Franklin Pierce Doubles Up
There will be twice as many Franklin Pierce College jerseys and sweat suits at the Division II Soccer Championships at Midwestern State in Wichita Falls, Texas, this week.
That's because both the men's and women's teams advanced to the national semifinals this year as the Ravens try to accomplish something no other Division II program has ever done " win both NCAA soccer titles during the same season. Lynn University, Sonoma State and Cal State Dominguez Hills each have won titles at separate times, but never in the same year.
Franklin Pierce also has the chance to be the second school in college soccer to win both the men's and women's championships in its division this year after Messiah College swept through the Division III tournaments and captured both titles on Nov. 26.
"Soccer is basically our number one program because we don't have football," said women's head coach Jeff Bailey. "We're a small school with just 1,600 students in rural New Hampshire, which is not exactly a hotbed of soccer. It could be a huge disappointment in the end, but we have the chance to win two national championships."
The school, located in Rindge, N.H., won the men's and women's Northeast-10 Conference regular season championships. The women's squad is unbeaten in its last 16 games, while the men's team bounced back from a loss to LeMoyne in the league championship game by defeating them in the New England Regional.
The women's team has advanced to the national semifinals for the 13th time in the last 14 seasons after missing the trip last year. The men earned a spot in the semifinals for the first time since 1991 with a penalty shootout victory against New York Institute of Technology in the quarterfinals.
"For both programs to advance (to the national semifinals) at a small Division II school, there shows a lot of commitment by the administration," said men's head coach Marco Koolman.
The women's squad has compiled a 19-1-2 record this season with the help of Laura Hislop and Sonya Hughes, who are teammates on the Republic of Ireland's national team. Hislop is the Ravens' leading scorer with 23 goals and 58 points and ranks eighth in the nation with 2.76 points per game, while Hughes has scored seven goals during the team's postseason run.
"We've got good balance this year," said Bailey. "Last year, the balance and attitude wasn't quite right. We've got a lot more hunger this year. After going to 12 straight (national semifinals), there was some complacency."
On the men's side, forward Christopher Joyce ranks fifth in the NCAA statistics with 2.56 points and 1.12 goals per game. He needs just one goal to tie the school record of 29 goals in a season. Goalkeeper James Thorpe anchors the defense with a 0.804 goals against average, which ranks 18th in the nation.
"The (men's) team chemistry has been exceptional this year," said Koolman. "There's leadership where it needs to be. This team has a lot of heart and character."
The women are scheduled to play Nebraska-Omaha on Thurs., Dec. 1 at 3 p.m., while the men take on Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville on Fri., Dec. 2 at 3 p.m. The women's championship final is on Sat., Dec. 3 and the men's is on Sun., Dec. 4.
The teams, which hosted both Northeast-10 Conference tournaments and New England Regionals, hope to watch one another as much as possible during the championship weekend in Texas.
"The teams used to play a lot of doubleheaders, but in the NEC the schedules are different so we don't get to see each other a lot," said Bailey. "The last few weekends, the girls are quickly showered and get bundled up in the stands to watch the men. With the Division II championships at a neutral site, it's going to be nice to have that extra little bit of support. It's a nice reminder of home."