November 18, 2013

The Anatomy of an upset: Rose-Hulman downs #1 Ohio Wesleyan

By Ryan Harmanis, D3soccer.com

Rose-Hulman celebrates their goal against Ohio Wesleyan on Sunday.
RHIT athletics photo

Upsets. One of the great aspects of sports is the potential for surprise: the amazing play, the “you just had to be there” game, and above all, the upset. Upsets draw attention because, as the saying goes, “everyone loves an underdog” (except, of course, those on the receiving end). Regardless, upsets are a given. They are even more commonplace in soccer, where the low-scoring nature of the game makes the outcome more volatile and upsets more common.

To place an upset in context, we must first characterize its nature. One end of the spectrum is the “perception” upset: the perceived gap between favorite and underdog never really existed in the first place, and thus what we thought was an upset was simply a true reflection of reality. The other end of the spectrum is pure luck: the underdog rides a perfect storm of circumstance to a victory that would likely never repeat itself.

Most upsets fall somewhere in the middle, including Rose-Hulman's (12–5–5) shocking 1–0 upset over previously unbeaten and top-ranked Ohio Wesleyan (19-1-3). So, with the tournament’s biggest surprise as our backdrop, let’s examine the ingredients of an upset.

The History: While the teams were unfamiliar with one another, the history of the situation was a common one. Rose-Hulman hails from the HCAC, home to 2009 Elite Eight participant Transylvania.  Including Sunday’s match, HCAC teams have now dealt Ohio Wesleyan three of its last six tournament losses. Perhaps the conference slate leads to a style of play built to win these games, but in any event the template was there for an HCAC win.

The Background: Teams playing after a bye often struggle; this makes four out of the past five seasons where at least one bye recipient has lost. More specifically, Ohio Wesleyan has struggled with byes. Despite winning the 2011 title with a bye, the Bishops lost in 2009 after giving up only two regular season goals and in 2005 after posting a perfect 20–0 record. There is just something about these games that leads to upsets, and OWU has proven particularly susceptible to them.

The Buildup: An NCAA second-round game, with the favorite receiving a bye and the underdog having already won a tournament game on the road. The favorite is off the normal midweek-weekend game schedule, while the underdog has already tasted NCAA play. Here, Rose-Hulman advanced in the tournament for the first time in program history only three days earlier. The confidence stemming from such an experience cannot be overstated.

The Pressure: All of it fell on Ohio Wesleyan: an early exit in 2012, a senior-laden team with a championship pedigree, a home game with a bye. Rose-Hulman had nothing to lose, as the team’s stated goal was to simply advance in the tournament. Rather than be satisfied, the Engineers embraced the underdog role and decided to continue a magical run.

The (Flawed) Perception: If you simply look at records, Rose-Hulman hardly has the resume of a Sweet 16 team. At 11–5–5, the Engineers had barely won more than half of their games against a relatively weak schedule. Look closer, however, and you can see the framework for a dangerous team capable of beating anyone. A stingy defense with more shutouts (12) than goals against (11) would be difficult to break down. A seemingly impotent offense (only 37 goals) boasted a 15-goal scorer and would be able to take advantage of any defensive lapses. This dangerous combination would lead to a Sweet 16 berth.

The Favorite’s Weakness: Ohio Wesleyan trailed in six games and nine other times allowed teams to draw even after taking the lead. It used on a potent offense and an open style of play, often relying on the second half to put teams away after lackluster first halves. In a tight game against a team content to sit deep and defend, the Bishops couldn’t adjust.

The Weather: Days of rain muddied the field and slowed Ohio Wesleyan’s speed advantage and combination game. Facing an opening 45 minutes against the wind, Rose-Hulman knew that if it survived unscathed it would be able to take advantage of the conditions in the second half. The Engineers went even further, scoring against the wind and then using it to clear the ball time and again in the second half to put the game to bed.

The Early Goal: If the favorite scores an early goal, the underdog often struggles to come back.  Similarly, if the underdog scores but is quickly pegged back, the same result follows. However, scoring early gives the underdog belief and something to protect while relieving the pressure of needing a goal. Simultaneously, the pressure builds on the favorite as the game drags on. Here, Rose-Hulman scored a quality goal five minutes in and visibly grew in confidence as the game progressed, while OWU simply ran out of ideas.

Luck: No team goes far in the NCAA tournament without it. In just the past three seasons the champions have had the rub of the green: 2012 Messiah beat York in penalties, 2011 Ohio Wesleyan came from two down with 15 minutes to go in the Sweet 16, and 2010 Messiah benefitted from an egregious missed call that denied Lynchburg the title. In similar fashion, Rose-Hulman was lucky to see multiple shots from OWU cannon off the post on Sunday.

