How the West was Won - Week 1
By Ryan Bascue
Western Region Teams in the Top 25 2018 Preview
Hardin-Simmons finished last season ranked at No.5 in the final D3soccer.com poll. The Cowgirls finished 23-1-0 last season after falling to eventual National Champion, Williams, in the National Semifinals. The Cowgirls return seven seniors, led by last year's first-team All-Region goalkeeper Caitlin Christiansen and the nation's 2017 leading goal-scorer Kenne Kessler. (She had 37 goals last season). The Cowgirls are predicted to win their 16th consecutive American Southwest Conference title in the ASC preseason poll.
Trinity comes into the season ranked at No.13. The Tigers finished their 2017 campaign with a record of 19-2-0 including 12-0-0 in conference play. The Tiger’s season was spoiled after a 3-2 come from behind win by Hardin-Simmons in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Trinity in 2017 was ranked first nationally in scoring offense and second in total goals.
Cal Lutheran finished 2017 ranked No.21. The Regals finished 2017 with a 16-4-3 record and a Sweet Sixteen appearance, the first in program history, in the NCAA Tournament before losing to eventual National Champion, Williams. The team hopes to build on their 2017 success. They are predicted to win the SCIAC.
There are a few teams worth mentioning from this region that had a lot of success last season. In the American Southwest Conference, the Mary Hardin-Baylor Cru are predicted to finish second after a 16-4-1 2017 finish. The Cru made it to the NCAA tournament but were knocked out by the Trinity Tigers. UMHB returns 19 letter winners including five All-Conference selections from a squad that boasted 0.78 goals against average for the season.
In the SCIAC, Pomona-Pitzer is predicted to a second-place finish behind Cal Lutheran. The Sagehens missed out on a 2017 NCAA tournament berth after falling to Whittier in the SCIAC championship final. In 2016 they were an Elite Eight team in the NCAA tournament,
In the Northwest Conference, Pacific Lutheran is predicted to win the conference. After finishing with a 17-3-2 record, the Lutes fell to Cal Lutheran in penalty kicks in the NCAA tournament. Right behind them is Puget Sound who returns 11 seniors. The team missed out on an NCAA berth after falling to Pacific Lutheran in the NWC championship. But look for this team’s leadership to stand out in a tough conference. Whitworth is predicted to finish third in this conference, as this is one of the toughest conferences in DIII, this squad returns a few All-Conference selections and bitter taste of finishing third in conference last season. Watch out for the Pirates, once they reach conference play, they will have already been battle tested with matches against a tough Franklin and Marshall team and national powerhouse Messiah.
Opening Weekend Quick Hits
The Cowgirls traveled north to Geneva, New York to take part in the “Stand on Their Shoulders Invitational” hosted by William Smith. The Cowgirls first match of the 2018 season was against host William Smith. This might have been the most intriguing match this weekend which had the No.5 ranked Hardin-Simmons Cowgirls taking on the No.6 William Smith Herons on the road in New York. This match up was intriguing not only because it was a top ten match up but because both teams almost played each other in last year’s quarterfinals (Ohio Northern defeated the Herons 1-0 in overtime in last year’s playoff). Megan Barwick scored the opening goal for the Herons to lead the Cowgirls at the half 1-0 with 30 seconds left in the first half. In the second half, Julia Keogh scored another goal for the Herons in the 79th minute. Cowgirls fell in their season opener 2-0. The Cowgirls faced Rochester the following day and won 2-0. Sophomore transfer Finda Kollie (1) scored the first goal of the season for the Cowgirls in the 82nd. Kenne Kessler (1) added to the Cowgirl lead and scored her first goal of the season in the 86th. This goal gives Kessler 71 total career goals and in sole possession of second place for career goals at HSU, only five goals away from Amy Kuykendall (76). The Cowgirls defeated Rochester and finished the weekend 1-1.
Puget Sound lost their season opener to Emory on the road in San Antonio, TX. Senior Abbie McCarter (1) scored in the 26th minute to give the Eagles the victory. Trinity hosted Pacific Lutheran in their season opener, which resulted in a 0-0 tie. On Sunday, Pacific Lutheran were stunned by falling 2-0. Lindsay Breskow (1) scored first for the Eagles in the 8th minute. The game stayed at 1-0 till the 86th minute when Abbe McCarter (2) scored again for the Eagles to finish the game 2-0. Emory, out of the perennially top tier UAA, impressed with their play this weekend. They defeated Puget Sound 1-0. And then the next day they downed Pacific Lutheran (who tied national powerhouse Trinity the day before), 2-0. Emory is coming off a 10-7-1 (2-4-1 in UAA play). However, these wins against typically strong teams are going to build confidence for the Eagles. I think after this weekend Emory might be back on track to be a top team out of the UAA. It is a shame they didn’t get a chance to play host Trinity this weekend. That match would’ve really helped us gauge just how good they really are. But I will be paying attention to the Emory Eagles.
The Trinity Tigers played Puget Sound on Sunday to close out their showcase down in San Antonio. Trinity dominated the state of play throughout the game, out shooting the Loggers 26-8. Logger's goalkeeper, Jamie Lange, had 13 saves on the day. The game remained tied at nil-nil for the majority of the game. The Tigers finally broke through Puget Sound's tight defense in the 101st minute in the second overtime on a goal by Chelsea Cole (1).
UC Santa Cruz opened up their season with a 3-0 win over NAIA Evergreen State. Cayce Shaw had her first career hat trick for the Banana Slugs. She scored in the 34th, 36, and the 58th in the win. They finished opening weekend with a 4-0 rout of Johnson and Wales (CO). Izel Gutierrez scored first in the 24th. Then Alex Acre added to the score in the 37th. In the second half, the Banana Slugs pushed their lead even further with a pair of goals by Natalie Filippi in the 48th and Abby Schmalz in the 62nd. The Banana Slugs have a challenging schedule including several NWC teams, a few Division II teams and a few NAIA teams. If they hold form they may make their fourth consecutive appearance as a Pool B selection.
Looking Ahead to Week 2
The most intriguing matchup by far is the 2017 NCAA Second Round rematch between the Trinity Tigers and the Hardin-Simmons Cowgirls. These two teams are not strangers. It seems every year they are destined to meet in the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Last year HSU, won 3-2 in a come from behind win including overcoming an own goal by the Cowgirls. HSU has eliminated the Tigers three of the last six years. HSU leads the playoff series 6-4-2. When these two teams play, it is always intense and always a tough game for either team. Though this is early enough in the season both coaches are still trying to figure out their line ups, I would still expect a very competitive game. This game has become a bit of a rivalry and these teams do not like each other. Both teams have a habit of spoiling each other's seasons in the postseason. The fans should be excited about essentially a playoff match-up this early in the season.
Mary Hardin-Baylor has two tough matches this weekend. First being on Friday they fly to Tacoma, Washington to take on Puget Sound then on Saturday they will meet Pacific Lutheran. As mentioned earlier, Puget Sound and Pacific Lutheran are both extremely tough teams. The Cru will certainly have their hands full. But after going 16-4-1 last season, the Cru should be up for the challenge. These are the last two nonconference matches before conference play. The Cru scheduled a much tougher nonconference in order to prepare for the tough ASC which includes UT Dallas and Hardin-Simmons. This weekend in Washington may just define how the rest of the Cru season will play out.
DIII Women's soccer is underway. Should be an exciting season it will be exciting to see who comes out of the Western Region conferences. This is How the West Was Won.
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