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.

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W:
7:00 PM
Eastern at Neumann
W:
7:00 PM
Wilkes at Marywood
W:
7:00 PM
LaGrange at Birmingham-Southern
W:
7:00 PM
Emory at Sewanee
Live Stats Video
W:
7:00 PM
Our Lady of the Lake at Trinity (Texas)
Live Stats Video
W:
7:00 PM
Texas-Dallas at LeTourneau
W:
7:30 PM
Albertus Magnus at Eastern Connecticut
Live Stats
W:
7:30 PM
Manchester at Trine
Live Stats
W:
7:30 PM
Yeshiva at Lehman
W:
7:30 PM
York (N.Y.) at SUNY-Maritime
W:
7:30 PM
Oberlin at Case Western Reserve
Live Stats Video
W:
7:30 PM
Kenyon at Ohio Northern
Live Stats
W:
7:30 PM
Wooster at Mount Union
W:
7:30 PM
York (Pa.) at Ursinus
Live Stats Video
W:
7:30 PM
Rhode Island College at Elms
Live Stats
W:
7:30 PM
Gettysburg at TCNJ
W:
8:00 PM
Fontbonne at Franklin
Live Stats
W:
8:00 PM
Randolph at Ferrum
W:
8:00 PM
Smith at Simmons
Live Stats
W:
8:00 PM
Benedictine at Illinois Tech
W:
8:00 PM
Macalester at UW-Stout
W:
8:00 PM
University of Dallas at Texas-Tyler
W:
8:00 PM
Calvin at Wheaton (Ill.)
Live Stats Video
W:
8:00 PM
UW-Whitewater at Illinois Wesleyan
W:
8:00 PM
Howard Payne at McMurry
W:
8:00 PM
Whitman at Col. of Idaho
W:
8:00 PM
Master's at Pomona-Pitzer
Live Stats Video
W:
8:30 PM
Hardin-Simmons at Southwestern
Live Stats Video
W:
8:30 PM
Washington U. at Greenville
Live Stats Video
W:
8:30 PM
Aurora at North Central (Ill.)
W:
8:30 PM
Principia at St. Louis College of Pharmacy
W:
10:00 PM
UC Santa Cruz at Cal Lutheran
Live Stats
W:
10:00 PM
San Diego Christian at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps
Live Stats
W:
10:00 PM
Corban at Willamette
Live Stats Video
W:
10:00 PM
Vanguard at La Verne
W:
10:00 PM
Pacific at Warner Pacific
W:
10:30 PM
Marymount (CA) at Occidental
Wednesday, Sep. 2: All times Eastern
M:
4:00 PM
Kean at SUNY-Old Westbury
Live Stats
M:
4:00 PM
Massachusetts Maritime at Becker
Live Stats
M:
4:00 PM
Colby-Sawyer at Daniel Webster
M:
4:00 PM
Mount St. Vincent at John Jay
M:
5:00 PM
Concordia-Selma at Concordia-Chicago
Live Stats Video
M:
6:00 PM
Farmingdale State at Baruch
M:
6:00 PM
Regis (Mass.) at Emerson
Live Stats Video
M:
6:00 PM
Moody Bible at Lake Forest
M:
6:30 PM
Northwestern (Minn.) at St. Thomas
Live Stats
M:
7:00 PM
Wheaton (Mass.) at Wentworth
Live Stats
M:
7:00 PM
Bethany at Frostburg State
M:
7:00 PM
Summit at Penn College
M:
7:00 PM
Staten Island at SUNY-Purchase
M:
7:30 PM
SUNY-Maritime at Vassar
M:
7:30 PM
Brooklyn at Rutgers-Newark
M:
7:30 PM
York (N.Y.) at TCNJ
M:
8:00 PM
Pine Manor at Rivier
M:
8:00 PM
Milwaukee Engineering at UW-Whitewater
M:
8:00 PM
St. Katherine at Chapman
Live Stats Video
M:
9:00 PM
La Verne at George Fox
W:
3:00 PM
Carleton at Whitworth
Video
W:
4:00 PM
Montclair State at Mount St. Vincent
W:
4:30 PM
Vermont Tech at Lyndon State
W:
5:00 PM
Worcester State at Wheaton (Mass.)
