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Washington & Jefferson bypassed for D-III playoffs

Washington & Jefferson’s streak of six consecutive NCAA Division III playoff appearances came to an end yesterday.

The Presidents (8-2, 6-1) didn’t receive an at-large bid in the 32-team field, marking their first absence since 2003.

In Division II, California, Pa., was one of four PSAC schools to receive a bid to the national playoffs. The Vulcans will host Bloomsburg on Saturday in a first-round game.

“It doesn’t come as a shock to us. No matter who you play, I guess the thing is one loss is better than two,” Washington & Jefferson coach Mike Sirianni said. “I felt like we played a tougher schedule this year, but one loss is better than two.”

Their two losses came at the hands of two tournament teams. Delaware Valley, a No. 4 seed, shut out the Presidents, 27-0, in the season opener. Then, eventual-PAC champion Thomas More, a third seed, won a 29-21 decision in Week 3.

“If we would have beaten one of those two teams, we probably would have made the tournament,” Sirianni said. “Whether it’s Thomas More and we would have won the (PAC’s) automatic bid; or if we would have beaten Del Valley, they would have still had their automatic bid, and we would have beaten someone who’s already in the tournament.”

Since their 1-2 start to the season, Washington & Jefferson has won seven in a row, including Saturday’s 31-30 overtime thriller against rival Waynesburg.

The Presidents will likely make an appearance in the Eastern College Athletic Conference tournament to end their season.

W&J last won the ECAC title in 2003, then compiled a 12-1 record and an NCAA quarterfinals appearance the following season.

“I really think the big reason for our success in ’04 was because we ended so strong in ’03 with an ECAC win,” Sirianni said. “We’ll use this as a springboard into next year.”

Despite a 31-21 loss to eventual PSAC champion Mercyhurst earlier this season, No. 10 Cal earned its fourth consecutive trip to the D-II playoffs.

The third-seeded Vulcans (10-1, 6-1) will host PSAC East champion and conference runner-up, No. 6 seed Bloomsburg (9-2), in the first round Saturday. A win would set up a revenge game Nov. 27 at No. 2 seed Mercyhurst, which handed California its first PSAC West loss since 2006.

Cal coach John Luckhardt already began preparing for the playoff game and was not available for comment yesterday.

California is the three-time defending Super Region One champions, advancing to the NCAA semifinals each year. Last year, the Vulcans lost in the semifinals to eventual national champion Northwest Missouri State, 56-31.

This season, the Vulcans finished with double-digit wins for the fourth consecutive year and became only the second team in PSAC history to have six consecutive seasons of winning at least a share of the conference’s divisional title. West Chester accomplished it in the PSAC East from 1969-74.


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