October 24, 2019

Zinn's Contenders - Late October

By Matthew Zinner

For the first time in the glorious history of this column, a new team sits upon the throne. This was no peaceful transition. This was a cataclysmic shift between two of the biggest rivals in D-III soccer. In the most consequential Massachusetts battle since Paul Revere stumbled out of the Ole North Church, Amherst emerged victorious. And while the Mammoths currently seem irresistible, there are 20 teams out there that would love a shot at them.

Title Favorites

1. Amherst Late-September:   No. 2  |  11-0-2 (.923)  |  34 GF / 9 GA

Before I get into my description of Amherst, I want to briefly draw attention to an underappreciated aspect of their rivalry with Tufts. For the last five years, the two top teams in the NESCAC have played annually for the Moe Zeidan cup. Moe was a member of the Amherst soccer team before attending Medical School at Tufts. Tragically, Moe’s life was cut short in a bike accident during his last year of medical school. Now each year, the two teams play to honor his memory and love of competition, with the winner taking home a trophy.

Now, not to completely sing my own praises, but those of you with photographic memories will remember that I was high on this team coming into the year. What I did not expect was German Giammattei to pick up Nick West’s mantle as the clear top attacking player in the country as a sophomore. With my extensive reporting and inside sources, I have heard NESCAC coaches refer to the striker as the best player to play in NESCAC during the last ten years. It is frightening to think he will be wearing purple for two more full years. But to limit this team to just his abilities would be unfair. Long maligned for their style of play, this Amherst squad is supremely talented and tries to get it down on the turf more than their predecessors. This team will be the favorite going forward and will have to be knocked off at home; otherwise Greensboro awaits.

2. Calvin Late-September:   No. 3  |  16-1 (.941)  |  61 GF / 13 GA
  Calvin is quietly assembly another incredible season. After losing to Ohio Wesleyan during the first weekend of the year, people questioned if the Knights would take a step back after the departure of an incredible senior class. Well, 15 straight wins should shut the up the haters. Once again boasting arguably the top offense in the country, this team will be looking to go one step further and lift the gold and oak.
3. Tufts Late-September:   No. 1  |  9-2-2 (.769)  |  30 GF / 9 GA
  If adversity makes you stronger, then a lot of adversity makes you superman?? After an incredible 30 game unbeaten streak, Tufts suffered a shock midweek defeat to Babson, which was more reminiscent of the program’s midweek struggles during the 2015 and 2016 seasons. However, that blip was compounded by a supremely disappointing one point weekend away against Amherst and Hamilton. Tufts actually played quite well at Amherst, before losing their focus off the opening kickoff of overtime. Luckily for the Jumbos, the scheduling gods brought the alumni back to campus for homecoming and a massive game against Connecticut College. With a little extra motivation and crowd support they took care of business 2-0 in a game where the Camels never threatened. Tufts is going be alright and now doesn’t quite have the same target on their backs.
4. Messiah Late-September:   No. 4  |  12-2-2 (.813)  |  29 GF / 10 GA
  Like Calvin, Messiah has largely flown under the radar after some early season stumbles. But the Falcons are once again putting together an excellent season while getting healthier as the year progresses. Unlike the classic Messiah squads, this year’s edition has not been blowing teams off the field. Instead, they have managed games and excelled when things get tight. This experience will be invaluable come tournament time and has helped guide them to 3 straight 1-0 wins.
5. Chicago Late-September:   No. 12  |  8-1-5 (.750)  |  24 GF / 9 GA
  How often have we seen teams written off after losing a star player, only to go on and surpass expectations in their absence? This year’s Washington Nationals immediately spring to mind, reaching their first World Series after the acrimonious departure of Bryce Harper. Chicago is hoping to do the same after reaching the Final Four on the backs of the most accomplished front three in their program’s history. However, without the previous three UAA Players of the Year, the Maroons are 4-0 in UAA play and a virtual lock for another tournament appearance. This team has plenty of players that know how to win and will expect to reach Greensboro again.
6. Johns Hopkins Late-September:   No. 11  |  11-2-1 (.821)  |  28 GF / 12 GA
  While Johns Hopkins hasn’t been quite as prolific as in seasons past, the wins have kept flowing. And the win over Franklin & Marshall shows this team could be capable of something special. The Blue Jays have come close to a real signature win the last couple of years, falling in penalties to Tufts in the 2017 Sweet Sixteen, blowing a two-goal lead to Messiah last year, but now they finally have it. To win on the road against a top 5 team shows they are capable of beating anyone on their day. Now it is about doing it six times in a row.

