Welcome to Ryan's Ruminations
We’re going to try something new this year at D3soccer.com. For the last few seasons, I’ve been part of a dedicated staff writing weekly recaps on as many relevant games as possible. Thanks to great volunteers, committed editors, and everyone who follows the website, we’ll try to provide just as much coverage for the 2015 season. But we’ll also be posting this weekly column taking a different approach than the more fact-based recaps we’ve traditionally done.
The goal is to provide a change of pace, with more analysis and opinion on major storylines around the country. Division III soccer is difficult to cover—even watching online, you’re hard-pressed to catch more than a few games per week. Throw in family, work, following your favorite school (full disclosure, I’m an Ohio Wesleyan alum) or other interests, and it’s impossible to keep up. We’re often reduced to clicking through scores, trying to compare close wins and bad losses for teams we haven’t been able to watch.
Having said that, we’d like to liven things up a bit. I’ll still hit some weekly recaps here, but for the most part this column will offer more detailed analysis. The scope of the column, to the extent I have one, will include three major categories:
(1) In-depth analysis of the 2015 season – I’ll go beyond the box scores to look at the themes of 2015. Who really looks like a Final Four contender? (So far, Loras, Trinity, Williams, and Carnegie Mellon have the best wins). Who’s been a big surprise? (Looking at you, Eastern Connecticut). In addition, I’ll take a much closer look at a few of the biggest games of the season. Tufts vs. Amherst, Montclair State vs. Oneonta State, Christopher Newport vs. Salisbury, Ohio Wesleyan vs. Kenyon and numerous other big matchups are on the horizon.
(2) Insight into important aspects of Division III soccer – For an up-and-coming team, how should you set up your schedule to get into the NCAA tournament? What’s the strongest conference and does conference strength have any effect on postseason success? College soccer allows player reentry and mass substitutions, and programs such as Messiah and Loras use this as a huge competitive advantage. How does it work, can other teams do the same effectively, and does the NCAA need to change the rule? I’ll dive deeper into some of the bigger questions surrounding D-III soccer.
(3) Fun and compelling stories about players, coaches, teams, and games – From my perspective, this is what D-III soccer is all about. We won’t cover a single player on an athletic scholarship, and only a few have a puncher’s chance at a professional soccer career. Yes, it’s competitive, but most of these student-athletes are playing for the love of the game. That sounds like a cliché, but I truly believe it’s the one area where D-III rises above the other college sports divisions. I’ll try to uncover a few stories showcasing the best of Division III soccer.
Ryan’s Boxscore Top 10
The truth is that college soccer rankings—like the polls in D-I football and basketball—come from looking at box scores. Who won? Who did they beat? What was the score? Who lost a game they shouldn’t have? What were the rankings last week? These are the questions we have to answer with little more than a score and a few stats. So, with the cat out of the bag, I’ll provide a weekly Top 10, with a quick explanation of each team’s spot. And if I’m way off—well, as Dr. Jay Martin once told me after a bad pass, “Don’t worry about it. I made a mistake . . . once.” Until next week:
1. Tufts (0-0-0, D3soccer.com No. 6) – I know, I know, they haven’t even played yet. Until they slip up—and they’ll have plenty of opportunities to do so in the NESCAC—last year’s impressive champs get the top spot.
2. Carnegie Mellon (3-0-0, No. 3) – Nobody has a better win than CMU’s wild 4-3 victory over Messiah. Based on the 35 minutes I caught, Messiah controlled possession but the Tartans were hitting them hard on the break. Carnegie’s lofty position will be put to the test right away, as they visit Kenyon tomorrow.
3. Loras (3-0-0, No. 8) – The Duhawks have notched three good wins, including an impressive 2-0 job over Wheaton (Ill.), last year’s finalist and a heavy pre-season favorite. I’m interested to see how they do away from the Rock Bowl when they visit Chicago (9/16) and DePauw (9/19).
4. Trinity (Texas) (3-0-0, No. 4) – Last year team was the strongest Trinity squad in years, and the always-talented Tigers picked up where they left off, posting a nice win over Brandeis.
5. Williams (1-0-0, NR) – To be fair to the D3soccer.com poll, Williams struggled last year and hadn’t played when ballots were cast. But considering they just comfortably beat experienced 2014 Final Four participant Oneonta State, they crack my top 5.
6. Salisbury (3-0-0, No. 8) – A good win over No. 25 Merchant Marine, but what stands out is a strong performance in defeating a dangerous Rutgers-Camden team. Salisbury has been making noise for a few seasons without a deep tourney run, but they could have an opening in 2015.
7. Ohio Wesleyan (4-0-0, No. 5) – OWU starts out perfect, but was pushed by a talented Kalamazoo team that I expect to make noise in the MIAA. Degree of difficulty increases this weekend as the Bishops visit a Centre team they haven’t beaten in their last two tries.
8. Christopher Newport (4-0-0, No. 1) – Perhaps a bit harsh for D3soccer.com’s top team, but the Captains don’t have a big win to match the top teams (yet). CNU has knocked on the Final Four door often enough in recent seasons to suggest they can open it if they can replace Jalon Brown.
9. Kenyon (3-0-0, No. 9) – It will be interesting to see how a team whose stingy 2014 defense was decimated by graduation holds up against a Carnegie Mellon squad that put four goals past Messiah. Solid early wins, but we’ll know more after the weekend.
10. Eastern Connecticut (3-0-0, No. 13) – Are the Warriors as good as their record suggests? Maybe not, and the box scores (fittingly for this Top 10) hint at a small bit of fortune. On the other hand, the Warriors have already beaten (and more impressively, shut out) two 2014 NCAA squads and a top-five NESCAC team. Fantastic start for a D3soccer.com Top 25 newcomer.
Comments or feedback for the author? E-mail Ryan Harmanis.