October 2, 2019

Zinn's Contenders - Late September

By Matthew Zinner

We are back with the third edition of Zinn’s contenders. We are approaching the halfway point of the season and teams are beginning to solidify their positions. Since the last poll, the traditional powers have started to reassert themselves. I also think the top tier is once again beginning to separate themselves from the pack. Last year around this time, many fans were confident we would be treated to a Tufts, Messiah, Calvin, Chicago Final Four. Messiah fell one match short, but otherwise the midseason favorites were all able to handle their business. This time around I think there is a clear group of about seven teams that are favorites to make it Greensboro. So given my history, we now know exactly which seven teams won’t be there.



Title Favorites

1. Tufts Mid-September:   No. 1  |  7-0-0 (1.000)  |  23 GF / 3 GA
  Since the last edition, Tufts has put together two dominant wins, 6-0 vs Wheaton (Mass.) and 4-0 vs Colby, and a narrow win, 1-0 (2OT) against Bates. The most significant indicator of Tufts’ success is that through seven games their leading scorer is junior Alex Ratzen, nominally the third striker. Ratzen is a player that would start or compete for the job at probably any other NESCAC school. That type of depth is what has fueled the Jumbos run the last five years. They should take care of business against Wesleyan midweek and the line against Trinity (Conn.) this weekend is Tufts (-6.5).
2. Amherst Mid-September:   No. 2  |  6-0-2 (.875)  |  20 GF / 4 GA
  Amherst has now played all the top teams on their schedule sans Tufts. Apart from the regular season game of the year, Amherst will be favored in every match the rest of the way. Striker German Giammattei is putting together a historic season with ten goals in eight games. First-year Ignacio Cubeddu was very highly touted entering this season and was recently inserted into the starting lineup. He rewarded that decision with the game-winner vs rival Williams. Another name to keep an eye on for the Mammoths.
3. Calvin Mid-September:   No. 3  |  10-1 (.909)  |  34 GF / 10 GA
  I have been high on Calvin all year, and the results are finally starting to match up. After the early season defeat to Ohio Wesleyan, the Knights have won nine in a row including the massive win over Chicago. Like all Calvin squads, this team can score goals in bunches, but in the absence of Trent Vegter the defense has leaked goals this year. That won’t cost them in the regular season, but it could be something to keep an eye on come tournament time.
4. Messiah Mid-September:   No. 14  |  6-2-2 (.700)  |  16 GF / 7 GA
  This is not an overreaction to the defeat of John Carroll. Having them as low as 14 was an overreaction to the start of the season. Luke Groothoff is back, and shockingly, is still good at soccer. Once again, this team has not had the fourth-best season in the country. But name any side other than the top three for a hypothetical Elite 8 matchup, and I’m taking the Falcons.
5. John Carroll Mid-September:   No. 4  |  7-1-1 (.833)  |  18 GF / 12 GA
  I said heading into this brutal stretch that if John Carroll went 2-1-1, they would be in contention for a top seed heading into the NCAA tournament. While they will be disappointed with the result in Grantham, they are a win against Ohio Wesleyan from accomplishing that mark. My only concern with this team is the number of goals they are conceding. The teams that have made it all the way to the top in recent memory have built off a solid defensive foundation. For John Carroll to reach that level, they will need to shore up the defensive side of their game.
6. Kenyon Mid-September:   No. 8  |  9-1-0 (.900)  |  30 GF / 8 GA
  Kenyon is one narrow loss against John Carroll away from being probably the consensus No. 2 team in the country. Despite the loss to their in-state rivals, the Lords are doing what they do every year. Racking up regular season wins and doing it in impressive fashion. The question surrounding this team is the same as every other season…They are one of the top ten teams in the country, but can they be one of the top four?
7. Oneonta State Mid-September:   No. 5  |  8-1-0 (.889)  |  24 GF / 7 GA
  The Red Dragons slipped up against Rensselaer with a 2-1 (OT) loss, but apart from that have been nearly perfect. I want to take a second to appreciate the career of Senior Wittman Hernandez. The forward is off to a hot start with 10 G and 4 A in nine games. This, however, should come as no surprise, as Hernandez has now cemented himself amongst the elite few that manage to score double-digit goals in all four seasons of their career. This cannot be a big club. And while his career-high for goals is 12 in his Freshmen and Junior years, he is on track to blow those numbers away. This team will go as far as Hernandez can take them.

