College Soccer News Lightning Round. We are just a couple of weeks into the 2013 season but thought it might be interesting to ask a few of College Soccer New's contributing writers to provide a few brief and quick comments regarding what has transpired to date.
What are your thoughts after the first two weeks of play?
Bob B. – Things will likely settle down somewhat as teams gel but so far this has been a season of surprises. Who would have thought that Indiana would be 1-3-0, that Maryland would be 1-2-1, and that Georgetown would be 2-2-0. I think it's also noteworthy that attendance at venues across the country has been impressive and I'm not just referring to places like Maryland and Creighton. Monmouth had a school record crowd of 4,042 on hand at The Great Lawn when they played Seton Hall.
Amy P. – (Women's Soccer) – It's not difficult to surmise that the ACC and the Pac-12 are the elite conferences. Top-ranked North Carolina proved it was ready to defend last year's NCAA title as the Tar Heels improved to 6-0-0 after nipping number three UCLA, 1-0, on September 6 and taking care of business with a 4-2 victory over number nine West Virginia two days later. The 2012 Hermann Trophy winner Crystal Dunn has tallied six of the Tar Heels' sixteen goals and is well on her way to another stellar season.
But while the Tar Heels are still on top this season, it doesn't mean they won't be knocked off, especially with teams like Virginia, Florida State, Wake Forest and Notre Dame on the schedule. And that's just the ACC foes ranked in the Top 10. Virginia has outscored its last five opponents 21-1. FSU posted quality wins over Florida and UCF. Wake Forest is off to its best non-conference start (5-0-0) in program history. And Notre Dame's only setback was a 1-0 loss to UCLA. I have a feeling there will be a lot of close games when ACC action gets underway on Thursday.
Stanford and UCLA are once again the cream of the crop in the Pac-12. The Cardinal is unbeaten with their only "blemish" a 1-1 tie against perennial contender Portland, while UCLA put together a 5-1 mark despite a brutal schedule that included three consecutive away games against Notre Dame, UNC, and Duke.
Chris T. – It's been an interesting start on the men's side, as many of the college soccer powerhouses are exactly where we'd expect them to be. However, Indiana's third straight defeat on Sunday will have the Hoosiers worried, especially as they are defending College Cup champions and were expected to dominate this year. It's still early days for all the teams, and while some will be where they expected to be, others have plenty of room for improvement.
Matty B. – I don't want to over simplify things but it's tough to travel cross country early in the season and get a good result so I believe that has been a factor in some of the early upsets. Teams are still playing their way into shape, sorting things out organizationally, and the newcomers are adjusting which often results in inconsistent play.
Having said that, I have been surprised at the number of highly regarded teams that have been upset at home. Maryland allowing VCU to score three goals in the final thirteen minutes to come from behind to win 3-2 was amazing. That's pretty rare for a Sasho Cirovski coached team. It brought to mind Maryland's 3-2 overtime loss to Bradley in the 2007 NCAA Tourney at Ludwig Field when the Terps allowed Bradley to score twice in the last three minutes to tie the match and then Bradley won it 3-2 in overtime.
Louisville losing at home 1-0 to Butler after opening the season with a 2-1 win at Virginia was also a surprise. Ditto that for UCSB losing to Gonzaga 2-0 at Harder Stadium after opening the season with wins on the road over Northwestern and UIC. I was also surprised that UCLA was thumped 3-0 by the Mustangs from Cal Poly after UCLA started the season on the road with a scoreless tie with Notre Dame and a 1-0 win over Indiana. It is a little ironic that UCLA and UCSB face each other in Los Angeles on Friday, September 13.
John S. – It's early in the season but so far things are looking up for the west coast teams. California is 3-0-0, Cal State Northridge is 4-0-0, Washington is 3-0-0 and UC Riverside is 4-0-0 with a win over a good Bradley team. UCLA (1-1-1) is going to win a lot of games despite the loss to Cal Poly and remains the flagship team of the west coast. UCSB has some things to sort out based on their performance against Gonzaga. Both UCLA and UCSB received wake up calls so it will be interesting how they react. Stanford (1-1-1) is clearly a team on the rise but they need to put a few more wins on the board before I jump on their bandwagon.
Could you mention a couple players that have captured your attention?
