ALLENTOWN, Pa. - The road to the Centennial Conference Championship will go through Clothier Field Stadium.
In a battle between two of the top teams in the Conference and in the region, senior Morgan Langley scored his team-leading 12th goal of the season in the 48th minute to give the No. 8/9 Swarthmore College men's soccer team a 1-0 road victory over No. 20 Muhlenberg on Wednesday evening from Allentown.
With the win, the Garnet (13-1-2, 6-0-2) secure the No. 1 seed for the upcoming Centennial Conference playoffs and home-field advantage for the event. The Swarthmore win also hands the Mules their first loss of the 2010 season (9-1-6).
As expected from the two well-regarded squads, play was crisp and well-executed on both ends of the field, creating an entertaining 90 minutes of soccer. The play of the Swarthmore defense was a major factor in the close victory. Defenders Gage Newman, John Pontillo, Arsean Maqami and Pierre Dyer all played exceptionally, shutting down the potent Mule attack - particularly forward Cody Antonini, the Conference's leading goal-scorer who the Garnet managed to limit to just one shot on goal. Between the pipes, junior David D'Annunzio was also up to task, making six saves to earn the clean sheet.
Just as he has done all season, it was Langley coming to the rescue for the Garnet early in the second half. With little space to move, lightning-quick Langley was able to find a gap between two Mule defenders and quickly blast a shot from the middle of the box into the bottom-right corner, beating Muhlenberg goalkeeper Jason Daniels to give Swarthmore the 1-0 lead. The goal gives Langley 90 points for his Garnet career, which places him just two points shy of James White '56 for the all-time program lead.
With the one goal advantage, it was now up to the Garnet defense to preserve the crucial victory. The Mules were on the attack for much of the final third of game, but Swarthmore was able to neutralize many of their scoring threats. The Mules' final - and possibly most dangerous - scoring chance came in the 89th minute of play, when Muhlenberg's Matt Cecconi's shot skated just a few inches wide left of the goal. Just 70 seconds later, the final whistle blew and it was over, as the Garnet held on for the Centennial Conference regular season title-clinching win.
The Garnet held an 8-6 edge in shots on goal, while the Mules led in corner kicks (6-3) and shots (16-15).
Swarthmore will host the Centennial Championships for the second time in program history on the weekend of November 6-7. The Garnet have not lost at Clothier Field Stadium since falling to Amherst 1-0 on November 22, 2008 in the NCAA Sweet 16.
The Garnet will close out the regular season on Saturday night as it hosts Haverford for Senior Day. Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m.