Off with a bang!
There’s some mouth-watering match-ups on the slate this opening weekend as well as plenty of games that are worth keeping an eye on. Let’s run them down day-by-day.
Friday, September 2
Can it get bigger than #1 Messiah at #3 Ohio Wesleyan? Only if it was the post-season. These two D-III powerhouses get a huge early season test, and a loss really shouldn’t be a problem for either team going forward. Both coaches will know how to use a win or a loss in the process of getting their team ready for a run at the title. Fans who can make it out should be in for a treat at 7:30 p.m. ET.
A great metropolitan match-up tonight at 7 p.m. ET is New York University at #13 Stevens. UAA champion NYU was voted by the conference’s coaches to defend that title. Despite this they didn’t receive enough votes to make the Top 25, but an argument could be made that they deserved to. Stevens lost a couple of huge All-Americans and one of D-III’s winningest coaches, which leaves some question marks as to whether they can avoid a drop off this season. Makes for a very interesting East Region encounter.
The Roanoke College Invitational pits #12 Lynchburg against #10 Emory, game time 5 p.m. ET, in a rematch of last year's second round NCAA contest. Lynchburg “upset” Emory, top 10 at the time, by a 2-1 count and finished as national runner-up after falling in overtime in the final. Emory returns 9 starters and 90% of their offensive output from their 14-3-2 squad of a year ago. Lynchburg on the other hand has lost 6 starters and half their offensive production from a year ago. They have had to replace three of their top four forwards and 3/4’s of their back line including All-American Hunter Smith. That’s a lot of turnover at both ends of the field and it it might be a strength to expect Top 25 caliber play from them right out of the gate.
Also keep an eye on the following matches:
Catholic at #6 Christopher Newport, 7:30 p.m. ET – The two-time Landmark champions against a national title contender.
#23 York (Pa.) vs. Virginia Wesleyan, 5 p.m. ET – Both come off disappointing seasons (relative to high expectations) and will hope to get off on the right foot at the Christopher Newport tournament.
Pacific Lutheran at #11 UW-Whitewater, 7:30 p.m.CT – The coaches’ favorite to win the NWC travels to a Sweet 16 team from a year ago that has 9 starters back.
Medaille at Franklin & Marshall, 5:30 p.m. ET – The 2010 regular season runners-up in the tough Centennial Conference host the Sweet 16 team that upset Centennial champions Swarthmore in last year’s NCAAs.
Richard Stockton at Roanoke, 7:30 p.m. – The ODAC’s second best a year ago hosts a solid NJAC squad that made the NCAA’s last year.
Whitworth at Carroll, 8 p.m. CT – The typical NWC top-dog is coming off their worst season in the last twelve and play defending MWC champs and 2011 favorites (and the only team besides Messiah to score on UW-Oshkosh in the NCAAs last year)
Saturday, September 3
On day two of the Joe Pombriant/CNU Classic, #23 York
(Pa.) plays host at #6 Christopher Newport in a great
South Atlantic regional clash, game time 7:30 p.m. ET. A
regular in the CNU Classic from 2001 to 2008, York didn’t
play Christopher Newport last season for the first time in a
decade. York is coming off an uneven 2010 campaign that ended
disappointedly with a first round NCAA exit. And now they
have to bounce back without 3 of their 5 All-Region honorees.
In addition to graduation losses of three starters including
their top goal scorer and their midfield general, two more starters
have not returned for their senior season including their top
assist man and best defender. The hosts on the other hand
should be able to continue from where they left off last year. The
team that went 20-2-1 en route to the NCAA second round returns
eight starters including five 1st team and two 2nd team
all-conference selections, three NSCAA All-Region selections, and
two D3Soccer.com All-Americans. This is an experienced,
senior-laden squad with over 80% of its offensive production could
make a claim to be D-III’s best out of the gate.
The second game of N.C. Wesleyan’s Roger Taylor Classic pits #2 UW-Oshkosh vs. Ohio Northern at 2:30 p.m. ET. With two conference champions and NCAA participants from 2010, it’s probably the best inter-regional match-up on slate for Saturday. WIAC co-champions Oshkosh and their unyielding defense reached the Final Four; OAC champions Ohio Northern were bounced 2-0 in the first round. Oshkosh has lost 5 starters including an All-American and another All-Region player. But that means the Titans have four of their six All-Region selections back (a keeper, defender, midfielder, and forward) and their top five in points. Expectations will be high for a return to the Final Four. Ohio Northern returns ten starters from their 2010 squad that led the OAC in scoring and was second in defense. They have made the NCAAs for the three straight years and will field an experience starting line-up consisting of five seniors, five juniors, and one sophomore (who started 18 games his first season). Their leading scorer should be an All-American candidate at forward. Ohio Northern may be a Top 25 team that the voters overlooked in their pre-season poll.
It should be a quality upstate New York tilt with Oneonta St. at #22 St. Lawrence this Saturday at noon. Oneonta St. captured the SUNYAC regular season title a year ago and incredibly returns all 11 starters. On top of that their leading goal scorer from 2009 is back after a season lost to injury. That's like having 12 starters back and they should be favorites to win the SUNYAC this year. For St. Lawrence ten starters are back from last year including their top five scorers of which two were named NSCAA All-Americans. With returning players representing over 80% of their 2010 offensive output, the current Liberty League champions are expected to repeat that feat and more. This team has potential to be a national title contender.
