October 9, 2015

2015 Midseason Flyovers

By Christan Shirk

Harking back to the Flyby columns of yesteryear, this is a special midseason Flyover edition. Rather than focusing on individual matches as did the Flybys, we'll take a broader overview of some of the trends halfway through the season.

What a difference a year makes

 48 men's and 52 women's teams have already eclipsed their win total from a year ago.

 30 men's and 29 women's teams are sporting a winning percentage at least .300 percentage points better than last year.

 The Knox women are sporting the biggest turnaround from last year. Under 2nd-year head coach Paul Lawrence, the Prairie Fire are well on their way to the program’s first winning season in twenty years and likely best season ever. And it’s being done with a roster of 30 newcomers (28 first years) and just six returning players, none seniors. It’s very similar to their men’s turnaround a few years ago. Matt Edwards, now in his first year at Claremont Mudd-Sripps, took over the men’s program in 2012 and in his second year lead the Prairie Fire to their first winning season in over twenty years and their first-ever berth in the MWC playoffs. Last year they finished atop the conference standings with their best ever season.

 Another noteworthy U-turn is being carried out by the Whittier women who could only muster 1 victory in 2014 (1-17-1) and 2013 (1-18-0), but have grabbed 7 wins in their first 10 matches. That’s their most wins since 2003, an anomaly of a season in which the Poets toped the SCIAC with a 10-6-2 record (their only winning season I can find going back to 2000) and their lone appearance in the NCAA tournament. Other major improvements by women’s teams include:

Coe opened with 8 straight wins and only needed ten games to eclipse last year’s win total (9-10-0). At 11-1-0, the Kohawks are well on their way to their first winning season since 2002 (10-8-0) and best season since 1998's IIAC-title-winning campaign,

Notre Dame (Md.), at 7-2-0, is making last year's 2-14-0 campaign a distant memory.

Trinity (D.C.) has already tripled their 2014 win total with a 6-3-0 record coming on the heels of a 2-12-1 season.

Chatham's 5-2-0 start represents more than twice the victories from a year ago (2-15-0).

 One of the bigger turnarounds by a men’s team, and certainly the most visible, is that of nationally ranked Denison whose 9-0-1 season comes on the heels of a 8-8-1 campaign in 2014. Other major improvements by men’s teams include:

Concordia (Texas) is 8-1-0 after going 4-9-3 in 2014

Eureka has forgotten their 1-16-0 record a year ago with a 5-4-0 start this year

Finlandia sits at 7-1-0 just a year removed from a 6-9-0 mark

Penn State-Altoona has turned last year's 4-14-0 record into 7-3-1 this season

New Paltz State have reversed fortunes to the tune of 8-4-0 after a 4-12-2 season

Wentworth are 9-3-0 after going 4-8-5 last year.

Yeah, what a difference a year makes

 On the other hand, 31 men's and 37 women's team have already lost more games through five and a half weeks than they did all last season.

 Many are well aware of the stumbles and struggles of some of the big men’s names:

Messiah: 3 losses already after just one in 2014

Tufts: 3 losses, 1 tie for the 2-loss 2014 champion

Wheaton (Ill.): three losses, two ties already for last year’s runner-up

St. Lawrence: two losses, two ties already—exactly their totals from all of 2014

Oneonta State: two losses in first two weeks versus one total last year

But Muhlenberg men's woes are worse yet, however, languishing at 3-5-1 after a 15-2-3 run to the Sweet 16 last fall.

 In 2014, North Central (Ill.) men posted their third winning season in four years after eleven non-winning seasons, but at 1-10-0 that trend will not continue.

 The state of Connecticut is home to two of last year’s surprise teams who have come crashing down in a big way in 2015. The men of the Coast Guard had a near program-best 13-3-3 campaign last year and a rare tournament appearance and now this year, at 3-9-0, are on pace for the program's worst ever mark. The Connecticut College women, after nine straight losing season with no more than five wins, set a program record for wins (second best winning percentage) in 2014 when they went 16-3-1 en route to their second-ever NCAA tournament appearance where they went 1-1-0. But this year’s 1-5-3 start is worse than any in those aforementioned nine straight losing campaigns.

 Similarly, the Mount St. Vincent women, who set a program record for wins in 2014 with a 13-4-1 mark, are looking at a reversal of wins and losses as they sit at 1-9-0. Their conference colleagues at St. Joseph's (Bklyn.), 1-7-0 in their fourth season of existence, are finding life a bit more difficult as a first-year member of the Skyline. Last year St. Joseph’s had posted their first winning season (11-5-0).

Under New Management / Return to Greatness on Hold

 The York (Pa.) men’s program was one of the very best for a ten-year stretch from 2004 to 2013 when they averaged 17.5 wins per season (and just 2.7 losses), beat Messiah three straight years (2007-2009), and completed two undefeated season (2006, 2008). Almost all they lacked was a Final Four appearance and national title. Last year, the last under Mark Ludwig’s tutelage, they slipped to 7-6-5 and even missed out on their conference playoffs. At just 4-6-2 under their new coach, a return to national prominence is not going to be immediate.

 Williams has been one of the elite men’s programs during Mike Russo’s 36 years on the sidelines, winning the 1995 national title two years after reaching the final in the first year the NESCAC allowed their teams to participate in the tournament. The Ephs would return to the Final Four four more times before Russo retired following a disappointing, but nevertheless 33rd straight winning, 8-6-2 final campaign. A 3-4-0 record at midseason under a new head coach puts a 34th consecutive winning season in some doubt, nevermind another Final Four run.

