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Gene's Blog: High stakes weekend for Tommie teams

Mark Brown photo
Mark Brown photo

Here we go. As our partner Nike would say, for six Tommie fall teams starting Friday and Saturday, it's JDI Time.

Just Do It.

What's been a good fall so far could expand into "excellent" or even "memorable" status depending on what happens over the next 72 hours.

Five Tommie teams will be in NCAA regional play.

A sixth, UST Football, has what amounts to a playoff game at Bethel. The Tommies-Royals winner likely locks up a spot in the national field and almost certainly the loser's season ends.

Here's a glance at each St. Thomas team's outlook:

 

Volleyball

The Contest: Friday, 3 p.m., St. Peter, NCAA Region quarterfinal match

The Opponent: No. 14-ranked UW-Eau Claire (29-3). The Blugolds beat UST 3-1 in September but lost 3-2 at UST two weeks ago.

Trending?: Coach Thanh Pham's Tommies (25-8) started its season a bit slowly at 8-5. They have improved to win nine of their last 10 and 17 of their last 20 matches.

Seniors: The Toms have four, all in their rotation, and they've compiled 72 wins over the last three seasons. They'll need their leadership and clutch play starting Friday.

With a Win?: The UST-UWEC winner plays Saturday in St. Peter in the region semifinals and would be two victories away from a trip to the eight-team national tournament.

Wildcards?: St. Thomas will look to get a confidence boost after controlling the fifth set against the Blugolds in the 3-2 win when these teams played Oct. 27. 

 

Men's Soccer

The Contest: Saturday, 11 a.m., UST's South Field, NCAA playoff opener

The Opponent: Pacific Lutheran (Wash.) (13-5-2). The Lutes were 7-0-2 in a nine-game span before losing 1-0 last Saturday in their conference finale. Another upset win in the league on Saturday let them still claim the automatic NCAA bid. Senior Joe Sammartino (21 career goals) leads the team with nine goals.

Trending?: Coach Jon Lowery's Tommies (14-3-2) are 7-0-1 in their last eight games. They haven't played since Oct. 30 -- a 0-0 tie and shootout defeat to Augsburg -- but that break has allowed a few players to shake off some nagging injuries. UST is 8-0-1 at home in postseason play the last three seasons.

Seniors: The Toms have just four, and their class has compiled 56 wins over the last three seasons. They'll need their leadership and clutch play starting Friday.

With a Win?: The UST-Pac Lutheran winner plays Sunday at 1 p.m. at South Field against either Augsburg and UW-Superior, with that victor advancing to the round of 16.

Wildcards?: Game-time temperatures could be under 30 degrees, testing each team's toughness... Also, the visitors are on a west-coach body clock, so it will feel like an 9 a.m. game to them... St. Thomas is 1-0 against Superior and 1-0-1 against the Auggies this season, but needs to win Saturday to get to that contest.

 

Women's Soccer

The Contest: Saturday, 11 a.m., La Crosse, Wis., NCAA playoff opener

The Opponent: Knox (Ill.), 13-4-3. The Prairie Fire, 4-0-1 in their last five games, is in the NCAA playoffs for the third consecutive season. These programs have not met in this sport in at least 17 seasons, if ever.

Trending?: Coach Sheila McGill's Tommies (18-2) have won 18 of their last 19 games and set a program season record for victories. Their 55 goals are the most by a UST team in more than 20 seasons. Sixteen different Toms have scored at least one goal, but senior Mallory DeBoom has recorded 16.

Seniors: The No. 16-ranked Toms have seven seniors, and they've built a 48-9-4 record over the last three seasons. Two of the seniors, DeBoom and Tess Baier, were named conference MVPs on offense and defense, respectively.

With a Win?: The UST-Knox winner plays Sunday at 1 p.m. against the La Crosse-Wartburg victor. The Toms won 4-0 at La Crosse in September after tying and losing to the Eagles last season. UST hasn't played Wartburg in 2018 but beat the Knights twice by one goal each last season.

Wildcards?: St. Thomas has won its last 60 games dating back five seasons when it scores first, so it will look to set the early pace this weekend. Over the last three seasons, the defensive-minded Toms have posted 38 shutouts and have outscored opponents 72-9 in the second halves and in overtimes.

 

Cross Country

The Contest: Saturday, 11 a.m. (women)/Noon (men), Waverly, Iowa, NCAA Central Regional

The Opponent: The top-two team finishers plus a small group of individuals not on those teams advance to the Nov. 17 national meet. Also on Sunday, several more wild-card teams are selected from all eight regionals to fill out the national field at 32 teams for each gender.

Trending: The Tommie women had a nine-second split from their Nos. 1-5 runners in a second-place conference team finish two weeks ago. The Tommie men also put five in the top 25 at MIACs in a strong third-place finish.

Seniors: St. Thomas only has one senior in its men's top eight, Parker Rosenau. The Tommie women have Jenny Launder and Amber Matzoll.

Wildcards?: The women are looking to advance to nationals for the fifth year in a row and hopes its tight pack can offset not having a top-10 individual finisher. The men are expected to have junior Karl Wachter giving them another low score up front and will look to bunch four other runners close enough to qualify or get a wild card bid.

 

Football

The Contest: Saturday, 1:10 p.m., Arden Hills, MIAC regular-season finale.

The Opponent: Bethel (8-1). The Royals have won 10 of their last 11 games since a late-season loss at St. Thomas in 2017. The programs are 10-10 in their last 20 football contests, although UST is 8-3 under Glenn Caruso against the Royals. However, two of the last three games played in Arden Hills were won by Bethel. You probably knew this, but the programs are 5-5 in football in years when the Democratic party regains control of the U.S. House of Representatives from the GOP.

Trending?: Coach Glenn Caruso's Tommies (8-1) survived a scare last week outscoring host Gustavus 14-0 in the final 11:00 for a 14-13 victory. Both teams will look to run the ball and reduce turnovers and penalties for what could be a low-scoring game under cold conditions on a grass field.

Seniors: The No. 7/9-ranked Toms have 19 seniors -- included 14 starters in the 24-man lineup -- and they've built a 46-4 record over their four-year era. 

With a Win?: The UST-Bethel winner likely will advance into the NCAA playoffs with an at-large berth... unless a rash of upsets around the country throws the computer scores for a loop. The 32-team bracket will be announced Saturday late afternoon. St. Thomas is attempting to reach the NCAA tournament for the ninth time in the last 10 years.

Wildcards?: Turnovers, placekicking, penalties, third-down conversions and even trick plays could swing this game. Both teams are difficult to beat if they reduce mistakes.

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Gene's Blog is a sports column penned by UST sports information director Gene McGivern. Gene is working his 25th season at St. Thomas and 31st overall in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. He blogs periodically on various topics regarding the Tommies, the MIAC and Division III sports.

If you have comments or questions, e-mail Gene at ejmcgivern@stthomas.edu