So much for preseason polls.
The Mid-American Conference Tournament semifinals for men’s soccer will feature Hartwick College and Western Michigan, who were selected by the coaches of the seven-team league in August to finish the 2013 season last and second-to-last, respectively.
Instead, the two teams will meet at 4 p.m. today at Akron with a berth in the MAC Tournament championship game at stake. The other semifinal features fourth-seeded West Virginia (7-6-5, 2-2-2) and top-seeded host Akron (14-3-1, 5-1) at 7 p.m. today. Semifinal winners will play for the conference tournament title and an automatic spot in the NCAA Division I Tournament at 1 p.m. Sunday at Akron.
The Zips and the Mountaineers were picked to finish 1-2, respectively, in the MAC coaches preseason poll. Hartwick (5-8-4, 3-2-1) defeated both teams during the regular season, following a 2-0 upset at Akron with a 1-0 win over visiting West Virginia at Elmore Field. The Zips were ranked ninth in the country at the time of their only conference loss.
Despite falling to Buffalo (2-1) and Western Michigan (1-0) in back-to-back MAC games, the Hawks played host Bowling Green to a 1-all tie before clinching the third seed in the four-team playoffs with a 2-1 defeat of Northern Illinois in double-overtime at Elmore Field. Jhevaughn Beckford tied the score in the second half of Hartwick’s regular-season MAC finale and Max Walcott scored the winner in the second overtime.
Walcott’s goal put Hartwick in the MAC tournament semifinals for the first time since 2009. The Hawks, who reached the conference tournament in 2007, 2008 and 2009, are 2-2-2 in MAC playoff games.
“We’re very happy to have earned our playoff berth this year and we’ll be giving it our best against Western Michigan (today),” fourth-year Hartwick coach John Scott, who will be making his first MAC Tournament appearance, said in a media release from the college. “Traveling out to Akron gives us the opportunity to play on a superb playing surface and that in itself will have our team looking forward to the game.”