William and Mary – (5-3-1) – Try David and Goliath instead of William and Mary. The Tribe has been a giant slayer so far this year with a win over then number one ranked Creighton in a match played at Norfolk and wins on the road against then number one North Carolina and highly regarded Elon. Those wins pretty much speak for themselves. Tangling with the lads from Williamsburg can definitely be hazaradous to your ranking. The puzzling piece of the equation on the other hand is that the Tribe has come out on the short end in contests with St. Francis (PA) and North Carolina State at home and Drexel on the road. They also have a tie with UCF in a contest played in Norfolk.
The losses are not quite as shocking when you take into consideration the fact that Saint Francis (PA) is 7-2-2 with a win over Penn State on the road. North Carolina State is a team that is still under construction but they have the athletes when untracked that can play with anyone and keep in mind that this is the same Drexel team (5-3-1) that under the direction of Doug Hess was 8-1-1 in CAA play last year and was an NCAA Tourney team.
One of the reasons for William and Mary's success to date has been the play of redshirt freshman Mac Phillips in goal. Phillips has five shutouts to date and a 0,71 gaa. William and Mary is also a program beginning with legendary head coach Al Albert and continuing through current mentor Chris Norris that has always played with a team rather than individual mentality. That intagible alone can often give a team the edge needed to top an opponent that on paper is stronger. The chances are pretty good that the Tribe will continue to win their share but this is a group for which the difference between leaving the pitch with a win or loss is going to continue to be pretty slim on any given day so they have to avoid costly mistakes. One thing is for sure, no one is going to look past William and Mary for the remander of the season and if they play their way into the NCAA Tourney no one is going to want to be matched up with them.
Providence College – (7-1-2) – What a difference a year can make! Last year the Friars were in a transition season as Craig Stewart took over the reigns of the program from Chaka Daley who left to accept the head coaching job at Michigan. Last year Providence was 4-10-2 overall with a 2-6-0 mark in Big East play.
This year ten games into the 2013 campaign the Friars are 7-1-2 overall with a 2-0-0 mark in conference play. Providence is coming off a big 1-0 win over St. John's at Belson Stadium. Senior midfielder Anthony Baumann's penalty kick was the difference maker in that one. Wins over the Johnnies at Belson Stadium are few and far between.
Providence's only loss to date is a 4-0 woodshedding at the hands of Virginia. The Friars have a resume making key Big East matchup coming up on Wednesday, October 9 when they host a Georgetown team that has a jailhouse break offense that comes at you fast and furious. The Friar defense led by Baumann,redshirt junior goalkeeper Keasel Broome and backs Thomas Ballenthin, Bradnon Adler, Jeff Kilday and freshman Nick Sailor will have to play their best soccer of the year to have a shot of winning this one. Likewise the Providence attack will have to be more of a force than in the Virginia contest to help slow down a Georgetown offense that just keeps coming at you. A win in this one would be huge for Providence.
West Coast Explosion – It has been a great year to date for the west coast with four teams ranked in the most recent College Soccer News Top 30. California (7-0-2) is two, Washington (7-0-3) is three, Cal State Northridge (10-1-0) is four, and UCLA (6-2-1) is eight.
UCLA has a tough week ahead with matches on Thursday, October 10 with a very good Stanford team and on Sunday, October 13 the Bruins square off with California. A win over UCLA on the road would place California in the drivers seat in the Pac-12 race.
Cal State Northridge will host a hungry UC Santa Barbara (7-4-0) team on Friday, October 11 in what promises to be another key west coast matchup this week. Gonzaga (5-2-2) may be the biggest surprise to date, Cal Poly (8-4-0), Stanford (6-2-1) and UC Irvine (6-3-2) are also off to good starts and are very competitive.
UC Irvine will host Cal Poly on Friday, October 11 in what looks to be a gut check matchup for both teams.
University of Maryland – (5-2-3) – The Terps have won three straight and appear to be gelling. Yes, Maryland has played a challenging schedule but things have not gone as expected to date beginning with the Terps season opening trip to the west coast. There is still a ton of soccer to be played and Sasho Cirovski coached teams always improve as the season progresses but at the ten game point in the 2013 campaign who would have thought that this Maryland team would only have five wins. The Terps have signature wins over Clemson at Riggs Field and Tulsa in College Park but they also have an uncharistic loss in the friendly confines of Ludwig Field to VCU and a tie with Old Dominion.
This week looks to be a tipping point of sorts for a Maryland team that will have its mettle tested as they hit the road to take on Notre Dame in South Bend on Tuesday, October 8 and then travel to Charlottesville to face a talented Virginia team on Friday, October 11 that has momentum but has also not had the season to date that many thought they would have. Patrick Mullins (5g, 3a), Schillo Tshuma (5g, 1a) and Jake Pace (5g, 1a) give the Terps a triple barreled attack that both Notre Dame and Virginia may have trouble containing.