Stout Defending: The biggest surprise was not the final score, but the manner in which Rose-Hulman won. After withstanding Ohio Wesleyan’s first-half barrage, most assumed it would be business as usual following the break. Rose-Hulman had other ideas, as strong centerback play led the way in keeping the Bishops from registering a single shot on goal in the second half. This is even more impressive considering the Engineers failed to register a single attack of note in the last 85 minutes of the game. While Ohio Wesleyan was certainly off, the bulk of the credit rightfully goes Rose-Hulman for its defensive effort, as it looked comfortable for the entire second half.

The Bottom Line: While an upset often involves elements of luck, circumstance, and even an “off day” from the favorite, more than anything it requires a special performance. Rose-Hulman put forth such a performance on Sunday, using the best defensive effort seen at Roy Rike Field in recent memory to deservedly advance. The Engineers got their goal and seemingly said, “Our defense is good enough to win this game from here.” As it turns out, they were correct.

Friday, Aug. 29: All times Eastern
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Trinity (D.C.) at Gallaudet
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Guilford at North Carolina Wesleyan
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Hope at Wheaton (Ill.)
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6:00 PM
Lebanon Valley at Franklin and Marshall
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Wilmington at Rose-Hulman
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6:00 PM
MIT at Brandeis
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6:00 PM
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6:00 PM
WPI at Southern Maine
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6:00 PM
Thomas More at Wittenberg
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6:00 PM
Christopher Newport at Emory
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6:00 PM
Clark at Wentworth
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St. Norbert at Milwaukee Engineering
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6:00 PM
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Concordia-Chicago at Crown
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6:00 PM
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UW-Eau Claire at Hamline
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7:00 PM
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Southern Virginia at Lynchburg
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John Carroll at Centre
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Emory and Henry at Maryville (Tenn.)
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William Smith at Gettysburg
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7:00 PM
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Becker at Maine Maritime
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7:30 PM
Ohio Wesleyan at Case Western Reserve
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7:30 PM
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8:00 PM
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8:00 PM
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8:00 PM
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8:00 PM
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8:30 PM
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8:30 PM
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9:00 PM
Grace (Ind.) at Bethany Lutheran
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Puget Sound at Chapman
Saturday, Aug. 30: All times Eastern
M:
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Shenandoah at Cabrini
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Cazenovia at TBD
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TBA
Wesley at TBA
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TBA
Manhattanville at Frostburg State/Juniata
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TBA
TBD at Hiram
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TBA
Marymount at TBA
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TBA
Baldwin-Wallace at TBA
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TBA
Mass-Dartmouth at TBD
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TBA
Mass-Boston at Roger Williams University/Thomas College (Maine)
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TBA
Husson at TBD
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TBA
New England College at Nichols
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TBA
Juniata at TBD
M:
11:00 AM
Thomas at Roger Williams
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11:00 AM
