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Stars line up as Owls first-round NCAA opponent

GAMBIER, Ohio — Playing in their tenth straight NCAA Division III Men’s Soccer Championship and hosting early-round games for the sixth time in the past nine seasons, the Kenyon College Owls return to national bracket competition when they entertain the Dominican University Stars in Saturday’s first-round contest, which is slated for an 11 a.m. kickoff at Mavec Field.

Kenyon enters the game with an overall record of 15-4 and a No. 17 national rank in the latest poll released by the United Soccer Coaches. Additionally, the Owls hold the top spot in Region VII of the NCAA’s ranking.

During the regular season, the Owls won their eighth straight, and 14th overall, North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) regular-season crown. The team went on to defeat DePauw University in the semifinal round of the NCAC Tournament, but fell at home to Denison University in the tournament final.

With that missed opportunity to gain an automatic berth, Kenyon was one of 23 at-large teams selected to the 64-team bracket.

The Owls average 2.42 goals per game and yield 1.11 goals per game. On the attack, the team looks to the one-two punch of juniors Alem Duratovic and Eamon Dujakovich. For most of the season, Duratovic held the team lead in goals and points. He currently has 10 goals, two assists and 22 points. Dujakovich, who has seven goals in the team’s last seven games, recently passed Duratovic as the team leader. Dujakovich enters Saturday’s game with 11 goals, three assists and 25 points.

Defenseman Aidan Burns, a senior, leads the team with five assists. He helps sophomore goalkeeper Jack Pedreschi in keeping opponents off the board. Pedreschi started all 19 Kenyon games this season. He owns a 1.09 goals against average and a .704 save percentage to go along with nine shutouts.

Over its previous nine NCAA appearances, Kenyon has a 9-0-0 record in first-round games. To keep that streak unblemished, the Owls will have to defeat a Dominican team that was the tournament champion of the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference (NACC).

The unranked Stars went 12-3-2 during the regular season. They entered the eight-team NACC Tournament as the No. 3 seed and won three games, including against the top two seeds, to claim the title and the conference’s NCAA automatic berth.

Dominican, now with a 15-3-2 record, scores 2.20 goals per game, while allowing 0.85. The attack is led by a trio that includes juniors Oscar Montejano and John Cronnolly, as well as fifth-year Vincente Castro. Montejano has seven goals and team-highs of 10 assists and 24 points. Cronnolly has a team-high ten goals to go along with two assists and 22 points, while Castro has six goals, six assists and 18 points to his credit.

At the back end of the Stars defense, sophomore goalkeeper Oscar Cerritos started all 20 games, but also shared a good chunk of playing time with back-up Shane Marinkovich. Cerritos has a 0.77 goals against average with 39 saves. Marinkovich, who played in 18 games, has a 0.94 average with 28 saves. Together, they have accounted for seven shutouts.

Saturday’s game will mark Dominican’s 19th appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The last time the Stars were in the tournament (2021) they lost 3-0 to a Saint Olaf College team coached by Travis Wall, who is now head coach at Kenyon.

The winner of Saturday’s game will advance to Sunday’s second-round game to play the winner of the game between No. 18 Washington College and No. 25 Otterbein University. Those two teams will battle at Mavec Field following the Kenyon/Dominican game. Sunday’s game is set for a 1 p.m. start and will also be played on Mavec Field.

As a reminder to fans planning on attending the games, ticket prices for one game of the tournament are $10 for adults, $5 for seniors and students, and $3 for children ages 3-12. Only cash will be accepted at the ticket gate.

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