This is an experienced Maryland side but there are also a lot of underclassmen in key roles including freshman back Alex Crognale, midfielder Michael Sauers and goalkeeper Zack Steffen whose play will have a key role in the outcome. Cirovski, who has been the Maryland head coach since 1993, will have his team fired up and prepared for both of these contests but you can also expect the same from Bobby Clark at Notre Dame and George Gelnovatch at Virginia who have also been in their share of big matches.
The Maryland vs. Notre Dame contest will be broadcast live at 7 p.m. on Tuesday by the ACC Digital Network and can be seen live on College Soccer News free of charge.
UMBC – There are a lot of storylines at UMBC this year. The first is the fact that the Retrievers are off and running with a 10-1-0 start. Their only loss to date occurred last weekend when they were upset by a solid Delaware side 1-0 in overtime in the friendly confines of Retriever Park. Forward Pete Caringi III is also off and running with ten goals and two assists. Senior midfielder Kadeem Dacres has also shown that he can play the game with five goals to date.
Transfers junior midfielder Geaton Caltabiano (3g, 7a), junior defender Marquez Fernandez (2g, 0a) and sophomore midfielder Malcolm Harris (0g,1a) have been positive additions to a team that has the potenial to have a banner season but must continue to stay focused and take it one contest at a time in order for that to happen. Senior goalkeeper Phil Saunders gives UMBC a very experienced and confident presence between the pipes.
The Retreivers face a big hurdle on Wednesday, October 9 when they travel to Williamsburg to tangle with giant killer William and Mary. The Tribe has already gotten the best of Creighton, North Carolina, and Elon and would like nothing better than to add UMBC to the list. Look for UMBC to press the attack and to try to try to control the tempo of the contest from the get-go. It should be a dandy game. Fair or unfair, this is a contest that UMBC out of the America East Conference needs to win to add credibility to their win total.
Milwaukee – (9-0-1) – Sometimes it takes a bunch of wins before teams from mid-major conferences such as the Horizon League are recognized. The Panthers began the season with a huge 2-1 win over rival and highly regarded Marquette in the Milwaukee Cup. The only blemish on Milwaukee's slate to date is a 1-1 tie with Drake.
It is possible to win and win big at Milwaukee as Louis Bennett established during his ten year tenure at the helm of the program from 1996 through 2005 when the Panthers attacted national attention and secured five consecutive invites to the NCAA Tourney. However Bennett is now past history, a new sheriff is in town, and a new era is beginning at Milwaukee. Current Milwaukee head coach Kris Kelderman enters his second season at the helm of the program trying to create a little success of his own with a 2013 team that is very balanced on both sides of the ball.
Junior midfielder Laurie Bell (7g, 3a), senior forward Robbie Boyd (3g, 5a) and sophomore forward Aaron Horvat (5g, 0a) are among those that provide offensive punch. Seniors Austin Toth, Andrew Stone, Aaron Cranfill, and James Ashcroft give Milwaukee a very experieced backline that has only allowed seven goals in ten games. Freshman netminder Liam Anderson has been very solid in goal and appears to be growing in confidence each game.
Milwaukee has potentially problematic matches coming up next week when they host Green Bay on Tuesday, October 8 and then travel to face a Valparaiso team on Saturday, October 12 that may present matchup problems for the Panthers. The following week things don't get any easier when Milwaukee travels to face a solid UIC team and then hosts the University of Wisconsin out of the Big Ten Conference in what has the potential to be a resume building match. Whether the Panthers can run the table remains to be seen. It will be interesting.
Dayton – (10-0-0) – When you have ten wins and no losses or ties you are clearly doing something right. Some might say that the Flyers have not played that difficult of a schedule to date but the bottom line is that during regular season play they have to square off with the teams on their schedule and they have done it exceedingly well. Dayton coach Dennis Currie pretty much summed things up when he stated, "This team has accomplished a milestone of going 10-0-0 to start the season which is something they will always remember." He then added, "It is time to focus on the second half of the season which is conference play, the most important part of the year."
Dayton begins Atlantic 10 Conference play this week when they host George Washington on Friday, October 11 and Fordham on Sunday, October 13. If history has taught anyone in the Atlantic 10 anything it should be that the conference is much tougher than many give it credit for and that conference play particularly on the road can be very challenging. The following week Dayton's dance card includes a trip to Robert Hermann Stadium where they have a date with Saint Louis on Saturday, October 19 in what at this point is shaping up to be the key Atlantic 10 regular season contest.
