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'Jackets face Auggies in return trip to NCAA tourney

University of Wisconsin-Superior’s Eric Watson (14) chips the ball up to teammate James Bruce (7) in the first half of the Yellowjackets' 4-1 victory over Augsburg Sept. 11 at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

The University of Wisconsin-Superior men’s soccer team will be back on familiar turf, but the Yellowjackets aren’t taking anything for granted.

With a 3-1 win over St. Scholastica in the UMAC championship game Saturday, Nov. 3, the Yellowjackets earned their second straight berth in the NCAA Division III tournament.

When the Yellowjackets qualified for the tournament for the first time a year ago, they went to the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul for an opening-round game, which they lost 4-3 to the host Tommies.

UWS is headed back to St. Paul again this year, but will play the Augsburg Auggies (12-3-4) at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10.

The host Tommies (14-3-2) will play Pacific Lutheran (13-5-2) at 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 10, with the winners meeting at 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 11.

The sectional round is Nov. 16-18 and the national semifinals and finals will be Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Greensboro, N.C.

“I honestly don’t think we are thinking too much about last year or comparing it to this year,” UWS coach Joe Mooney said. “We have taken every game at face value this year and really tried not to read too much into the significance of any game. Saturday is just another chance to be great on the day.”

The Yellowjackets defeated the Auggies 4-1 on Sept. 11, and hold a slim 4-3-1 lead in the series dating back to the 2011-12 season.

Blake Hanson scored two of Superior's goals in the earlier meeting and Felix Blick, Blake Perry and James Bruce added a goal apiece.

UWS outshot Augsburg 19-7, with keeper Dalton VonKaenel finishing with three saves.

Daniel Hedstrom, a 6-foot-5 defender from Hermantown, scored for the Auggies on a corner kick and Zachary Berg finished with four saves.

The Auggies are competing in their third NCAA tournament, all under 15th-year head coach Greg Holker. The Auggies reached the "Sweet 16" round of the tournament in 2008, and reached the second round in 2010.

“Augsburg has a really storied history, especially under Greg Holker’s direction,” Mooney said. “It’s been a little while since they’ve been in the tournament, but I know they will be one of the best prepared teams in the entire tournament. I think it makes for a really good matchup and should be an exciting game to watch.”

The Yellowjackets (18-2-1) enter the tournament on a 14-match winning streak and are unbeaten in their last 19 games.

“I’m sure our team will look back at the end of the season and recognize their accomplishments, but right now I think they’re more focused on how to win the next game,” Mooney said. “Saturday isn’t a chance to extend the streak … it’s a chance to go 1-0 on the day in a game where we will need to be our best to get a result.”

Twelve Auggies have scored goals this season, with 16 players figuring in the scoring with either goals or assists.

Senior forward Emmanuel Egbujor led the Auggies with 19 points (eight goals, three assists). Hedstrom is second with eight goals and an assist for 17 points. The transfer from Division II Northern Michigan has had three of Augsburg's five goals in the team's last four games.

Freshman Nick Zuchowski has six goals and three assists for 15 points, followed by Lionel Vang, four goals and five assists for 13 points, and James Gagnon and Eduardo Gomez with three goals each.

Augsburg has outscored its opponents by a 39-12 margin, with its 39 goals third-most among MIAC teams and 12 goals allowed second-fewest in the conference.

“I think a big key is going to be trying to deal with their strength on set pieces and trying to contain their midfield,” Mooney said. “They move the ball extremely well and are very active through the midfield.”

Junior forward James Bruce, who had a goal and assist in the win over the Saints in the UMAC title game, leads the Yellowjackets with 15 goals and five assists for 35 points.

Freshman Blake Perry is second with 10 goals and three assists for 23 points, while senior midfielders Elliot Chapman and Leonardo Paredes have seven goals each.

VonKaenel, who had six saves in the UMAC title game, has a 15-1-1 record, 0.98 GAA and 55 saves in 17 games this season.

’JACKET JOTTINGS: Augsburg and St. Thomas are among four MIAC teams to qualify for the tournament, joining Gustavus Adolphus (14-3-1) and Carleton (15-1-3). … The 'Jackets also played St. Thomas this season, losing 2-0 in St. Paul on Aug. 31.

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