Season Opening Streaks (with a few rabbit trails)

 15 men's and 16 women's teams have yet to win this year, ranging from four* to twelve games. (* - yes, the Yeshiva women have only played four games thus far!)

 On the flip side, nine men's teams and thirteen women's teams have yet to taste defeat in 2015. Better yet two men's teams—Franklin & Marshall and Amherst—and four women's teams—Piedmont, McDaniel, Williams, and Swarthmore—remain perfect. This is unprecedented territory for the women of Piedmont, McDaniel, and Swarthmore.

 The oddest undefeated streak to open the current season is the Macalester men’s 6-0-5 start. Last year Brockport State men were 5-0-4 after a month before losing their first October match en route to a 10-4-6 season that ended with a first round NCAA loss. In 2013 UW-Oshkosh men finished September 5-0-4 and while they did not draw another game that year, they did remain undefeated through 19 games, losing for the first time in the WIAC championship game followed by another loss in their NCAA tournament opener.

 Speaking of Macalester’s five early season ties, what’s the record for ties in a season? Well, I can’t find where anyone tracks that, but six ties seems the typical maximum for both men and women. The last time a men’s team had more than six ties was Fontbonne with their 8-5-7 record in 2010. But just two years ago the Philly suburbs had two women’s teams, Arcadia and Cabrini, collected seven ties.

 The Swarthmore women (10-0-0) opened the season with 8 straight shutouts, scoring 51 goals before conceding their first early in game nine to Johns Hopkins. They overturned that deficit for a 2-1 win over their Centennial rivals. Last year was the Garnet's best ever as they participated in the NCAA tournament for the first time after overcoming perennial conference champions, Johns Hopkins, in a penalty shootout in the conference final.

 The reverse of that is Medgar Evers women’s team conceding 78 goals before scoring themselves in their seventh game. Now, ten games into their season, that goal stands as their only tally against 111 allowed. Credit, however, to the Cougars who are preservering as they normally number just 8 or 9 per game, sometimes more, sometimes less.

 The Amherst men opened with the season with 499 shutout minutes, well short of the Swarthmore women’s 725 shutout minutes. It was good for five shutouts to which they’ve added two more. But their seven shutouts are two short of the nine already posted by MIT (in 10 games), Endicott (11 games), Calvin (12 games) and UW-Oshkosh (12 games).

 Ten shutouts have been recorded by five women’s teams, most impressively by TCNJ in eleven games. Trinity (Texas), Piedmont, Wooster and Lynchburg have done so in twelve or thirteen games.

The Top 10 . . . , Statistically Speaking


Offense - Goals per Game: St. Scholastica - 4.82; Westminster (Mo.) - 4.55; Kean - 4.08; Maryville (Tenn.) - 4.00; Montclair State - 3.92; Knox - 3.92; Norwich - 3.73; (tie) Baruch, MIT - 3.60; Findlandia - 3.56

Offense - Total Goals: (tie) St. Scholastica, Kean - 53; 3. Montclair State - 51; 4. Westminster (Mo.) - 50; Knox - 47; Maryville (Tenn.) - 44; Hood - 43; Norwich - 41; Calvin - 40; Rowan - 39

Defense - Goals Against Average: Amherst - 0.21; Calvin - 0.24; MIT - 0.29; Whitworth - 0.29; Occidental - 0.31; St. Lawrence - 0.32; UW-Oshkosh - 0.32; Bowdoin - 0.35; Endicott - 0.36; Franklin and Marshall - 0.36

Defense - Shutout Percentage: MIT - 90%; Endicott - 82%; Amherst - 78%; (tie) Calvin, UW-Oshkosh, Middlebury - 75%; (tie) Trinity (Texas), Franklin and Marshall - 73%; Whitworth - 70%; 7 tied with 67%


Offense - Goals per Game: Swarthmore - 5.80; Penn State-Berks - 5.50; Lehman - 5.40; Staten Island - 5.00; Texas-Tyler - 4.90; Hardin-Simmons - 4.73; SUNY-Old Westbury - 4.60; Chatham - 4.56; Messiah - 4.45; Knox - 4.30

Offense - Total Goals: Penn State-Berks - 66; Swarthmore - 58; Knox - 56; Lehman - 54; Hardin-Simmons - 52; (tie) Texas-Tyler, Messiah - 49; (tie) Augustana, Emerson, McDaniel, SUNY-Old Westbury, Lake Forest - 46

Defense - Goals Against Average: TCNJ - 0.09; Swarthmore - 0.10; Trinity (Texas) - 0.16; Piedmont - 0.17; Rochester Tech - 0.18; Messiah - 0.18; Thomas More - 0.19; Texas-Tyler - 0.20; Lynchburg - 0.23; Illinois Wesleyan - 0.24

Defense - Shutout Percentage: TCNJ - 91%; Swarthmore - 90%; (tie) Trinity (Texas), Piedmont, Wooster - 83%; (tie) RIT, Messiah - 82%; (tie) Pacific Lutheran, William Smith, Texas-Tyler, Thomas More - 80%


Comments or feedback for the author?  E-mail Christan Shirk.

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 D3soccer.com. 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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