Not a Top 25 match, but Hope at Kenyon (4 p.m. ET) pairs two teams that are probably in the next pack. In fact, Hope, as the MIAA coaches’ pre-season favorite ahead of Calvin maybe should have gotten a stronger look for the Top 25. They beat Calvin twice last season to finish even in the standings and take the conference title on the basis of head-to-head. They went one-and-done in the NCAAs, but return 7 starters and have about two-thirds of their offensive output back. Kenyon went to the NCAAs on an at-large berth and knocked out York in the first round. Their subsequent loss to Ohio Wesleyan in the next round was the second to their NCAC rivals accounting and only their third all season. But they lose 6 starters including their top 5 players. Gone are all five first-team all-conference selections, four of which were All-Region including an NSCAA All-American forward and a D3Soccer.com All-American defender. Kenyon has a challenge to replace the talent lost and Hope should give them an early indication of where they are at.
Also keep an eye on the following matches:
Geneseo St. at Penn State Behrend, 10 a.m. ET – A dark horse for the SUNYAC title with 8 starters back (including the entire back line and conference’s leading goal scorer) should match-up well with the AMCC’s 2010 regular season champs who missed the NCAAs when PKs didn’t go their way in the conference final.
Hobart at Babson, 1:30 p.m. ET – 10 starters are back for the team best known for its opening weekend upset of Messiah last season (before playing .500 ball the rest of the way) as they travel the NEWMAC defending champs who ousted Williams from the NCAAs.
TCNJ at Keene St., 3 p.m. ET – With both teams picked to finish second in their respective conferences, LEC champions host the NJAC’s 2010 regular season champion.
Rutgers-Newark at Redlands, 1 p.m. PT – The second game of a California road trip for a NJAC school looking to rebound from a forgettable 2010 sees them at the 2010 SCIAC regular season champions.
#13 Lynchburg vs. Richard Stockton, 5 p.m. ET – In the second day of the Roanoke Invitational the 2010 national runner-up will face a NJAC squad playing their third game in as many days.
Catholic vs. Virginia Wesleyan, 5 p.m. ET – The back-to-back Landmark champions and preennial ODAC contenders lock horns on the second day of the CNU Classic.
#10 Emory at Roanoke, 7:30 p.m. ET – Highest ranked UAA school takes on the ODAC hosts in the closing match of the Roanoke College Invitational.
Loras at #24 Wheaton (Ill.), 7 p.m. CT – The closing match of Wheaton's Bob Baptista Invitational will be contested by two teams that struggled mightily in 2010 and are looking to get back among the nation's elite in 2011.
Sunday, September 4
Big Central Region match with #7 Dominican (Ill.) at North Park Sunday night, 7 p.m. CT. Dominican is a perennial Top 25 team and last year they went 19-1-2, being booted from the NCAAs on PK’s in the second round. Since then they have lost their All-American midfield playmaker, an All-American centerback, and two more starters. Back are seven starters including an All-American forward and two more All-Region selections. North Park won the CCIW and reached the 2nd round of the NCAAs in 2010. Their goalkeeper and top attacking players are back led by an All-American playmaker and All-Region forward, but do have to replace six starters including most of the defense. Should be a good measuring stick game for both sides.
New York University at #25 Montclair St., 2 p.m. ET, is NYU’s second straight game against a Top 25 opponent to open the season. Picked by the UAA’s coaches to defend their conference title, if they want to be considered among the nation’s best, they need to hit the floor running. NJAC pre-season favorite Montclair St., perhaps fortunate to have gotten an NCAA at-large berth, is looking to bounce back from a year in which they finished fourth in the NJAC regular season and lost in the conference semifinals after a string of three straight NJAC titles. They will not have the program’s winningest coach back on the sidelines in 2011, but his defensive assistant from 2007 to 2009 is at the helm. It is in attack where he has the most work to do as they lost half their offensive output. Of the three starters lost, only one was a forward, but also lost were the top two attacking subs who accounted for 13 goals.
It’s Eastern Connecticut St. at #22 St. Lawrence in the Lotto Tournament at 12 noon. Eastern Connecticut is coming off 14-4-3 season and an appearance in the NCAA tournament, having garnered an at-large berth after exiting on PK’s in the LEC semifinals. With their entire line-up back for 2011, they are the coaches’ pick to win the LEC. They give St. Lawrence their second straight quality opponent to kick off the season. On paper, the Liberty League favorites have the ingredients to make a run at the national championship: 80% of their offensive output and ten starters back including their top five scorers and two NSCAA All-Americans. In 2010 the Saints posted a 17-3-2 mark in winning the Liberty League and advancing to the second round of the NCAAs.
In the Doug May Classic Tournament closes with Brockport St. at Nazareth, 4:30 p.m. ET. Nazareth is 11-1-2 in Empire 8 regular season play over the last two seasons with two 1-goal losses in the conference final to powerful Stevens. In 2010, playing a tough schedule, they lost 7 and tied 2, but only once were beaten by more than one goal. That might seem unlucky, but they were often outshot 3-to-1 or worse, so credit to their defense. They return 10 starters to try to get back to the NCAAs for the first time since 2006. Brockport St. went to the NCAAs on an at-large berth after losing in the SUNYAC championship game. They ended up on both sides of 3-2 overtime games in the first two rounds of the tournament. They lose six starters including their All-American goalkeeper, an All-Region defender, and their leading goalscorer. With less than half their offensive output back and the defensive losses, it could be a bumpy start.
Also keep an eye on the following matches:
Whitworth at #11 UW-Whitewater, 1 p.m. CT
Rutgers-Camdem at #8 Swarthmore, 4 p.m. ET
Hobart at Wheaton (MA), 1:30 p.m. ET
Pacific Lutheran at Carroll, 1 p.m. CT
Ohio Northern at N.C. Wesleyan, 2:30 p.m. ET
Concordia-Moorhead at Wartburg, 3 p.m. CT
Puget Sound at Champman, 7:15 p.m. PT
Comments or feedback for the author? Email Christan Shirk.