September 4, 2012

Labor Day Weekend Flybys

By Christan Shirk

In what may or may not be a regular feature this season, we will run down a variety of results from across the nation, "flybys" if you will, with comments that hopefully are informative, insightful, and interesting.  The intent is to give snapshots of the D-III soccer landscape, covering top teams and important high profile matches but also going off the beaten path as much as possible as we criss-cross the country.

• Congratulations to Christopher Newport and Carnegie Mellon for putting together strong, competitive opening weekend tournaments.  The Captains hosted defending champion Ohio Wesleyan, York (Pa.), and Virginia Wesleyan.  The Tartans hosted Stevens, Hobart, and Baldwin Wallace.

• In one of the best opening day match-ups, DePauw edged Hope 3-2 in double overtime after an own goal cancelled DePauw’s 2-1 advantage in the second half.  The NCAC #2 DePauw upset Ohio Wesleyan in their conference final last year, but lost 8 starters to graduation, including their top scorers, entire back line, and All-American goalkeeper.  Hope on the other hand returned 7 starters but lost 3 of their 4 best players from the squad that made a run to the Elite 8 last season before being outclassed by the eventual champions.

York (Pa.) opened impressively on the road at the Christopher Newport tournament, trouncing Virginia Wesleyan on Friday night, 5-1, before edging their hosts 2-1 on Sunday.  The opening win was made all the more impressive when Virginia Wesleyan beat the defending champion Ohio Wesleyan 3-0 the next day.

• Coming off an uncharacteristic sub-.500 season, Carnegie Mellon started strong in their own tournament with wins over Hobart (3-1) and Stevens (1-0), both tournament teams a year ago and ranked preseason by the NSCAA. 

• In their opener, Trinity (Tx.) had their chance to exact some measure of "revenge" against Texas-Tyler who dumped them out of the NCAA's last November and did just that in a 4-1 home victory.  All five goals were scored in an eleven-minute stretch starting 19 seconds before half-time through the 10:42 mark of the second half.  Texas-Tyler lost two All-Americans, including a Defender of the Year, but the Tigers lost an All-American of their own.

• When’s the last time a national champion went winless in their first two games the following season?  Not sure it’s ever happened before now* with Ohio Wesleyan returning from the Christopher Newport tournament with a competitive tie against the host and a humbling 3-0 loss to Virginia Wesleyan. With graduation losses, a bumpy start isn’t surprising, but the 3-0 scoreline in the loss is—most of the turnover from last year was on offense, not defense.  (* - hasn’t happened in the past 14 years; beyond that the archives are incomplete but no instance found.)

• On the second night of their road trip, 2011 semifinalist Oneonta St. did enough to escape with a 0-0 tie against Messiah.  While out-played from half-time forward, great goalkeeping and help from the woodwork on a few occasions enabled the Red Dragons to avoid an 0-2 start after Friday's 2-1 loss to Franklin & Marshall.  While they did lose 7 starters to graduation, returning players represent 39 of their 55 goals in 2011 and they looked the part of a Top 25 team playing their second game in as many days on opening weekend.

Neumann, the shock winners over Messiah in last year's tournament, has put together a very strong non-conference schedule.  After 1-0 and 2-0 road wins down in Virginia against Lynchburg and Roanoke this weekend, they still face Stevenson, Gettysburg, York (Pa.), Richard Stockton, Johns Hopkins, and Swarthmore.  Very courageous of the up-and-coming program. 

Berry, a school in its fourth and final transitional year to Division III and a founding member of the new Southern Athletic Association (SAA), is the surprise winner of Ramapo’s President’s Cup.  Wins over the host (1-0) and Rowan (2-1) has the Vikings at 2-0.  Of course, they also won the Piedmont Tournament with a pair of opening weekend victories last season before slumping to 5-6-2 the rest of the way.

• Watch out for Muhlenberg's Cody Antonini.  After a one-year absence, the two-time All-American midfielder is back for a final campaign and is wasting no time, literally, making his mark.  Lined up as a forward, Cody scored just 65 seconds into the new season against visiting Elizabethtown and then needed just 12 seconds to get in the scorebook against Cortland State on Saturday. The Mules won both games and Cody has 3 goals to his name already.

Dickinson vs. Catholic on Saturday represented the coaches’ pre-season picks to win the Centennial and Landmark conference.  Dickinson are the reigning Centennial champions while Catholic only captured the regular season title in 2011 after back-to-back Landmark championships.  Ian Smith twice gave Catholic the lead only to have Jamie Martin twice equalize for Dickinson.  Host Catholic had placed twice as many shots on target (8 to 4) and earned more corners (8 to 3) in regulation, but that mattered not in extra time when Dickinson needed just 72 seconds to find the net for the road victory.

