For two teams, it's NCAA time

Suzanne Yohannan
Date Published: 
Daily Collegian

Booters face Howard in opening round of NCAAs

The competition starts out fierce for the soccer team in its first round of NCAA competition when it takes on No. 12 Howard University (12-3-2), the 1988 NCAA runner-up, at 2 Sunday at Jeffrey Field.

After defeating fifth-ranked Rutgers last Sunday to capture the Atlantic 10 title, the Lions (10-10-2) received an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The Lions have the worst record of the 28 teams competing for the national title, but are hoping to rebounding from a frustrating season that only turned when they clinched a third consecutive A-10 title.

"I think the way we played on Friday and Sunday (at the A-10 tournament), we were pretty close to our peak," forward Steve Frantz said.

On Sunday, the team will be back, injury free, with its full starting lineup.

Although the Penn State-Howard series is tied, 2-2, Howard holds the most recent win over the Lions.

Last year, the Bison came to Penn State undefeated and ranked ninth in the nation. Playing on a rain-soaked field and interrupted by a 10-minute blackout of Jeffrey Field's lights, the Bison captured the win, 2-1, with two second-half goals.

"They beat us on a very wet, rainy night," Coach Barry Gorman said. "It was a game full of incidences. We thought we gave them two goals. (But) that's history. That's a game that was played under different circumstances. When it comes to this time of year, you can forget about all the past records."

Howard won the National Championship in 1974. The closest Penn State came to the title was in 1979 when it earned third place.

Last year, Howard posted 13 shutouts in a 19-1-1 overall record and suffered its first loss of the season to Indiana in the NCAA finals. This year the Bison, who returned nine of 11 starters, have a six-game winning streak and have won eight of the last nine games. Last weekend at the Metropolitan Life Classic, Howard shut out No. 3 UCAL, 2-0.

The Lions, however, are not intimidated by Howard's accomplishments.

"Once you get to this point, anything can happen," said midfielder Danny Kelly, named the A-10 Tournament's 1989 MVP. "We played them last year and they beat us 2-1, but we outplayed them."

"It's a different situation (from last year)," Frantz said. "We just want to do well and make up for the season. We know they're a good team. At this stage of the game, we all realize that we have to go out and play our best."

Forward Peter Isaacs leads the Bison with 13 goals and three assists this season. The senior is an All-America candidate and a finalist for the Hermann Award (soccer's Heisman). Junior forward Anthony Laird follows Isaacs with seven goals and one assists this season. The senior is an All-America candidate and a finalist for the Hermann Award (soccer's Heisman).

Bison goalie Shaka Hislop has recorded 11 shutouts and allowed only eight goals this season. He tallied 52 saves in 17 games and holds a .449 goals-against average. Last year as a freshman, Hislop was selected Co-Most Valuable Defensive Player at the NCAA tournament. Also leading the defense is co-captain Chris Thomas, an All-American candidate.

If the game were played at Howard's field, it would be played on artificial turf, which creates a different style of play. Penn State's large, wide field is more suited to the Lions' style of play.

After holding their own when they hotly contested for the A-10 title last weekend, the Lions are looking forward to Sunday's game.

"We're loose and relaxed," Gorman said. "We're slowly building up to Sunday's game. It's a situation where you don't have to give any motivational speeches."

The field of 28 teams competing for the national title will be cut to 16 by the end of the weekend after 12 matches are played.

Notes: Tickets for Sunday's game can be purchased today at the Beaver Stadium Ticket office from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. or at the Rec Hall Ticket Office from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tickets cost $4 for adults and $2 for senior citizens, students and children. Tickets also may be purchased Sunday.