The Kenyon College Lords passed two difficult tests in last weekend's opening rounds of the NCAA Division III men's soccer tournament. The road ahead doesn't get any easier, as Tufts University, the defending national champion, comes to campus to battle the Lords in Friday's third-round contest at Mavec Field.
Kenyon and Tufts will vie for a quarterfinal spot in the tournament beginning at 11 a.m. Following that contest, a 1:30 p.m. match between Franklin & Marshall College and Calvin College is scheduled. Friday's two winners will then square off Saturday at 1 p.m. with a spot in the NCAA Final Four on the line. All three games will be played at Kenyon's Mavec Field.
The four-team pod is arguably the toughest remaining in the tournament. All four teams, at one point this season, reached a No. 1 national rank from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA). Tufts (11-4-3) started the year at No. 1 and remained there for two weeks. Kenyon (18-1-1) then took over the top spot for a week before being replaced by Franklin & Marshall (17-3-0), which held the spot for three weeks. Finally, Calvin (22-0-1) moved to the top of the poll on November 3 and is the NSCAA's current No. 1 team.
Friday's meeting between Kenyon and Tufts, which defeated Wheaton College, 4-2, in last year's championship match, will be the first-ever for the two soccer squads. The Lords are riding an 11-game unbeaten streak that includes a 1-0 NCAA first-round win against Westminster College and advancement to the third round after 1-1 tie with University of Chicago was settled by Kenyon's 4-2 advantage in a penalty-kick shootout.
Dating back to last season, Tufts has an eight-game NCAA road winning streak intact. The Jumbos advanced to this point in tournament play with a 2-1 first-round win against Salisbury University and a 3-2 come-from-behind thriller against Montclair State University in the second round. After starting the season 5-0, Tufts has gone 5-4-3 in its last dozen games.
Tufts earned an at-large berth into the tournament and is making its fifth overall appearance on the national stage. The Jumbos average 1.39 goals per game and allow an average of 0.58 goals per game. Kenyon is making its third straight and 12th overall appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The Lords, champions of the North Coast Athletic Conference, enter Friday's game with averages of 2.65 goals scored and 0.60 goals allowed per game.
In Friday's other contest, Franklin & Marshall enters play after defeating Babson College in the first round and Gordon College in the second. Prior to that, the Diplomats lost back-to-back games against Dickinson College. The Diplomats started their season with 14 straight wins, but have gone 3-3-0 in their last six. They'll arrive at Kenyon making their sixth NCAA appearance and in possession of averages that include 2.40 goals scored and 0.60 goals allowed per game.
Calvin opened the 2015 season with a scoreless tie at Endicott College and has since rattled off 22 consecutive wins. The Knights' last two wins were over Mt. Aloysius and Ohio Wesleyan University in the first and second rounds of NCAA tournament play. Calvin is making its 14th showing in the tournament. The Knights average 3.43 goals per game and own the nation's best goals against average of 0.22.
The Kenyon sports information department will provide live video coverage as well as live stats for all three games.