Bob B. – Pete Caringi's eight goals in four games for UMBC has been impressive. Notre Dame has three goals and all of them have come from Leon Brown. Tyler Engel has clearly been a great addition at North Carolina particularly with Andy Craven and Rob Lovejoy out due to injury. James Rogers and Michael Calderon are taking care of business at New Mexico. I also have been impressed with the play of sophomore forward Cristian Mata at Tulsa and junior forward Sagi Lev-Ari at Cal State Northridge.
Amy P. – (Women's Soccer) – There are several first-year players making an impact throughout the country. In her first year of collegiate action, St. John's sophomore Rachel Daly leads the nation with eleven goals, sparking the Red Storm to a 6-0-0 start – their best since 2004. I've already talked about UCLA's Darian Jenkins in last week's feature – she has netted five goals against a pretty imposing slate of opponents. Oklahoma State freshman Courtney Dike tallied her sixth goal of the year against FSU, forcing a tie against the Seminoles and ending their twenty-one game home winning streak. And I don't want to leave out cal Poly sophomore Elise Krieghoff, who has tallied ten goals and one assist as the Mustangs have jumped out to a 4-0-0 start. She was last year's Big West Freshman of the Year and has already claimed three straight player of the week awards from the conference.
Chris T. – Brandon Allen of Georgetown has started very well despite some inconsistent play from the Hoyas. Allen spent the summer with the United States U-20 team, and while that affected his fitness in early games he has been in superb form recently. Not only that, but as he is just a sophomore there is still plenty of developing left for him to do on the soccer field.
Matty B. – Clemson is a much stronger team with midfielder Thomas McNamara in the lineup. He is going to be a difference maker for the Tigers. Forward Giuseppe Gentile has been very productive at Charlotte. Sophomore forward Larry Ndjock put four in the back of the net for Loyola University last week. Ndjock's the real deal. Keep an eye on junior midfielder Roberto Alterio at FIU. He is going to add an additional dimension to their attack.
John S. – Defender Steve Birnbaum is making an impact at California. Defender Boyd Okwuonu has been rock solid at North Carolina. Senior back Taylor Peay with the hat trick has made his presence known at Washington.
What about a few teams that have attracted your attention.
Bob B. – Clearly California and their season opening wins over Georgetown and Maryland. Cal is a great program but this is a team that has been absent from the NCAA Tourney for the past two seasons. New Mexico lost a ton of talent but they are looking really good. Clemson is off to a great start and picked up a solid ACC win when they topped Virginia. Cal State Northridge is undefeated but they have a big test coming up when they travel to Albuquerque to tangle with New Mexico on Sunday, September 22.
Amy P. – (Women's Soccer) – I think Baylor could make some waves in the Big 12. The Bears took UNC to penalty kicks in last year's NCAA quarterfinals before the Tar Heels ousted them. Baylor extended its unbeaten streak to twenty-seven games with a 0-0 tie against Texas A and M over the weekend and has allowed just one goal in the first six games of the season.
Matty B. – UAB is off to a great start with wins over VCU, High Point, and Indiana. The fact that Indiana is 1-3-0 to date has taken a little of the glow off that win but nonetheless UAB is off to a great start. North Carolina has played well to date particularly when you take into consideration the holes that they had to plug and the injuries they are dealing with on the offensive side of the ball. They have as good a backline as anyone in the country but their attack has been suspect at times in the past. Tulsa is another team to keep an eye on. They opened the season with a loss on the road to Creighton but since then have wins over Drake, Ohio State and a very good SIUE team. This is a vintage Tom McIntosh Golden Hurricane team which means they are going to put the ball in the back of the net a lot.
John S. – Saint Louis is an interesting side this year. The Billikens have self destructed in the past so the jury is still out but this is a team that moves as well off the ball as anyone and has great touch on the ball. Robert Kristo and Kingsley Brice are goal scorers and guys like Alex Sweetin and William Hidalgo are very capable players. I see Saint Louis as a work in progress with a very high upside if they effectively combine their individual talents. The Billikens play Evansville on the road followed by a game at home with Denver. If they play to their potential they should win those games which will set up a big match with Connecticut in Storrs. I also like Washington. They have a lot of momentum going into a gut check game on Tuesday, September 10 with Connecticut in Storrs. Washington is as effective as any team in the country out of set pieces which is a big plus.