Welcome back to Ryan's Ruminations
Welcome back to Ryan’s Ruminations, D3soccer.com’s opinion column. As the name indicates, I am Ryan Harmanis, and I write a weekly column covering a variety of topics in the Division III soccer landscape. I played for Ohio Wesleyan from 2007 to 2010—I somehow managed to miss out on the 2006 Final Four and the 2011 national championship—and I’ve followed Division III soccer ever since. After a few years writing recaps, we added this column in 2015 to bring something new to the site’s coverage, and we hope to build on last year’s success in 2016.
For those new to Division III soccer, at D3soccer.com we have a dedicated team of volunteer writers and editors to cover the 2016 season from various angles. We post recaps, games to watch, weekly Top 25 rankings, bracketology, and provide detailed NCAA tournament coverage. We added a men’s recruiting page to our off-season and preseason offerings that also include the coaching carousel, conference preseason polls, and a review of what's new for the forthcoming season, including rules changes.
This column is a little bit different. Instead of regular recaps, my goal is to provide analysis and opinion on various storylines around the country. Last year, I wrote a three-part series on the best conference and looked at the NCAA selection process and how strength-of-schedule impacts rankings, among other things. 2016 will involve much of the same, with a few twists. Things to look forward to:
(1) In-depth analysis of the 2016 season. I’ll hit the regular topics, such as contenders, surprise teams, and big games, and try to throw in some other interesting storylines as well. Conference races, rivalries, and the drive for the NCAA tournament will receive plenty of coverage too.
(2) Tactical analysis. I often used numerical analysis and stats in last year’s columns. I’ll bring some of that back, but I also plan to explore more tactical aspects of the game. For example, what is tiki-taka, and can it work in college? Why has “pressing” become so popular in the past few seasons? Are teams more effective with a flat-back four or with a sweeper? With one forward or two? Parents and fans, this should give you something extra to look for during games.
(3) Mailbag. Division III soccer is difficult to cover. Teams play hundreds of games every week, and with a brother playing at OWU this year, I won’t be able to hit every team or topic. If you have a question about a specific team, a conference, or D-III soccer in general, I hope to answer it in that column. Email me at email@example.com. I plan to post the first mailbag around the end of September, but if you have questions before then I will respond and maybe throw them into an earlier column.
Ryan’s Boxscore Top 10
Newsflash: coaches and media rank teams based on box scores. When you see a team ranked too low or too high and wonder whether the voters watched them play, the answer is probably “no.” We don’t have time to watch every team or every game, so we resort to simple questions to rank teams. Who won? Who did they beat? What was the score? Who lost to (or tied) a bad team? Where was everyone ranked last week? Each week, I rank my Top 10 teams in the country, with a quick explanation for each team’s spot. With games just starting this weekend, consider this a rough draft:
(1) Amherst – The defending champions always get the top spot until (and unless) they slip up.
(1a) Kenyon – The Lords bring back ten starters from an Elite Eight team. I’d have Kenyon No. 1 but for Amherst’s status as the defending champions.
(3) Trinity (Texas) – The Tigers also bring back ten starters and have reached the Elite Eight three straight years—without making the Final Four.
(4) Montclair State – The Red Hawks bring back five of six All-NJAC players and play in what could be the NCAA’s deepest conference.
(5) Loras – The Duhawks must replace a number of key pieces, but Coach Rothert’s focus on team and depth should keep Loras in the mix for a deep NCAA run.
(6) Rowan – Expectations were high even before the Profs beat Lycoming on the road last night.
(7) Haverford – The Fords bring back eight starters, but can they sustain last year’s success?
(8) Calvin – Key losses in the back should be offset by another dynamic offense.
(9) Middlebury – Just missed out on an NCAA bid in 2016, but should challenge at the top of the NESCAC.
(10) Chicago – The Maroons were young and dangerous last year, and they return three All-Region attacking players.
Comments or feedback for the author? E-mail Ryan Harmanis.