September 10, 2016

Week 1 Flybys

By Christan Shirk

Harking back to the Flyby columns of yesteryear, this is a special edition of a few random notes, observations, insights, and factoids from the first week of action.

  The new men's team at New Rochelle has written a great opening chapter for their history book with a debut 3-0 win at John Jay followed by a 3-1 victory versus Southern Vermont in their inaugural home match. Congrats to the Blue Angels and their coach Nate Kalin who came to New Rochelle after three years at Mount St. Vincent where he took a team that had gone 6-29-4 in the previous three years and produced two winning season and a 33-22-2 overall record in his short stint. At 2-0-0, a third victory without a loss is quite possible as New Rochelle plays Albany Pharmacy Saturday.

  Another debut men's team, St. Elizabeth, also kicked off their inaugural campaign with a win, however, they did so without even having to break a sweat. The Eagles were credited with a 1-0 forfeit victory over York (N.Y.) who failed to show for the game by 30 minutes after the schedules kick-off. The chance to match New Rochelle's 2-0-0 start comes Saturday when Bryn Athyn comes to Morristown, NJ. [CORRECTION: I had originally stated that St. Elizabeth had defeated visiting York (N.Y.) 1-0 when in fact no game was played. Having been corrected by a reader, I must embarrassingly and humbly confess to assuming the reported score represented a game played, and did not make the minimal effort to learn more about the game before including it in my column. My apologies.]

  What a juxtaposition of results for Rhode Island at the Roger Williams' opening weekend tournament! On Saturday the Anchormen lost 0-2 to Clark (25-42-5 over the last four years) before reversing the score line in a 2-0 Sunday win over Montclair State (72-15-5 over the last four years). Soccer game be such a funny, fickle game.

  At 4-0-0, Grove City are off to their best start since 1996 when they opened with seven straight victories.

  Sewanee, the University of the South, is another team off to a 4-0-0 start, the first time they've managed that feat since 2001 when they claimed the SCAC title and a place in the NCAA tournament in coach Matt Kern's last year guiding the Tigers.

  Also out of the gate with four straight wins—the first three by shutout, a school first—is New Jersey City, who has already doubled their win total from the past two seasons combined! It's their best start since 2001's five-win opening that led to twelve wins in their first thirteen games and an eventual trip to their first-ever NJAC championship final. That break-out season wasn't completely unexpected as Coach Kevin East, a national champion goalkeeper and Final Four defensive MVP with Kean in 1992, had engineered a marked improvement since taking over three years prior. The 2001 squad was entirely of his own making and molding and ushered in the best spell in Gothic Knights' history that would last for seven years—one past East's departure for Rutgers-Newark where he similarly turned a losing program into a nationally relevant one. NJCU would also finally make the NCAA tournament under East and again the year after he left, but have now failed to even qualify for the conference tournament the past seven seasons. Given the starting point and the weak opposition to date—their four opponents went a combined 26-38-3 last season—it's way too early to think a return to the heady days of the early- to mid-90's is on the cards, but just maybe for a second time a former NJAC standout player can guide the Gothic Knights back to respectability and competitiveness. First-year head coach Joe Cullen was an All-American midfielder for Montclair State and ironically was a member of the squad that defeated NJCU in the NJAC final and again in the NCAA Sweet 16 (3-2 in overtime) in 2007 to keep the Knights' best ever season from being even better. If not for the Messiah juggernaut, Cullen very well may have been a national champion like Kevin East, as Montclair State was 21-0-0 before falling to the Falcons 1-0 in a tight double-overtime Sweet 16 match in 2008.

  Claremont-Mudd-Scripps' perfect 4-0-0 start under second-year head coach Matt Edwards was never accomplished in the previous 13 years with Dan Calichman at the helm despite numerous succesful seasons.

  When Ohio Northern play on Saturday it will be their sixth game in ten days to open the season! So far, so good with five wins and three shutouts, and with a win expected against Mount St. Joseph, they should enter their intrastate clash with Ohio Wesleyan next Wednesday undefeated at 6-0-0. The Polar Bears snapped a seven-game losing streak against the Bishops last year, but this season's tilt is at Roy Rike Field. Ohio Northern has lost their last three matches there after claiming a 1-0 victory in 2008.

  Endicott's surprise win over Tufts on Tuesday could prove to be best opponent they have ever defeated, but we'll have to wait and see how Tufts does over the course of the season. The bar isn't set that high as the top contenders for that distinction would probably be WNEC in 2009 and Brandeis in 2004. WNEC would reach the second round of the NCAA tournament that year (eliminated on PK's) and finish 16-5-4, but at the time of the game they were 3-3-0 with Endicott handing them their fourth loss with a double-overtime winner, the game's lone goal. Brandeis went 9-10-0 in 2004 and were in the midst of a barren spell with seven losing seasons in eleven years from 1999 to 2009.

  Newbury's 1-0 upset of MIT on Wednesday certainly represents the biggest name the Nighthawks have ever knocked off as the NECC school's 23 out-of-conference victories since 2003 have not come against anyone of note. The win also gives Newbury a 4-0-0 record, their best ever start to a season.

  Gustavus Adolphus stumbled to three straight losses before getting their first win of the campaign midweek. The last time the Gusties started so poorly was 1996 when they opened 0-4-0 being outscored 9-1 and two games later were 1-5-0. With a long road trip to Maryland to play in the Seahawk Classic against the host St. Mary's (2-0-1) and Salisbury (1-0-0), this year's squad could find themselves carrying that same 1-5-0 mark back to Minnesota.

  The NJAC went 6-0-0 on opening day and are 26-8-1 going into Saturday.

  It's been fourteen straight losing seasons at Clarkson in which double-digit loses has become the norm and a half dozen wins a rarity. But the Golden Knights were eight minutes from opening the season undefeated in their first four matches. First they claimed a pair of victories in their own tournament, one coming against the usually competitive SUNYAC side Brockport State. Then they almost managed a tie from their home encounter with Plattsburgh State, extending the scoreless game into double-overtime before succumbing to their third-year coach's alma mater. Friday night in their third straight game against SUNYAC opposition, Clarkson appeared headed for overtime again in a goaless stalemate with Geneseo State, but pipped the win just over two minutes from time to improve to 3-1-0. There's a long way to go to complete their first winning season since 2001, but three from four to open the campaign will help and it's believed that the former Plattsburgh standout Chris Taylor has the Knights moving in the right direction.

 


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Christan Shirk

 

Christan Shirk is a Messiah College graduate (1993, Civil Engineering) and has been a keen and passionate observer of D-III soccer for over a decade. Never more than a rec-league player himself, Chris brings an analytical approach and nationwide perspective to D3soccer.com. He loves D-III soccer history, statistical number-crunching, and off-the-radar action, all of which he gladly shares with his readers when he's able to find time to write.

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