Title Contenders 

7. Franklin and Marshall Late-September:   No. 8  |  12-2 (.857)  |  26 GF / 10 GA
  I admittedly do not know much about this Franklin and Marshall team other than what the statistics show. But heading into their high-profile matchup with Johns Hopkins, they were arguably the hottest team in the country, winning 11 straight in this year’s incredibly talented Centennial Conference. I think the next few games will be very illuminating about this team’s postseason chances. All week they built up the game against Hopkins as the biggest game of the year. And they lost. At home. Who cares…I want this team to show it has what it takes and to produce a statement performance this weekend on the road. If they can respond from adversity and come together as a team, they are going to be a very difficult out, come November.
8. Kenyon Late-September:   No. 6  |  12-1-2 (.867)  |  40 GF / 12 GA
  It shows how far the program has come that Kenyon would have expected to go into Ohio Wesleyan last week and emerge with a win. Instead, they fell to two consecutive 1-1 draws before righting the ship their last time out. I think the biggest issue the Lords are going to face this postseason is completely beyond their control. Due to the geographic nature of the D-III tournament, it is almost guaranteed they will have to beat either Chicago or Calvin if not both to reach Greensboro. It is certainly not impossible they do just that, but it won’t be easy.
9. John Carroll Late-September:   No. 5  |  12-2-2 (.813)  |  32 GF / 15 GA
  After emerging battle-tested from their brutal non-conference slate, John Carroll has largely taken care of business in the Ohio Athletic Conference. With three conference games left, JCU is the presumed favorite in the division and should enter the postseason with a ton of momentum. I am still concerned by the number of goals they have conceded, but this team is going to have a lot of experience to draw on and knows exactly what the best teams in the country look like. I still like this team as a sleeper to emerge from a stacked midwestern bracket.
10. RPI Late-September:   No. 24  |  13-1-1 (.900)  |  37 GF / 15 GA
  If you thought this RPI team would be sitting in the top 10 after their 3-0 hammering by Dickinson to end August, I don’t believe you. In fact, at the start of the year, I wouldn’t have even been able to spell R-P-I. But this team has emerged from a resurgent Liberty League to cement themselves as one of the real title favorites. They are by no means a flat track bully, wins over Williams and Oneonta State show that the Puckman (excuse me, the what? I thought Jumbos was odd but come on.) are for real. Never underestimate a team that knows how to win games.

Dark Horses 

11. Oneonta State Late-September:   No. 7  |  13-2 (.867)  |  37 GF / 11 GA
12. Connecticut College Late-September:   No. 15  |  8-3-2 (.692)  |  29 GF / 11 GA
13. Ithaca Late-September:   No. 10  |  11-2-2 (.800)  |  31 GF / 10 GA
14. Washington and Lee Late-September:   No. 14  |  10-2-3 (.767)  |  37 GF / 11 GA
15. Penn State-Behrend Late-September:   No. NR  |  15-1 (.938)  |  51 GF / 12 GA
16. Roanoke Late-September:   No. 19  |  12-1-3 (.844)  |  37 GF / 9 GA
17. Ohio Wesleyan Late-September:   No. 25  |  10-3-3 (.719)  |  28 GF / 8 GA
18. Christopher Newport Late-September:   No. NR  |  10-2-3 (.767)  |  33 GF / 11 GA
19. Mary Washington Late-September:   No. 16  |  11-3-2 (.750)  |  36 GF / 7 GA
20. Middlebury Late-September:   No. 9  |  7-1-5 (.731)  |  23 GF / 6 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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