Title Contenders

8. Franklin and Marshall Mid-September:   No. 13  |  8-1-0 (.889)  |  17 GF / 6 GA
  The Diplomats are quietly having another excellent season. This program simply knows how to win games but does not get the credit it deserves because of their recent postseason history. Wins the past two weeks over Stevens and Haverford are evidence that this will be one of the top sides in the mid-Atlantic. An October 19th date with Johns Hopkins will likely determine who takes home the regular season Centennial crown.
9. Middlebury Mid-September:   No. NR  |  5-0-3 (.813)  |  14 GF / 3 GA
  In the last two weeks, Middlebury has discovered that sometimes you are allowed to kick the ball within the big posts at the end of the field. The downside for the Panthers is they have started to let other teams do the same. That being said, to take four points from a back-to-back against Connecticut College and Amherst is incredibly impressive. There is no harder matchup in the country than Amherst on a Sunday, and Middlebury emerged with a very respectable draw. Their schedule is very favorable over the next stretch, and they could feasibly be undefeated heading into the penultimate game of the season at Tufts.
10. Ithaca Mid-September:   No. 23  |  8-1-1 (.850)  |  24 GF / 5 GA
  With an impressive goal differential and a win over Messiah, Ithaca has done enough to fly up the rankings. However, I am still not entirely sure what to make of a team that can beat Messiah and lose to the Merchant Marine Academy within a week. Since that loss, they have been more consistent with a respectable tie against Cortland State. Their game against Hobart is the most nationally relevant Liberty League regular season game in years. The winner will be sitting pretty in the league and the pool C conversation.
11. Johns Hopkins Mid-September:   No. 6  |  7-2-0 (.778)  |  19 GF / 9 GA
  Hopkins has had a solid but not spectacular start to the season. The struggles of Montclair State have taken away some of the shine from the early season victory. Last weekend they were unable to breakdown a solid Haverford side, losing 1-0. With their style of play, Hopkins will also always control possession and the flow of the game. But each match will come down to whether they take their chances and limit mistakes. If they do those two things, they can beat any team in the country. If they don’t, they can be extremely vulnerable.
12. Chicago Mid-September:   No. 10  |  4-1-4 (.667)  |  14 GF / 8 GA
  I am going to be honest; I have no idea what to make of this Chicago team. I guess at this point they have been utterly average against the best. So, one could assume that in any given NCAA tournament game they have a 50% chance to win? At this point though, the team needs to find ways to win games. This will be the last time they are rewarded for ties.
13. Hardin-Simmons Mid-September:   No. 12  |  9-0-0 (1.000)  |  23 GF / 7 GA
  We received pretty fair feedback questioning the high rank of Hardin-Simmons. Their early season win over Trinity (Texas) does not seem as impressive as initially thought, and their schedule is not great. But at some point, you have to appreciate a team that wins, especially after having to write about Chicago. I have been a part of teams that start winning, decide it is pretty cool, and do not ever stop doing it. With a school-record nine wins in a row, I like the Cowboys’ chances to keep adding to the W column.
14. Washington and Lee Mid-September:   No. 22  |  7-1-2 (.800)  |  23 GF / 8 GA
  This is the type of team that has had a very solid start to the season and is in a great position to make the tournament, but at the same time does not give me any reason to believe they can challenge for it all. Sure, they beat Brandeis, and if I had done the same thing my Senior year I might have a fourth ring, but this is not the Brandeis of old. And then a 5-2 loss to a Hopkins team that has struggled to score is not a great look. The win over Mary Washington is a great result, but they have tied the other two difficult teams on their schedule in Christopher Newport and Lynchburg. Their ranking here reflects the fact that someone has to come out of the southeast and make a sweet 16 and so far I think they are the best bet.
15. Connecticut College Mid-September:   No. 11  |  5-1-2 (.750)  |  20 GF / 6 GA
  Conn is a team that I initially was going to rank higher until I dove into their actual results. They started well but have failed to win their last three games. What happened? They actually played decent teams for the first time. Don’t get me wrong, they played an excellent match at Amherst and were a minute away from a massive resume-building win. But last weekend they conceded two goals to an offensively anemic Middlebury side and then failed to score against Williams. This team has struggled to score against the upper-end NESCAC sides and most likely will do so come tournament time. It's hard to win six games in a row 1-0.

Dark Horses

16. Mary Washington Mid-September:   No. 16  |  6-1-2 (.778)  |  15 GF / 3 GA
17. Cortland State Mid-September:   No. 7  |  6-2-1 (.722)  |  17 GF / 10 GA
18. Hobart Mid-September:   No. NR  |  8-2-0 (.800)  |  17 GF / 7 GA
19. Roanoke Mid-September:   No. NR  |  7-0-2 (.889)  |  23 GF / 3 GA
20. Rochester Mid-September:   No. 25  |  7-2-0 (.778)  |  16 GF / 7 GA
21. Rowan Mid-September:   No. 9  |  5-1-3 (.722)  |  20 GF / 12 GA
22. Mount Union Mid-September:   No. 24  |  6-1-1 (.813)  |  11 GF / 5 GA
23. Loras Mid-September:   No. 21  |  9-1-1 (.864)  |  36 GF / 6 GA
24. RPI Mid-September:   No. NR  |  8-1-0 (.889)  |  22 GF / 9 GA
25. Ohio Wesleyan Mid-September:   No. 17  |  5-3-2 (.600)  |  12 GF / 7 GA


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Zinn's Contenders


Zinn's Contenders is an attempt to project the current year men's national champion based on a combination of facts, opinion and a bit of insider's knowledge. 


Matthew Zinner

Matthew Zinner was a four year member of the Tufts Men’s soccer team winning two national championships in 2014 and 2016. After graduation he spent one year as a member of the coaching staff, winning a third national championship. After five years of division III soccer, Matthew hung up the boots to attend medical school. With his abundant free time, he is still an avid follower of Tufts and DIII soccer as a whole.

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