The NCAA championship finals brought the 2018 season to a close Saturday night. After over 4,300 women's matches, including conference tournaments and the ECAC and NCAA tournaments, our panel of voters evaluated the women's teams one last time and submitted their final ballots. Neither of the two remaining undefeated (and perfect) teams entering the tournament could avoid their first loss of the season, and the NCAA champion carried a loss and four ties with them into the final. That combined with the inevitable upsets, misfortunes, surprising runs, and disappointing exits did not make our panel's job easy.
There was little to separate the top three teams, but NCAA champion Williams gain the top spot ahead of Washington U. in the closest-ever tally for the final No. 1 ranking in the ten-year history of our women's Top 25. Williams (19-1-4) claimed back-to-back titles, and three of the last four, when they won the penalty kick shootout over Middlebury (19-2-4) in the final after trading 1-0 wins with their NESCAC rivals in conference play. Washington U. (21-1-1) entered the tournament with a perfect record despite playing one of the five toughest schedules in the nation. Despite picking up their lone loss in the national semifinals, some voters still believe six wins over Top 25 teams, 12 wins over regionally ranked teams and third lowest goals allowed average (GAA) make the UAA champions the best team of the 2018 season. The other semifinalist, Christopher Newport (21-2-0), and one-loss Messiah (19-1-2) round out the top five.
Lynchburg (20-3-3) gets the biggest boost from the NCAA tournament, jumping from No. 17 to No. 9 following their run to the Elite 8 that including advancing past Messiah, one of the favorites, on a Sweet 16 penalty shootout. William Smith (17-3-1) also moved into the Top 10 with an undefeated Elite 8 run that ended with a shootout loss to the eventual champions. First round tournament wins help No. 24 Illinois Wesleyan (14-5-2) and No. 25 Loras (17-4-0) back into the rankings while first round losses cost Rowan (13-4-2) and Brandeis (12-5-0) their places.
|December 4, 2018
Through games of Sunday, December 2, 2018