October 26, 2012

MIAC women conference tourney toss-up

Annie Marhula (16) throws the ball in during the first half of Concordia-Moorhead's match against St. Olaf on Oct. 20. The Cobbers defeated the Oles 6-0 clinching the MIAC regular season championship. Everything else is up for grabs.
Photo by Ryan Coleman, d3photography.com

By Matt Higgins

The final day of the 2012 MIAC women's soccer regular season will certainly be exciting, with six teams all fighting for the final three spots in the conference's postseason tournament. At this point, only conference champion Concordia is a lock as the No. 1 seed, setting up a drama-filled final day.

Saint Benedict, Augsburg, Bethel, St. Olaf, Macalester and St. Thomas enter their regular season finales all with legitimate playoff aspirations. At this point the Blazers have the inside track on a bid, as they currently sit in second with 19 points, while the Auggies, Royals and Oles are in a three-way tie for third at 17 points. The Scots are a point behind with 16, and the Tommies are still within striking distance at 14 points.

Track Saturday's MIAC scores on the Women's Scoreboard

What makes this scenario particularly intriguing - and difficult to predict- is that only two of the six teams play each other on the season's final day. This means that each team has three potential results (win, loss, tie) and all the different combinations of those potential results create a vast array of tournament scenarios. Bethel and St. Thomas will square off, with the Tommies needing a win to get to 17 points and stay in the conversation. Meanwhile, the other four teams will face opponents who are already either in or out.

If St. Thomas were to beat Bethel, Macalester were to tie, and the other teams with 17 points lost Saturday, there could be a five-way tie for third place. There are also numerous four- and three-team ties that could result from Saturday's outcomes. Add in all the potential head-to-head ties that also exist, and at this point it's basically impossible to predict how the final three seeds of the postseason tournament will shake out.

Kajsa Brindley (4), Rachel Saunders (5) and Amanda Leone (19) and two other Oles attempt to defend a direct kick in the first half of Oct. 20 loss to Concordia-Moorhead.
Photo by Ryan Coleman, d3photography.com

There are a few points of clarity. A Saint Benedict win Saturday, which will be a tall order against conference-champ Concordia, would assure the Blazers of the No. 2 seed and the right to host one of the two semifinal matches. Also, Macalester must win or tie at Gustavus on Saturday to stay in the hunt. A loss would eliminate the Scots from contention, and even with a win or a tie, they'd likely need help, as Macalester's only win among the group is against the Auggies, giving them an uphill battle in most of the tie-breaker scenarios. Also, St. Thomas needs a win over the Royals to stay in the conversation; a Bethel win or a tie would take the Tommies out of the picture.

The three teams currently tied for third - Augsburg, Bethel and St. Olaf -could remain tied if all have the same result Saturday. In that scenario, Bethel would be in bad shape, as the Royals lost to the other two, while Augsburg and St. Olaf both beat the Royals, and tied in their own regular season meeting. In that case, the Augggie/Ole tie would come down to the third or fourth tie-breaker criteria, and would depend how the other matches/seeds shake out.

All the questions should be answered by 6:00 p.m. Saturday, as most of the matches across the league start at 1:00 p.m., with Augsburg hosting St. Mary's at 3:00 p.m. in the final match with tournament implications. The 1:00 p.m. matches impacting the postseason are Concordia at Saint Benedict, Bethel at St. Thomas, Carleton at St. Olaf, and Macalester at Gustavus.

Rachel Nelson (13), Olivia Muyres and a teammate celebrate their final goal in their 3-0 defeat of Hamline on Oct. 19.
Photo by Ryan Coleman, d3photography.com

There is no doubt that Saturdaywill be an exciting day both on and off the pitch; scoreboard watching will be prominent around the league. Follow the action on the MIAC's scoreboard at www.miacstats.com.

The 2012 MIAC women's tournament begins on Wednesday, Oct. 31, with a pair of semifinal matches. No. 1 Concordia will host the fourth seed, while the No. 2 seed will host No. 3 in the other semifinal. The championship will be played Saturday on the home field of the top remaining seed, and the tournament champ will receive the MIAC's automatic bid to the 2012 NCAA Division III Women's Soccer Championship. For complete details on the conference tournament, visit the MIAC home page at miac-online.org.

Matt Higgins works for the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference

No contests today.
No contests today.
No contests today.