College Sports

Undefeated and unscored on for nearly two months. Can they reach their NCAA dreams?

Slideshow: Centre women’s soccer steamrolling into NCAAs

The Centre College women’s soccer team is undefeated at 19-0 and ranked No. 4 in NCAA Division III. The Colonels open play in the NCAA Tournament on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018, in Danville.
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The Centre College women’s soccer team is undefeated at 19-0 and ranked No. 4 in NCAA Division III. The Colonels open play in the NCAA Tournament on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018, in Danville.

The Centre College women’s soccer program has had an incredible run of success for a long, long time. But this year, it’s something different:

  • Undefeated at 19-0 kind of different.

  • No. 4 in the nation (tying its highest ranking ever) kind of different.

“Every day they come to practice and they want to work and they want to play for each other,” said head coach Jay Hoffman. “And when you compound that, you get great results week in, week out.”

Not only did the Colonels go unbeaten heading into hosting the first two rounds of their Division III NCAA Tournament bracket this weekend, they haven’t been scored on since Sept. 16. That includes shutting out all seven Southern Athletic Association rivals in the regular season and the three-game SAA tournament.

Shutting out the conference became another motivator for the Colonels that helped them get ready for the challenge ahead, Hoffman said.

Trying to nail the shutout streak “honestly came at a perfect time where when you have a little bit of pressure, it means you have to focus more.”

All 11 Centre starters earned All-SAA honors, including five first-teamers.

The SAA offensive player of the year? Alana Hughes, a junior forward out of Lexington Catholic and Lexington F.C. who led the team in goals, 15, and assists, 10.

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Alana Hughes, a junior forward from Lexington Catholic, has scored 15 goals with 10 assists this year for Centre College, helping lead the Colonels to an undefeated 19-0 record and earning Southern Athletic Association offensive player of the year honors. Centre College Athletics

“A lot of things have really been working, it’s not just how I’ve been playing,” Hughes said of her team, which got 67 goals this season out of 17 different players. “There’s not really one individual player. It really helps when other people are working hard, because it makes me want to work harder for them.”

The SAA defensive player of the year? Jessie Turner (for the second year in a row), a junior out of Woodford County and Lexington F.C.

“Jessie in the back has just been a consistent player all three years,” Hoffman said. “We know what we’re going to get. Every day is not a worry that we’re ever going to get a bad game. Jessie’s never had one.”

Newcomer of the year? Cameron Zak, a freshman defender out of Grosse Point, Mich.

Coach of the year? Hoffman, who is in his 18th season with the Colonels and has led the team to its eighth straight NCAA appearance, including a run to the 2015 Final Four.

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Jessie Turner, a junior defender out of Woodford County, earned back-to-back Southern Athletic Association defender of the year honors for Centre College this season. The Colonels did not let in a goal for a month and a half heading into the Division III NCAA Tournament. Centre College Athletics

“The past maybe five, six weeks has been awesome,” Hoffman said. “My daughter asked me, ‘Do you feel nervous?” and I said, ‘No, I don’t feel nervous at all.’ ... Because this team — they’re great. They’re a great group of individuals that all play for their teammates. It might sound a little cliché, but it’s just been a fun year.”

Centre takes on Wooster at 11 a.m. Saturday at Andrew P. Amend Field with last year’s NCAA finalist No. 22 Chicago potentially lurking in the next round.

Whatever happens, the Colonels have put together a season they could barely imagine and won’t forget.

“You have to step up to the occasion … ,” Turner said. “An undefeated season? That’s remarkable. I love my team. I knew we could do something like this. I’m excited to see what we can do in the tournament.”

Centre men on their way, too

Centre men’s soccer are also in action in the Div. III tournament Saturday, taking on Carnegie Mellon at 1:30 p.m. in the first round in Gambier, Ohio.

The Colonels (14-4-2) won the SAA Tournament last week on penalty kicks over top-seeded Oglethorpe to earn an automatic bid to the NCAAs. Centre has been led this season by senior midfielder Alexander Garuba who has 19 goals and four assists.

Transy men make second straight NCAAs

Transylvania’s men’s soccer team won its second straight Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament last week and plays at 6 p.m. Saturday in the first round of the Division III NCAA Tournament.

The Pioneers (8-4-6) play Carleton (15-3-1) in Chicago. It is the ninth trip to the NCAAs in Transy men’s program history and second in a row under Coach Matt Vogel.

Saturday

Women’s NCAA Division III first round

Wooster at Centre

When: 11. a.m.

Where: Amend Field, Danville

Online: Find video link at CentreColonels.com

Men’s NCAA Division III first round

Centre vs. Carnegie Mellon

When: 1:30 p.m.

Where: Gambier, Ohio

Online: Find video link at CentreColonels.com

Transylvania vs. Carleton

Where: Stagg Field, Chicago

When: 6 p.m.

Online: Find video link at TransySports.com

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