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James Hill | | December 5, 2013

Two veterans, two newcomers pave way to San Antonio

SAN ANTONIO -- The NCAA Division III Women's Soccer national semifinals and final will feature two veteran teams, and two newcomers when the event begins Friday.

Staged at the 8,000-seat Toyota Field - the home of the San Antonio Scorpions of the North American Soccer League - the opening match-up will pit the William Smith Herons (21-1-0) against the Capital Crusaders (19-4-2) at noon ET. The second semifinal will be between the hometown favorite Trinity Tigers (24-0-2) and the Middlebury Panthers (17-1-3) at 2:30 p.m.

The winners will vie for the national title at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. The tournament is being co-hosted by Trinity and San Antonio Sports for the fifth consecutive year.

Game Program
William Smith is making its 10th appearance in the semifinals, and the fourth in the past six years. It will also mark the Herons third trip to San Antonio. The 1988 national champs, competing in their 24th NCAA postseason tournament, lost in the semis in 2010 and 2011, both times to Messiah.

Aliceann Wilber is the only women's soccer coach the Herons have known. Wilber, in her 34th year at the William Smith helm, is the first woman in collegiate soccer history to earn 400 career victories.

"At William Smith, we have a very committed coaching staff who has worked together for a number of years," Wilber said. "Our success also comes from our interest in areas that surround sports performance such as exercise science, sport psychology and sports nutrition, to name a few. We love to stay on top of new trends and ideas emerging in the game.”

The Herons defeated Ithaca 1-0 in the quarterfinals. The Bombers were the team who defeated defending national champion Messiah in a 1-0 overtime game the previous round. The Falcons were the holders of five NCAA championships, including back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012.

Capital, playing in its fifth NCAA tournament, is a first-time participant in the semifinals. The Crusaders knocked out favorite Washington-St. Louis in the quarters, advancing to San Antonio by a score of 3-2 on penalty kicks.

Co-host Trinity is making its third appearance in the semifinals, and 19th in the postseason. But the Tigers, led by 10th-year head coach Lance Key, will play for the first time in the championship rounds in front of their local fans.

Key has guided the Tigers to the big show for the ninth time in his 10-year career. Trinity eliminated Wheaton (Ill.) 2-1 in a home quarterfinals game. The Tigers last made the semis in 2002, and took an earlier trip in 2000.

"For us to be just down the road is very special to us," Key said. "It means a great deal to the players to have their peers and classmates cheering them on, as they have all season. To be able to play at home in the semifinals does not come around that often."

Middlebury is also a first-timer in the semifinals. The Panthers, who defeated Johns Hopkins 1-0 to advance to the semis, are competing in their eighth tournament.

Statistics wise, Trinity leads the nation in scoring offense, with 4.69 goals per game. William Smith is second in goals-against average (.273), and Trinity is sixth (.379).