Oglethorpe, one of 2011's biggest surprises, has ten starters back and started with two wins (3-1 at home over Kean, 7-1 away to Brewton-Parker). In their final season in the SCAC they went undefeated in conference play (unbalanced schedule meant they avoided Trinity) and won the SCAC tournament. 

Nazareth posted a 2-0 mark on opening weekend in interesting and exciting fashion.  At home versus SUNY-Canton they twice opened leads only to concede equalizers before netted two unanswered for a 4-2 final score.  The first goal came just 62 seconds into the season; the game’s other five goals came after intermission.  Against a tougher opponent, Nazareth opened a two goal advantage before allowing Brockport St. to equalize and then scored the game’s final two goals for another 4-2 win.  Their first goal came with 33 seconds remaining in the first half followed once again by five in the second half.  Nazareth’s Luke Elston netted twice in each game for four total goals scored.

• Lotto Classic host St. Lawrence won both of their matches for a 2-0 start and their All-American playmaker Sam DeMello has already made his mark on the young season. His two direct free kick goals opened the scoring in the 3-0 win over Endicott Friday and his touch pass three minutes into Saturday’s match versus LaVerne set-up the opening goal of a 2-0 victory.  Granted, the opposition wasn’t the stiffest, but given the graduation loss of two 2011 All-Americans in defense (back and goalkeeper), the Saints will be happy to have kept two clean sheets with just two and zero shots on goals allowed.

Randolph, one of the surprises of the 2011 post-season, has stumbled out of the gate despite returning ten starters, including All-American forward Corey Sindle.  Last November the No. 4 seeded Wildcats came back from 1-0 deficits in four straight games to capture the ODAC championship and then shook-up the NCAA tournament when they upset Christopher Newport in the first round and took Texas-Tyler to overtime in the Sweet 16.  All this in just the fifth year of the program’s existence!  Opening weekend, rather than a continuation of the storybook 2011 campaign, has been a dose of reality with a 1-1 draw against Averett and a 2-0 loss at Greensboro.  If 2011 is anything to go by, they will surely bounce back and make some noise again this season.

• In a match-up of two of the Central Region's top programs, Dominican "stole" one from visiting North Park, scoring with 24 seconds remaining in the second overtime period on their only shot of extra time after being outshot 16-4 to that point (also SOG 6-2, corners 10-5).  Dominican went the full 110 minutes two days earlier in a fairly evenly played 1-1 tie at Chicago.  Performance-wise, not the best of starts for the Stars, but they didn’t suffer a loss against two quality opponents.

• There was a lot of experience on the sidelines when Brandeis and Keene St. squared off Sunday in the Keene State Tournament.  Michael Coven in his 40th season as the Brandeis head coach and Dr. Ron Butcher in his 43rd as the Keene St. head coach are the second and third longest tenured coaches in Division III men’s soccer.  Butcher, also with two seasons guiding UW-Platteville, had 578 career victories entering the new season, good for 3rd all-time in Division III men’s soccer.  Coven, who coached Brandeis to the 1976 national championship and four ECAC New England titles, including the last two, entered the season with 441 careers wins, 9th all-time.  In this encounter, Coven’s Judges would prevail 4-0 to spoil the Owl’s party.

• When Trinity (Tx.) hosted Willamette on Labor Day, both squads were playing their third game in four days to open the new season (as did Southwestern).  Not sure how much you can read into Willamette’s results*, but the middle-of-the-table NWC team lost 4-1 to better-than-average ASC school Mississippi before tying SCAC’s Southwestern 2-2 and taking SCAC’s Trinity (Tx.) to overtime at 2-2 before falling to a sudden-victory goal.  Sure, Willamette was outplayed, but not bad at all for a third road game in four days against a national power playing at home.  (* - just seeing if the ASC and SCAC fans are awake!  Can’t forget that Trinity did beat ASC top-dog Texas-Tyler 4-1 and Mississippi 4-0.)

• Paced by Carnegie Mellon’s two big wins over Hobart and Stevens and Chicago’s tough 1-1 draw against Dominican, the University Athletic Association (UAA) conference teams as a whole got off to a flying start with a combined 12-2-2 record.  Five of the eight teams went 2-0.

• The SUNYAC got off to a rough start going a combined 5-14-1 over the Labor Day weekend.  Only Plattsburgh St. came out unscathed, and they had two easy games.  The Liberty League, on the other hand, had a great weekend posting a composite 12-3-2 mark.


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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 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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