh, N.C./Cardinal Gibbons).
Jurney has a point in each of his last three games and four of the last five as an attacking midfielder and forward. Khalili scored his biggest goal in the ODAC quarterfinal and had goals in three straight earlier this year.
Unruh has three goals and two assists in his rookie campaign, including one game-winner.
The WildCat attack is fourth in the nation in scoring and will be going against a defense that has allowed 1.12 goals per game, seventh in the ODAC.
Connor Kirkham starts in net for the Marlins and is third among ODAC goalies in minutes, seventh in goals against and save percentage and eighth in saves.
Kirkham's primary defenders are Jordan Petitt, Brian Le, Reid Petersen, and Brandon St. Amour. With one member from each of the four classes, every defender represents a different graduating year.
What to watch in the midfield:
The strength of this group, aside from leadership, has been the aerial talent to win balls in the air. In addition, their ability to create chances down the wings has helped create numerous opportunities for the WildCats.
Nick Cornell and Tyler Gilchrist (Bedford, Va./Liberty) have subbed on with Jurney so far in this postseason in the midfield.
Adams has nine goals this year to lead the group, while Cornell's eight assists puts him second in career assists behind Lusczek. Hood is a two-time All-ODAC pick.
The Marlin midfield will feature much of the team's scoring, starting Nick Cornell's brother Brian, Kyle Fisher, Josh Kemp and Josh McNamara.
Those four have combined for 29 goals and 16 assists this year, led by nine goals each from Cornell and Fisher. Cornell's seven assists helps him to third in the league in points.
What to watch on defense:
Senior Carter Smith (Greensboro, N.C./Grimsley) has eight shutouts, the most in the conference. He has four straight and six in the last seven games. He hasn't allowed a goal in 413:58, which is the program record for longest shutout streak.
Smith, while impressive, hasn't done it alone thanks to some superior team defense.
While Heatherly's surprising 14 points has come from the back, the left-side player has provided valuable support as the lone first-year on defense.
A two-time All-ODAC center, Watson made a valuable stop in the semifinals on a dangerous ball in the six.
Reemtsen did the same in the team's 1-0 win over Guilford in the quarterfinals.
Wolf, another two-time All-ODAC performer, is most notable for his game-winner in the 2011 ODAC title game.
This group will have to deal with five VWC players with at least five goals this year. In addition to the formidable midfielders, Travis Walke and Isaac Arrington will likely play up top.
How to follow:
The best way to follow is to be in the crowd! Come on out to the game and support your WildCats in the ODAC championship. If, for some reason, you can't make the game, you can find live stats and video by clicking here and follow the links on the right.