Conference Championships set to shape Pool C heading into selection Monday
Cover photo by Caleb Williams, d3photography.com
By Ryan Harmanis, D3sports.com
With only two days remaining before Selection Monday, Saturday sees several Top 25 teams in action. If we consider Pool C to only include only the NCAA regional rankings, we already have 26 teams anxiously waiting to discover their postseason fate (listed by regional ranking):
New England Region: (2) Brandeis (13–4–1); (3) Gordon (18–2); (10) Nichols (12–2–5); (11) Tufts (8–5–2).
East Region: (4) Oneonta State (10–4–5); (5) Brockport State (11–2–5); Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (11–5–2); (8) Union (12–3–2); (9) Vassar (8–5–5).
Mid-Atlantic Region: (1) Messiah (18–1–1); (4) Catholic (12–5–2); (5) Misericordia (13–5–1); (6) Eastern (14–4–1); (7) Scranton (10–3–4).
South Atlantic Region: (2) Montclair State (15–3–2); (5) TCNJ (12–6–2).
Great Lakes Region: (3) Oberlin (13–3–4); (5) DePauw (14–2–3); (8) Denison (11–4–3).
Central Region: (2) North Park (11–5–3); (4) Elmhurst (11–4–3); (5) Chicago (9–5–2).
North Region: (4) Gustavus Adolphus (13–3–1); (6) Luther (14–6–0); (7) St. Olaf (14–4–1).
West Region: (3) Texas-Dallas (12–1–6).
The University Athletic Association’s automatic bid goes to its regular-season champion, and heading into today #11 Carnegie Mellon (11–2–2, 2nd in Great Lakes), #14 Rochester (12–2–2, third in East) and unranked Emory (11–5–1) all sport identical 4–1–1 conference records. Should both Carnegie Mellon and Rochester win, the key tiebreaker will be goal differential, with Rochester currently having a slight edge, plus-6 to plus-4. Although Carnegie Mellon, Rochester and #22 Brandeis (13–4–1, 2nd in New England) are all probably safe Pool C teams, Emory is not regionally ranked and could steal a bid with a win against Carnegie Mellon coupled with a Rochester draw or loss at Case Western.
In the CCIW, #13 Wheaton (15–3–2, 1st in Central) will host Carthage (13–6–1, 3rd in Central). Bubble teams will hope Carthage does not flip the script from its 2–1 loss at Wheaton a month ago, as Wheaton would be assured an at-large bid while Carthage would be firmly on the bubble. If Carthage hopes to pull off the upset, it will likely need a big performance from super-sub Michael Dombrowski (13g, 2a), who is second in the CCIW in goals scored despite starting only two of Carthage’s 20 games thus far.
In the Empire 8, #4 Stevens (15–1–1, 1st in East) will be looking to continue its domination in a rematch with Utica. Having lost 3–0 in the previous match-up, Utica (10–9) knows its only route to the NCAA tournament is through a victory today. On paper this is a lopsided matchup, as Utica failed to put even a single shot on target in the first meeting. However, Lycoming’s result against #1 Messiah showed that no team is safe, and bubble teams will surely be rooting hard for Stevens this afternoon.
Similarly, the 26 teams above would welcome a victory by #18 St. Lawrence (14–2–2, 2nd in East) over Skidmore (12–5–2, 7th in East). The Liberty championship features a chance for St. Lawrence to avenge one of its two losses on the season after Skidmore took the regular season meeting 1–0, on the road no less.
The MIAA will see its two traditional powerhouses will collide as Calvin (14–5, 6th in Central) hosts Hope (16–4–1). The teams split the regular-season series, as Calvin rolled 5–1 at home in September before Hope returned the favor 3–1 a month later. Despite a gaudy record and an important 2–1 win over #13 Wheaton, Hope has remained unranked and thus the winner of today’s game is likely to be the MIAA’s only NCAA participant.
In the MIAC, St. John’s shocking upset of top-seed Gustavus Adolphus gives it the opportunity to be another bracket buster if the Johnnies (9–6–3) can pull off another improbable win at Carleton (14–2–3, 5th in North). Carleton will look to improve upon its performance in the previous matchup, a 1–1 draw, in order to avoid a long 36 hours in Pool C waiting for the selection show.
Finally, in the Great Lakes region #2 Ohio Wesleyan and Kenyon should meet in the NCAC championship with the knowledge that both teams should see the NCAA tournament regardless of the outcome. The same cannot be said for the OAC matchup between Ohio Northern and John Carroll. Only a year removed from its first Final Four appearance, Ohio Northern (17–3, 6th in Great Lakes) will be in serious danger of missing the tournament altogether unless it can dial up a repeat of its 2–1 victory over John Carroll (15–3–1, 7th in Great Lakes). The strength of the NCAC (four teams in the top five of the Great Lakes region) will probably limit the OAC to a single bid, making this afternoon’s game even more intriguing.