Trine at New Jersey City
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11:30 AM
Massachusetts College at Johnson State
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12:00 PM
Hilbert at TBA
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12:00 PM
Merchant Marine at Staten Island
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12:00 PM
Patrick Henry at St. Mary's (Md.)
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12:00 PM
Westfield State at Western New England
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12:00 PM
Otterbein at La Roche
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12:00 PM
New Paltz State at SUNY-Old Westbury
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12:00 PM
CCNY at Mount St. Vincent
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12:00 PM
Emmanuel at Wentworth
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1:00 PM
Daniel Webster at Emerson
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1:00 PM
Ithaca at Oneonta State
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1:00 PM
Franciscan at Westminster (Pa.)
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1:00 PM
Potsdam State at Fitchburg State
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1:00 PM
Coast Guard at Bridgewater State
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1:00 PM
Southern Vermont at Lyndon State
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1:00 PM
Moravian at St. Lawrence
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1:00 PM
Penn State-Altoona at King's
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1:00 PM
Brandeis at Hobart
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1:00 PM
Bethany at Wooster
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1:00 PM
Cortland State at Clarkson
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1:00 PM
Dickinson at Fredonia State
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1:00 PM
Greenville at Anderson
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1:00 PM
Concordia-Moorhead at Carroll
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1:00 PM
Denison at Hendrix
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1:30 PM
Emory and Henry at Earlham
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2:00 PM
William Peace at Warren Wilson
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2:00 PM
St. Vincent at McDaniel
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2:00 PM
Brockport State at Salisbury
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2:00 PM
Alma at Principia
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2:00 PM
Centre at Covenant
M:
2:00 PM
Mitchell at Anna Maria
M:
2:00 PM
Neumann at Scranton
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2:00 PM
SUNY-Purchase at Utica
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2:00 PM
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2:00 PM
Rutgers-Camden at Virginia Wesleyan
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2:00 PM
Green Mountain at Norwich
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2:00 PM
Finlandia at MacMurray
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2:00 PM
UW-Oshkosh at Nebraska Wesleyan
M:
2:00 PM
Illinois College at Iowa Wesleyan
M:
2:30 PM
Kenyon at Carnegie Mellon
M:
2:30 PM
Wheelock at Rhode Island College
M:
2:30 PM
Richard Stockton at Mary Washington
M:
2:30 PM
Cairn at North Carolina Wesleyan
M:
3:00 PM
Geneseo State at Susquehanna
M:
3:00 PM
St. Joseph's (L.I.) at Stevenson
M:
3:00 PM
Piedmont at Marietta
M:
3:00 PM
St. Joseph's (Maine) at Wheaton (Mass.)
M:
3:00 PM
Wartburg at Gustavus Adolphus
M:
3:00 PM
Ripon at Lakeland
M:
3:00 PM
Augsburg at Millikin
M:
3:00 PM
Crown at Rockford
M:
3:30 PM
Berry at Hanover
Live Stats
M:
3:30 PM
Washington and Jefferson at Mount Aloysius
M:
3:30 PM
Misericordia at Plattsburgh State
M:
3:30 PM
Maine-Presque Isle at Vermont Tech
M:
3:30 PM
Christendom at Bryn Athyn
M:
3:30 PM
Lasell at Keene State
Live Stats Video
M:
3:30 PM
Salve Regina at Southern Maine
M:
3:30 PM
Washington and Lee at Sewanee
M:
4:00 PM
Kalamazoo at Rose-Hulman
M:
4:00 PM
Newbury at Eastern Nazarene
M:
4:00 PM
Illinois Tech at Waynesburg
M:
4:00 PM
Heidelberg at Adrian
M:
4:00 PM
North Central (Ill.) at Calvin
M:
4:00 PM
Pitt-Bradford at Wells
M:
4:00 PM
TBA at Endicott
M:
4:00 PM
Augustana at Albion
M:
4:00 PM
Central at Minnesota-Morris
M:
4:30 PM
Rutgers-Newark at Emory
M:
4:30 PM
Pitt-Greensburg at Grove City
M:
4:30 PM
Hampden-Sydney at Catholic
M:
5:00 PM
Marymount at Eastern Mennonite
M:
5:00 PM
Kean at Drew
M:
5:00 PM
Randolph-Macon at Lebanon Valley
M:
5:00 PM
Bridgewater (Va.) at Methodist
M:
5:00 PM
TCNJ at Elizabethtown
