Road to the Championship

WASHINGTON – Three Catholic University teams will begin play in their respective Landmark Conference Tournaments this week. All three teams will be hosting games beginning with volleyball on Tuesday, Nov. 5, followed by field hockey on Wednesday, Nov. 6, and then men’s soccer on Thursday, Nov. 7. Here is a preview of their upcoming matchups, as well as a look back at what the Cardinals have accomplished so far.

Volleyball –

The CUA Volleyball team is set to host the first-round home game versus Goucher by virtue of finishing third in the conference with a 3-2 Landmark record, while the Gophers are the No. 6 seed with an 0-5 conference mark. The game will be played at 7 p.m. in the DuFour Center in Washington, D.C.

Catholic (22-14) got off to a slow start this year with an 0-4 record at the Haverford Invitation, before picking up its first win during a 3-1 showing at home during the Guetle Volleyball Invitational. In the first Landmark weekend at Susquehanna, the Cardinals went 2-1, picking up wins over Goucher (3-1) and Scranton (3-0), while dropping a 3-0 decision to Juniata.

Due to the U.S. government shutdown, the Cardinals hosted the second Landmark weekend originally scheduled to be held at Merchant Marine. Catholic went 1-1 that weekend, falling to Susquehanna (3-1), and defeating Moravian (3-0).

Catholic is 8-0 against Goucher since joining the Landmark. The last time the two teams met in the postseason, the Cardinals swept the Gophers 3-0 in the first round of the 2011 conference tournament. Earlier this season, Catholic defeated Goucher 3-1 after dropping the first set 25-21, but rallied to win the next three 25-19, 25-23, and 25-11.

Freshman Mary Paige Nesfeder has had a strong rookie season, leading the Cardinals with 354 kills which is also third-best in the conference. She is the only Cardinal to be named the Landmark Conference Player of the Week this year, earning the honor on September 23 after leading the team to a 2-0 record with 29 kills. Classmates Michelle Bouchard ranks first in the Landmark with 5.67 digs per game for a total of 624, while Kathryn Herrington leads the conference with 137 blocks.

The Cardinals have won eight of their last nine games heading into Tuesday’s first round matchup with the Gophers, who have won three straight, tied for their longest win streak of the season.

The winner of Tuesday’s game will advance to the semifinals to play No. 2 Susquehanna (28-8, 4-1) in Huntingdon, Pa., where Juniata the No. 1 seed will host both semifinal games on Friday, Nov. 8.

Field Hockey –

The Catholic University Field Hockey team finished the regular season in a tie for second place in the Landmark Conference standings with Juniata, as both finished 4-2 in league action. CUA earned the No. 2 seed by the head-to-head tiebreaker in which CUA defeated Juniata 2-1 on October 26 in Huntingdon, Pa. The Cardinals are two-time defending Landmark champions, having won their first title in 2011 with a 5-1 win over Drew, and again last year by a 3-2 margin over Drew.

The Cardinals got out to a fast start, winning five of their first six games and beat nationally-ranked Rowan (No. 13), and Salisbury (No. 3). The impressive start sent the Cardinals into the national rankings for three consecutive weeks, reaching as high as No. 13 in the NFHCA poll. Catholic then dropped three straight games to No. 8 Mary Washington, Landmark foe Drew, and No. 10 Christopher Newport, falling out of the national ranks.

Since then, Catholic won six straight games including another victory over a ranked team (No. 15 Ursinus) and climbed back into the polls at the No. 20 spot.

After dropping the regular season finale to Scranton, the Cardinals (11-5) will host Juniata (9-10) on Wednesday, Nov. 6 at Cardinal Stadium for a 7 p.m. start time.

When the two teams met earlier this season, Kim Hermann and Madalyn Dennis scored for the Cardinals while Sarah Bilheimer scored for the Eagles. With 12 goals on the season, Hermann is the third leading scorer in the conference and the most prolific scorer for Catholic. Megan Comunale had two saves in 35 minutes of action for the Cardinals. Comunale has recorded four shutouts this season, tied for the most in the Landmark. The senior has a .793 save percentage which is ranked second in the Landmark, while her 0.87 goals against average is the best in the conference.   

Cardinals have been named Landmark Conference Players of the Week six times this season. Hermann and Comunale kicked off the year with back-to-back laurels as Offensive and Defensive Players of the Week, respectively. Maura Campbell was named the DPOW on October 14, after helping the Cards to two shutouts. Most recently, Madalyn Dennis earned the Defensive award on October 28, as she scored the game-winning goal against Juniata, and helped shutout Randolph-Macon that week.

If the Cardinals win, they will face the winner of the other semifinal game where No. 1 Drew hosts No. 4 Scranton. The championship game will be played on Saturday, Nov. 9 at the highest remaining seed.

Men’s Soccer –

The Catholic University Men’s Soccer team clinched the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Landmark Conference tournament, with one game left to go. The Cardinals will face Merchant Marine tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Pennsauken, N.J., as the game was rescheduled from October, 19 in King’s Point, N.Y. due to the U.S. government shutdown. The outcome will not affect Catholic’s standing. USMMA must win in order to make the postseason tournament, which would land them as the No. 3 seed, but if they lose or tie the Cardinals, it will mark the end of their season.

The Cardinals are looking for their third Conference title, having won the crown in back-to-back years from 2009-2010. Last season Catholic lost to Scranton in the semifinals, 2-1.

If Catholic wins or ties tonight, then they will face Scranton in the semifinal game on Thursday, Nov. 7; if they lose, then the Cardinals will play Juniata. As the No. 1 seed in the tournament, Catholic will host both the semifinal game on Thursday, as well as the championship game on Saturday, Nov. 9, if they win their first round matchup.

After dropping the season opener at Dickinson, the Cardinals bounced back and won three out of four games. The squad then fell to the defending National Champion, No. 1 Messiah, by a score of 2-1, while No. 16 Salisbury slipped past the Cards 1-0, with a goal in the final six minutes of the game.

Since the loss to the Seagulls, Catholic has been unbeaten winning eight of their last nine games, and is currently riding a seven game win-streak. During this time, the Cardinals earned their first regional ranking of the season, entering at No. 9 of the NSCAA Mid-Atlantic Poll on October 15. In the past three weeks, Catholic has climbed the poll to its current spot at No. 4.

The Cardinals are led by Nico Bartolomeo with a team-high six goals, including three game-winners. Ian Smith has five assists for Catholic. CUA boasts one of the best defenses in the conference, as the Cardinals allow just 0.88 goals per game, tied for second in the Landmark. Torsten Meuschke has a league-leading seven shutouts this year, as his .831 save percentage is also ranked No. 1 in the conference.

Five times this season, a Cardinal has been named the Landmark Player of the Week for their efforts on the pitch. Ian Smith earned the Offensive POW honor for the first week of the season, scoring in both of the team’s games. Kevin Romano earned the Defensive POW on October 7 for shutting out Moravian, then turned around and won the Offensive POW award the following week, scoring back-to-back game winners for the Cardinals. Chris Larson and Meuschke were just named the Offensive and Defensive POWs today for leading Catholic to a 1-0 record last week to clinch the No. 1 seed. Larson scored the game-winning goal, while Meuschke picked up his seventh shutout of the season.

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