October 31, 2010

Otterbein rolls; power from the CCIW, NJAC

The much-heated contention among the NJAC teams continued yesterday, but in definitive manner with the conference quarterfinals getting underway.  With the two top teams, The College of New Jersey and William Paterson receiving byes for their regular season exploits, Richard Stockton played New Jersey City, and Rowan played Kean for the rights to advance to the tournament semi-finals.  The top seeds claimed much anticipated victories, pitting three top ten teams in the nation against one another from here on out.

Stockton left it late in their match, but nonetheless, grabbed an 81st minute goal to seal the deal after an absolute domination.  Rowan scored two goals in two minutes midway through the first half to cruise past Kean to set themselves up with an enticing semi-final.  On Wednesday, No. 9 Rowan will do battle with No.23 Paterson, while No.14 will battle against a talented Stockton team for a spot in the championship.  The reality of the potential circumstances is that all three top-ranked teams will find themselves competing in the national tournament, but still, no one wants to find their destiny in the hands of the selection committee, particularly William Paterson, who is a borderline team regionally.  A shock win from Stockton could condemn one or two of the NJAC stalwarts to an early exit from post-season.

The CCIW concluded its regular season in normalcy: Wheaton taking the title.  Regardless, the CCIW boasted the toughest conference of the year with Augustana, Illinois Wesleyan, and Wheaton all ranked in the top eight for the better part of the season.  Wheaton claimed the top spot, Illinois Wesleyan hammered down the number two spot after their victory over Carthage this afternoon, while Augustana finished third.  None of that really matters for the latter two, as they will face-off for the semi and the possibility of facing Wheaton again in the final for the automatic berth into the national tournament.

The ODAC kicked-off this weekend with Lynchburg and Roanoke taking firm control.  Seeded at the top, and ranked 18th in the nation, Lynchburg dismantled Guilford 9-0 en route to an easy quarterfinal win, while Roanoke held little back in their 6-1 thrashing of Randolph-Macon. Virginia Wesleyan were also big winners, defeating Eastern Mennonite 4-1, while Washington & Lee defeated Bridgewater 2-1.  On Tuesday, W & L will be forced to do battle with the deadly Lynchburg, while Virginia Wesleyan and Roanoke will vie for a spot in the conference championship.  While not as competitive as its men's counterpart, there is no doubt to the NESCAC's competitiveness.  Today, the conference quarterfinals ensued, and Tufts fell hard.  After a scoreless match with extra time, Bates was able to find their edge in pks, and condemned Tufts to an early exit.  It will be hard for Tufts to prove to the selection committee their worth following the loss.  The other top seeds spared their blushes with wins, as Amherst defeated Bowdoin, Middlebury defeated Trinity, and Williams stomped Wesleyan. Conference play continues on Saturday with Bates taking on Middlebury, and Williams facing Amherst.

With Alma landing the regular season title in the MIAA, and No.15 Calvin finishing runner-up, the conference tournament started this weekend by granting these two a rest.  In the quarterfinals, Kalamazoo downed Albion by a 3-0 margin, and Adrian cruised past Olivet 2-0 to send themselves to the semi-finals.  On Tuesday, Alma will face Adrian, while Calvin plays against Kalamazoo.  Without a tournament to decide the automatic qualifier, the UAA, the SCAC, and NWC send their regular season champions.  In the UAA, it is a no-contest, as Chicago has clinched the AQ into the national tournament.  No.10 Emory, who drew with No.24 Rochester on Friday sits at second, and will be forced to put leave their fate in the hands of the selection committee.  In the NWC, No.16 Puget Sound is currently at the top, three points adrift second place Whitworth.  Conference action continues on Friday with Puget Sound playing 4th place Pacific, and then on Saturday to conclude the season against 3rd place Linfield.  Although both matches will do much to test Puget Sound's stranglehold on the conference, a double-win will place them in the national tournament.

In the SCAC, No. 7 Trinity used a double-win this weekend against Sewanee and Ogelthorpe to establish themselves at the top of the tables and three points clear with two games left. It won't be an easy finish, however, with No.25 Centre hot on their heals.  In the remaining games, Trinity will be forced to carry on the same potency against current third place, DePauw on Friday, and current second place Centre, as Centre looks to upend their conference rivals to land the AQ. In the CAC quarterfinals, Salisbury claimed a 1-0 victory over York, while Saint Mary's defeated Mary Washington 3-1.  Conference semi-finals will continue on Tuesday, with Salisbury taking on top-seed Stevenson, and St. Mary's facing Frostburg State.

Today began the quarterfinals for the GNAC, with top seed Suffolk succumbing to Emmanuel's heroics.  Top seeds Norwich, St. Joseph and Lassell were all winners in their matches with their  lower seeded opponents, but it was Emmanuel who pulled off the shock win against Suffolk to book a place in the semi-finals.  They will take on 4th seed Norwich, while St. Joseph and Lassell with battle in the other semi.  Earlier this afternoon, Husson used an own goal to seal an eventual 2-0 win against Maine-Farmington in the North Atlantic Conference, and will face Castleton on Friday for the championship. Castleton upended Johnson State 3-1 for the win.

In other news this weekend, Messiah and Otterbein continued in their devastating form, while Hardin-Simmons gave no mercy in their slaughterings of East Texas Baptist (5-0) and LeTourneau (9-0).  After a slew of large-margin victories, No. 1 Messiah found a tough defensive opponent in their bitter-rivals Elizabethtown as they were only able to bag two goals from 24 attempts.  Forget any offensive threat from Elizabethtown, as Messiah held them to just one lone shot on the evening.  An early goal kept nerves calm for an uncommonly misfiring Falcons, but an 82nd minute goal from Naeher ensured Elizabethtown would not be coming back.  Otterbein won in an encounter not as close as Messiah's, as they dealt Mount Union a 3-0 loss as they prepare for their post-season tournament.

In their 15th shutout of the season, Otterbein dominated the match to clinch their place at the top of the OAC.  Hardin Simmons demonstrated why they may be the best this year as they continued to run riot on their opponents, particularly in conference.  Nonetheless, the ASC should provide an enticing showdown between Hardin Simmons and UT-Tyler, who is second with an 11-2 conference record.  Conference play begins on Friday.  Cal-Lutheran solidified their place at the top of the SCIAC with a vital win against 2nd place Occidental, while Eastern Connecticut State landed the regular season Little East Conference title with a 3-1 win over Plymouth State.  Eastern Connecticut State is still undefeated, and will look to carry on their dominant form into the semi-finals on Thursday.  Loras were also big winners against Buena Vista by an 8-0 margin to top the IIAC.  In the lone top 25 upset of the weekend, UW-Stevens Point concluded an excellent season in poor fashion, losing to UW-Eau Claire.  While Stevens Point maintained a slight advantage throughout the match, Eau Claire forced the match into extra time, where a deflection from a corner doomed Stevens Point to just their second loss of the season.

Jim Matson, Christan Shirk, Ryan Harmanis, and other staff writers and contributors help cover the games and results across the nation.

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