An early look at conference standings
As conference play looms across the nation, here is a look at some conferences, their teams' performances, and what to keep an eye on in the upcoming weeks.
While UW-Whitewater has not avoided the recognition this year in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, especially as they now sit No. 17 in the Top 25 polls, its rival, UW-Oshkosh has made some noise in its own right. Yesterday, Oshkosh opened its week with a fine 4-0 victory over Marian, where Tony Starnes opened his account in the third minute, and finished the game's scoring late in the match for a brace. This win not only propels Oshkosh to an undefeated record of 7-0-1, but maintains its five-game shutout streak. Yielding only a single goal to date, Oshkosh has been deadly in the realm of finishing, scoring 31 goals in their campaign. It will be another month before Oshkosh and Whitewater face off, but the two perennial powerhouses must realize that the showdown will be crucial, assuming they maintain their impeccable form.
In 2005, the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference sent an astounding three teams to the NCAA Tournament, with Gustavus Adolphus losing to Messiah 1-nil in the final. Not much has changed since, and the MIAC's strength predates 2005 significantly. With the likes of Gustavus, St. John's, and Macalester always contenders -- contenders not just for conference but the NCAA Tournament as well -- the Division III soccer world has also witnessed the rise (or re-emergence) of Carleton, Augsburg and St. Olaf. With nearly every other match a hotly contested battle, the MIAC will provide nothing short of an exciting season. No. 16 Macalester has soared of late, but St. Olaf now sits second in the conference standings, with a big win over North Park early in the season, although Tuesday's loss to Wartburg brings them level at 3-3-2. Struggling in their first matches, Carleton has seemingly turned around to top the competitive conference, while Augsburg boasts a 6-2 record with impressive wins over Wartburg and Luther. Augsburg began its week on Monday, derailing Northwestern 4-0, and continues on Friday against a deadly Macalester team.
The Ohio Athletic Conference has boasted a history of top-performing tournament teams, and looks to continue that tradition this year. While no team ranks in the Top 25, seven of the ten-team conference maintains a record well over .500. Capital has suffered only one loss on the season. The sole loss followed a five-match undefeated run, but Capital was able to rebound with a 2-0 win against Allegheny. Heidelberg, John Wallace, Muskingum, and Baldwin-Wallace have each tallied 5 wins, with only two losses, and Ohio Northern lost just its third on Sept. 22 to No. 13-ranked Ohio Wesleyan in double overtime. They currently sit 6-3. Conference play begins next week, in what promises to be an exciting season with the teams dead-even in terms of their win percentage.
The Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference has gained recognition, if for one reason: Redlands. Redlands has dominated the SCIAC for some time. That is until the emergence of Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, who took the conference by storm last year, beating Redlands 2-1 as the fourth seed. So far this year, order has been restored as Redlands, undefeated (5-0-1), sits atop the conference. Redlands kicked off its week with a 7-0 dismantling of Caltech, and end it with a showdown against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, looking to take revenge from their championship defeat of the previous season. Claremont-Mudd-Scripps hasn't quite utilized momentum from last season's run to the NCAA Tournament, but maintains a decent 3-2-1 overall record. Unlike Redlands, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps is looking to replicate last season's conference final to resuscitate their season. Whittier showed promise after Wednesday's 3-0 victory against La Verne, as it sits second in the conference, with an overall record of 4-2-1. Pomona-Pitzer, who ran rampant in the second half of last season to seize the top spot from Redlands, has struggled so far in this campaign, to say the least. Beginning the season winless in its first five matches, Pomona-Pitzer finally picked up their first on Wednesday with a 1-0 win against Cal Lutheran. Pomona-Pitzer hopes to end its catastrophic season with a successive win against Occidental on Saturday.
One of the most dominant leagues on the East Coast, Liberty League teams have a habit of rearing their heads come tournament time, and usually with severe effect. While their regular season is comparatively quiet, the likes of Hobart, Union, and St. Lawrence are often some of the best in the nation. Not too much is different this term. Hobart has stolen much of the headlines from the Liberty League, but St. Lawrence enters every match with some of the richest history in Div. III soccer. They will take that into their weekend matches with Vassar and Rennselaer. With a modest 3-2 record, St. Lawrence will always be a contender for the post-season. Their 5-1 demolition of Elmira last week is only a glimpse of St. Lawrence's potential. Union will enter conference play with a 4-1-1 record, while Hamilton remain undefeated with a 3-0-2 record. With the exception of Skidmore (3-3-2), every team sits above .500 win percentage, promising this year's Liberty League to be among the most enticing to monitor. Both Union and Hamilton will kick off conference play tomorrow night in a head-to-head showdown.
With the introduction of Stevens Tech into the Empire 8, former powerhouses Ithaca and Nazareth have taken a back seat, but both teams have demonstrated talent, competitiveness, and the occasional deep run into the tournament in spite of living in Stevens' shadow. This year, however, Ithaca have mustered only one win; that coming just two days ago against Marywood. Following suit, Nazareth has posted a single win on the season, losing three consecutive matches following their lone win. In attempt to maintain a glimmer of hope for the remainder of the season, Nazareth played No. 8 Rochester to a draw on Tuesday. Nazareth kicks off conference play with fellow bottom-feeders Ithaca this weekend. Utica, on the other hand, enters conference play against a competitive Alfred (4-2-2) this Saturday with a 6-1 record, and looks to continue in their excellent form.
While Christopher Newport maintains the No.2 spot in the rankings, North Carolina Wesleyan, Greensboro, and Methodist all boast programs with rich tradition in the USA South. N.C. Wesleyan now sits on a 6-3 record after storming through its first five matches. The latest match was a tough 1-0 loss to Virginia Wesleyan last night. Greensboro managed just one win in its first six matches, but has since recovered winning their last two matches against Guilford and Warren Wilson. Saturday will be a true test of strength as they play the high-flying Emory on the road. Averett will open conference play with an excellent 6-2 overall record, with one of those losses dealt by Emory. They may experience deflation this Saturday as they open conference play against Christopher Newport.