Live Stats
W:
5:00 PM
Greensboro at Hollins
Video
W:
5:00 PM
Spalding at Earlham
W:
5:00 PM
MacMurray at Stephens
W:
5:00 PM
Eastern Oregon at Mills
W:
6:00 PM
Rutgers-Newark at Brooklyn
W:
7:00 PM
Becker at Massachusetts Maritime
Live Stats Video
W:
7:00 PM
Salem State at Endicott
Live Stats
W:
7:00 PM
Wells at Hartwick
W:
7:00 PM
St. Mary's (Ind.) at Bethel (Ind.)
W:
7:00 PM
Unity College at Thomas
W:
7:00 PM
Vassar at Mount St. Mary
Live Stats
W:
7:00 PM
St. Joseph's (L.I.) at William Paterson
W:
7:00 PM
New Jersey City at FDU-Florham
W:
7:30 PM
Thiel at Hiram
W:
8:00 PM
Hamline at UW-River Falls
W:
8:30 PM
Grinnell at Wartburg
W:
10:00 PM
UC Santa Cruz at Whittier
Live Stats Live Stats Video
Thursday, Sep. 3: All times Eastern
M:
3:00 PM
Lincoln Christian at Eureka
M:
4:00 PM
Chicago at Olivet
Live Stats
M:
4:00 PM
William Peace at West Va. Grace
M:
4:00 PM
Delaware Valley at Penn State-Abington
M:
4:00 PM
Anna Maria at Nichols
Live Stats
M:
5:00 PM
Salve Regina at Johnson and Wales
Live Stats
M:
6:00 PM
Whitman at University of Dallas
M:
6:00 PM
Whitman at University of Dallas
M:
7:00 PM
Emmanuel at Curry
Live Stats
M:
7:30 PM
Principia at Rose-Hulman
Live Stats
M:
8:00 PM
Pacific Lutheran at Texas-Tyler
M:
8:00 PM
Robert Morris-S'fiel at Greenville
M:
10:00 PM
La Verne at Willamette
Live Stats Video
W:
12:00 PM
Pacific Lutheran at St. Thomas
Live Stats
W:
3:00 PM
St. Thomas Aquinas at Ramapo
W:
4:00 PM
Framingham State at Bay Path
W:
4:00 PM
Clark at Nichols
Live Stats Video
W:
4:00 PM
Western Connecticut at Western New England
W:
4:30 PM
Valley Forge at Notre Dame (Md.)
W:
5:00 PM
Lincoln Christian at Eureka
W:
5:00 PM
Belhaven at Mississippi College
W:
6:00 PM
Faith Bapt. Bible at Iowa Wesleyan
Live Stats
W:
6:00 PM
North Central (Minn.) at Bethel
W:
6:00 PM
Rhodes at Christian Bros.
W:
6:00 PM
Trinity Lutheran at Linfield
W:
7:00 PM
Wentworth at New England College
Live Stats Video
W:
7:00 PM
Curry at Mount Ida
W:
7:00 PM
Suffolk at WPI
Live Stats
W:
7:00 PM
Salve Regina at Mass-Dartmouth
Live Stats Video
W:
7:00 PM
RPI at Rutgers-Camden
W:
7:00 PM
MIT at Emmanuel
Live Stats
W:
7:00 PM
Hope Int'l at Chapman
Live Stats Video
W:
8:00 PM
Huntingdon at Judson (AL)
W:
8:00 PM
Monmouth at Millikin
W:
8:30 PM
Redlands at Pacific
Live Stats Video
No contests today.
No contests today.