Dayton's success in part has been due to the fact that they have been extremely effective when they have the ball in the attacking third. Senior midfielder Abe Keller (7g, 6a) has been the guy at the center of the attack. The Flyers are also very organized and communicate well on the defensive side of the ball. Dayton has allowed a total of only ten goals to date. Don't sell this group short. The Flyer backline of seniors John Howe and Jonathan Nelson, sophomore Christopher Lenning, and redshirt freshman Andrew Lightner will not be outworked by anyone. Sophomore goalkeeper Chris Froschauer is among the best at his postion in the country.
North Carolina – (3-1-5) – They say that a tie is like kissing your sister. If anyone can confirm that it would be the Tar Heels who have five ties in nine contests to date. Statistics can be misleading but in the case of UNC this year they are very revealing. In nine games to date the Heels have netted a total of ten goals while allowing only five. This is a team that is struggling on the offensive side of the ball due in large part to the loss of Rob Lovejoy and Andy Craven. However they are rock solid on defensive side of the ball with a backline that includes Jonathan Campbell, Boyd Okwuonu, Colton Storm and Jordan McCrary. Junior Brendan Moore has also been doing his job between the pipes.
Junior forward Tyler Engel (3g, 1a) and sophomore midfielder Raby George (3g, 0a) are the only North Carolina players who have scored three goals to date. The Tar Heels have wins over Monmouth, Coastal Carolina and Campbell and ties with ACC foes Notre Dame, Maryland, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest and Duke. Their lone loss of the season occurred when they were edged 1-0 by William and Mary.
Credit Carlos Somoano who is in his third season at the helm of the program for doing a very good job of getting the most he can out of his team. Often when a team has trouble finding the back of the net they begin to play not to lose instead of to win. To their credit that has not been the case for the lads from Chapel Hill. A tie is clearly better than a loss but this is a team that is operating with an extremely small margin of error due to their inability to score. This is a talented North Carolina team but for the Tar Heels to succeed this year at the level the program has in the recent past there is no getting around the fact that they have to become more productive on the offensive side of the ball. Senior forward Josh Rice (1g, 1a), junior forward Cooper Vandermaas-Peller (0g, 1a), junior forward Tyler Engel (3g,1a) or perhaps someone else will need to step up to the plate and add additional firepower to the attack.
UNC hosts a very much improved Clemson team on Tuesday, October 8 and then takes to the road to face Boston College on Saturday, October 12.
Indiana – (4-6-1) – Clearly Indiana's lack of success so far is the biggest surprise of the 2013 season. The Hoosiers are a better team than their record indicates but that is little consolation for a program with the winning tradition of IU. It is not often that you find an Indiana team at any point in the season that has allowed more goals (19) than they have scored (18) as is currently the case. This is a team that will eventually turn things around but it may be sooner rather than later.
Indiana is going through a bit of a transition this year since this is the first season in a long time that they have not had a big physical back to the goal type goal scorer in the mold of Eriq Zavaleta or Will Bruin. To date IU has sustained losses to UCLA, UAB, West Virginia, Butler, and a recent very tough home Big Ten loss to Penn State.
The Hoosiers travel to Madison on Friday, October 11 to face Wisconsin. Indiana is a team with their back to the wall that is going to have to get back on track one game at a time. Accomplishing that task is made even more difficult by the fact that everyone who faces Indiana gets up for the game.
A win at Wisconsin would be a positive step forward for Indiana. On the other hand it would also signal a major step forward for a Wisconsin team that looks to have a shot at an NCAA Tourney berth this year. Wisconsin is coming off a solid win over a good Marquette team.
Georgetown – (8-2-1) – Things are falling into place for the Hoyas who got off to a rocky start when they suffered early season losses to California in Berkeley and New Mexico at home. Georgetown is 6-0-1 in their last seven matches. The tie was with highly regarded Creighton. Senior Steve Neumann (6g, 3a) and sophomore Brandon Allen (7g, 3a) are powering an attack that has netted twenty-two goals to date. Freshman midfielder Alex Muyl (2g, 5a) is among the newcomers that are adding an additional dimension to the offense. The Hoyas defense anchored by goalkeeper Tomas Gomez has been tenacious allowing a total of only five goals in eleven contests to date.
The Hoyas have two potentially troublesome contests this week. They face Providence on the road on Wednesday, October 9 and Xavier in Cincinnati on Saturday October 12. Providence is having a banner season to date and is coming off an impressive defensive showing in a 1-0 win over St. John's. The Friars upset Connecticut last year and will be hoping to do the same to Georgetown this year. Xavier (4-5-2) has not had the type of season to date that they have had in the past few years but you can count on Andy Fleming having the Musketeers fired up and prepared for the Hoyas.