December 4, 2020

The Sporting Insider

Previewing the Playoffs

As the St. Louis Cardinals perfectly demonstrated, it really doesn’t matter how you get into the playoffs. If a team dominates its regular-season opponents and doesn’t lose any sleep over qualifying for the postseason, that’s terrific.

And if a team sneaks into the playoffs courtesy of another squad’s collapse (see Braves, Atlanta), well, that works, too. Just find a way to get in.

Because once a team is in the playoffs, anything is possible. It’s an old coach’s cliche, but it’s true. Even though they took completely different routes, the Webster University volleyball, women’s soccer and men’s soccer teams ended up in the same fantastic place: the postseason.

Now that they’ve arrived in single game elimination territory, these three teams need to keep their mistakes to a minimum if they want to take the next step — qualifying for the Division III national tournament.

But before the teams can think about that, they’ll have to get past their first-round opponents in the SLIAC tournaments, which is far from an easy task. Let’s take a look at these pivotal semifinal matchups for all three Webster squads.

The No. 1-seeded Webster volleyball team begins its playoff journey with a home match versus No. 4-seeded Westminster College. The Gorloks have already defeated the Blue Jays twice this year — 3-1 on Sept. 24 and 3-0 on Nov. 1.

Historically, Webster has whipped up on their first-round foe. The Gorloks have beaten Westminster 16 times in a row. Webster last lost to the Blue Jays on Oct. 31, 2003, in a five-set match.

If Webster does get by Westminster, Greenville College will likely be waiting in the finals. The Panthers have been a thorn in Webster’s side recently. The Gorloks, however, did score a breakthrough win over the Panthers when they beat them 3-2 on Greenville’s home court.

Like the volleyball team, Webster’s women’s soccer team had no issues getting into the SLIAC tournament. As the No. 2 seed, the Gorloks will take on Greenville in the opening round.

Greenville gave Webster all it could handle in an Oct. 19 contest at the Soccer Park. The Panthers came back from a 1-0 deficit to equal the game in the second half. A late Webster goal gave the Gorloks a 2-1 win.

It’s nearly a foregone conclusion that Principia College will be the squad advancing to the finals from the other side of the bracket. The Panthers enter the tournament on a nine-game winning streak, and they beat Webster 2-1 on Oct. 22 at the Soccer Park.

Unlike the volleyball and women’s soccer teams, Webster’s men’s soccer team needed some help to get into the SLIAC tournament as the No. 4 seed. The Gorloks will take on a Westminster team that has only three losses this season.

Webster fell to the Blue Jays 1-0 in an Oct. 25 game at the Soccer Park. That game had few scoring opportunities for both sides, and a low-scoring game should once again be expected in the Nov. 2 rematch in Fulton.

The other men’s soccer semifinal is a rematch of last year’s SLIAC championship game, as Fontbonne University hosts Greenville. The winner of that game would host Webster if the Gorloks advance past Westminster.

It would be surprising if all three Webster teams were knocked out of the postseason in the first round. It wouldn’t be shocking, though, if all three squads found a way to win their respective championships. During the playoffs, anything can happen. And probably will.

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