M:
5:00 PM
Louisiana College at LaGrange
M:
5:00 PM
Centenary (N.J.) at Nazareth
M:
5:00 PM
Case Western Reserve at Lynchburg
M:
5:00 PM
Allegheny at Rochester Tech
M:
5:00 PM
Curry at Western Connecticut
Live Stats
M:
5:00 PM
Houghton/Hiram at Penn State-Behrend
Live Stats
M:
5:00 PM
Widener at Berkeley (NJ)
M:
5:00 PM
John Carroll at Muskegon Community
M:
5:00 PM
Northwestern (Minn.) at Macalester
M:
5:00 PM
Howard Payne at Texas Lutheran
M:
5:00 PM
Bethany Lutheran at Hamline
M:
5:00 PM
UW-Superior at Dubuque
M:
5:00 PM
Occidental at Mary Hardin-Baylor
M:
5:30 PM
Randolph at Johns Hopkins
M:
6:00 PM
Berea at Transylvania
Live Stats
M:
6:00 PM
St. Scholastica at Southwestern
M:
6:00 PM
Northland at Eureka
M:
6:00 PM
Pacific at Northwest (Wash.)
M:
6:30 PM
D'Youville at Keuka
M:
6:30 PM
Medaille at Westminster (Pa.)
M:
6:30 PM
Luther at Marian
Live Stats Video
M:
7:00 PM
Spring Arbor at Olivet
M:
7:00 PM
Greensboro at Guilford
M:
7:00 PM
Brooklyn at New York University
M:
7:00 PM
Ferrum at Southern Virginia
M:
7:00 PM
Messiah at Rowan
M:
7:00 PM
Penn State-Abington at Swarthmore
M:
7:00 PM
Mt. Vernon Naz. at Geneva
M:
7:00 PM
Mount Union at Oberlin
M:
7:00 PM
Spalding at Muskingum
Live Stats
M:
7:00 PM
Ohio Wesleyan at Hope
M:
7:00 PM
Salem State at Gordon
M:
7:00 PM
York (Pa.) at Franklin and Marshall
Live Stats Video
M:
7:00 PM
Franklin at Wilmington
M:
7:00 PM
Hope Int'l at Caltech
M:
7:30 PM
DePauw at Ohio Northern
M:
7:30 PM
Averett at Roanoke
M:
7:30 PM
Capital at Maryville (Tenn.)
M:
7:30 PM
Whitman at Christopher Newport
M:
7:30 PM
Concordia (Wis.) at Elmhurst
M:
8:00 PM
Edgewood at Webster
M:
8:00 PM
Centenary (La.) at East Texas Baptist
M:
8:00 PM
Whitworth at Wheaton (Ill.)
M:
10:00 PM
Arizona Christian at La Verne
M:
10:00 PM
UC San Diego at Chapman
M:
10:00 PM
California Baptist at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps
W:
TBA
Wellesley at TBA
W:
12:00 AM
Drew at TBA
W:
TBA
TBD at Centenary (N.J.)
W:
11:00 AM
Fredonia State at Union
W:
11:00 AM
Maine-Presque Isle at Rivier
W:
11:00 AM
Widener at Swarthmore
W:
11:00 AM
Wellesley at Bryn Mawr
Video
W:
11:30 AM
Western Connecticut at Buffalo State
W:
11:30 AM
Rams Classic at Farmingdale State
W:
12:00 PM
Oberlin at Penn State-Behrend
W:
12:00 PM
York (Pa.) at Rowan
W:
12:00 PM
Neumann at CCNY
W:
12:00 PM
Bay Path at Lasell
W:
12:00 PM
WPI at Me.-Fort Kent
W:
12:00 PM
William Paterson at Stevenson
Video
W:
12:00 PM
Richard Stockton at Ithaca
W:
12:00 PM
Elms at Rhode Island College
W:
12:00 PM
Skidmore at New Paltz State
W:
12:00 PM
Blackburn at Concordia-Chicago
W:
12:00 PM
Crown at Mount Mary
W:
12:00 PM
Finlandia at MacMurray
W:
12:30 PM
Hope at Carthage
W:
1:00 PM
Notre Dame (Md.) at Valley Forge Christ.
W:
1:00 PM
North Carolina Wesleyan at Randolph-Macon
W:
1:00 PM
Pitt-Bradford at Geneva
W:
1:00 PM
Penn State-Abington at Ursinus
W:
1:00 PM
Cazenovia at Baptist Bible
W:
1:00 PM
Salisbury at Washington and Lee
W:
1:00 PM
Bethany at Mount Aloysius
W:
1:00 PM
Eastern Mennonite at Goucher
W:
1:00 PM
McDaniel at Hood
W:
1:00 PM
Keystone at Elizabethtown
W:
1:00 PM
Keuka at Hartwick
W:
1:00 PM
Regis (Mass.) at Massachusetts College
W:
1:00 PM
Pine Manor at Daniel Webster
W:
1:00 PM
Albertus Magnus at Worcester State
W:
1:00 PM
Nichols at Mount Holyoke
W:
1:00 PM
Alverno at Albion
W:
1:00 PM
Fontbonne at Berea
W:
1:00 PM
Covenant at Texas-Dallas
W:
1:00 PM
SUNY-Maritime at Morrisville State
W:
1:00 PM
John Carroll at Transylvania
W:
1:00 PM
Penn St.-Beaver at La Roche
W:
1:00 PM
Dubuque at Lawrence
W:
1:30 PM
Brescia at Earlham
W:
1:30 PM
Arcadia at Haverford
W:
1:30 PM
Emory and Henry at Piedmont
W:
1:30 PM
Eastern Nazarene at Rochester
W:
1:30 PM
Wheelock at Husson
W:
2:00 PM
Manchester at Denison
W:
2:00 PM
Houghton at Grove City
W:
2:00 PM
Albany Pharmacy at SUNYIT
W:
2:00 PM
Catholic at Farmingdale State
W:
2:00 PM
St. Joseph's (L.I.) at FDU-Florham
W:
2:00 PM
Johns Hopkins at St. John Fisher
W:
2:00 PM
Allegheny at Rochester Tech
W:
2:00 PM
Rutgers-Camden at Castleton State
Live Stats
W:
2:00 PM
Oneonta State at Nazareth
W:
2:00 PM
Heidelberg at Waynesburg
W:
2:00 PM
Central at Minnesota-Morris
W:
2:00 PM
Concordia (Wis.) at Lake Forest
W:
2:00 PM
Monmouth at Culver-Stockton
W:
2:00 PM
Williams Baptist College at University of the Ozarks
W:
2:30 PM
Southern Maine at Gordon
W:
2:30 PM
Wooster at Albright
W:
2:30 PM
Baldwin-Wallace at Geneseo State
W:
2:30 PM
Rutgers-Newark at SUNY-Cobleskill
W:
2:30 PM
Calvin at Augustana
W:
2:30 PM
Salve Regina at Keene State
W:
2:30 PM
Alfred St. at New England College
W:
3:00 PM
New York University at Kean
W:
3:00 PM
Meredith at Bridgewater (Va.)
W:
3:00 PM
Austin at Howard Payne
W:
3:00 PM
St. Thomas at UW-Stevens Point
No contests today.
No contests today.