Men's Preseason Top 25
Doing meaningful and informed preseason rankings for most if not all Division III sports is a daunting task. While last year's performance and recent seasons, as well as a program's history, can be indicative in a rather general sense, basing a preseason ranking on that alone doesn't seem to be especially insightful or compelling because it does not consider the year-specific variables like losses to graduation (number of players, starters, and specific standout performers), percentage of goals and assists attributable to returning players, class distribution, coaching changes, incoming recruiting classes, and even more nuanced aspects such as positional distribution of lost/returning players. We have attempted to compile and consider data that captures some of these yearly variables. Our efforts aren't perfect, assumptions have to be made, the sources and compilation of the data aren't infallible, and in the end human discernment needs to be employed. Some notes and thoughts about our process, warts and all, can be found at the bottom of this page after the rankings.
But a few introductory explanations, clarifications and comments are warranted before diving into the rankings.
- This ranking and the entire process to develop it was done by D3soccer.com staff, not by our weekly Top 25 panel. This is not a poll.
- The ranking is intended to reflect which teams will be playing the best soccer to open the season, not to predict which teams will be the best come November. Some teams may be expected to start slow and improve over the course of the season, overtaking ranked or higher ranked teams, but this ranking does not attempt to capture that.
- The write-ups about each team serve two purposes. First, to give some insight and basis for why a team is ranked where they are. But secondly, and more importantly, to provide information that can assist you, the reader, in reaching your own opinions or in shaping your own expectations for each team.
- Clicking on a team name will open their 2019 team page; clicking on their 2018 W-L-T record will open their 2018 team page.
- A lot of time and hard work went into developing this ranking—it was a task we took seriously. However, please do not take it too seriously. If it informs, if it entertains, if it spurs discussion and debate, then it has served a noble purpose independent of the quality or accuracy of the ranking itself. That's not intended to ward off your e-mails full of rants and criticism—we love any correspondence that indicates that the website matters to people—but just a recommendation to keep everything in perspective and take it for what it’s worth.
The Top 25
|1.||Tufts||2018: No. 1 | 18-0-3 (.929) | SoS .591|
|Bad news for the rest of Division III: the defending champs have eight of their starters back. It feels like a cop-out to name last year’s title winners as the preseason No. 1 (and, no, we do not subscribe to the thinking that the defending champions are No. 1 until someone knocks them off), but this year it is next to impossible to put any other team in this spot without it feeling completely contrived. Sure, the Jumbos lose an All-American defender and a reliable goalkeeper, but programs as strong and deep as the one Coach Josh Shapiro has built lose top players every year and replace them with top players every year. All-American Joe Braun (10g, 6a) is back to lead the line supported by All-American Gavin Tasker (7g, 3a), Travis Van Brewer (3g, 7a), Zach Lane (5g, 2a), and Brett Rojas (2g, 9a) in midfield. Wow! This could be the best attacking lineup Tufts has ever fielded. And that takes some pressure off a defense that might take some time to get sorted out and settled.|
|2.||Cortland State||2018: No. 9 | 17-3-3 (.804) | SoS .579|
|The Red Dragons outplayed and stymied the defending champion Falcons in the first half of their Sweet 16 match last November and led 1-0 with about 25 minutes left to play. Then defender Dan Figarella left with an injury not to return, and seven minutes later Messiah had the lead en route to a Nick West hattrick and a 3-2 Messiah win. It probably felt very unfair to miss out on the Elite 8 and the chance to play for the program’s first Final Four appearance since back-to-back trips in the late 1970’s. Nevertheless, it showed the progress Cortland had made in seven years under Coach Steve Axtell. The former Red Dragon goalkeeper was hired after three straight sub-.400 seasons and immediately got them over .500 and in year three reached the Sweet 16 where a 6-0 humbling by Messiah showed them that there was still a lot of work to be done. Last year’s heartbreak will serve as extra motivation for a very experienced squad that returns nine starters: five rising seniors and three rising juniors. This includes All-American midfielder Jake Keller (19g, 5a, 6gwg) and returning captains Miguel Tunas (2g, 13a) and defender Nevin Nambiar. The Red Dragons are more than equipped to deal with the loss of All-American Migell Ornsby (12g, 4) and Figarella and are among the teams with realistic title aspirations.|
|3.||Case Western Reserve||2018: No. 7 | 16-4-2 (.773) | SoS .613|
|It hasn't been a continual upward progression for the Spartans under Coach Brandon Bianco; there were back-to-back losing seasons in 2016 and 2017. But with nine starters back from last season's Elite 8 squad, there's reason think that Case Western can be even better this year. Maybe Case Western and Coach Bianco can replicate what happened at Kenyon under Coach Brown where their current run among the nation’s elite programs came on the heels of two mediocre seasons. The Spartans’ 2018 accomplishments came with freshmen and sophomores holding down five of the starting positions, and sophomore Seldon Magruder scored eight goals off the bench, including in each NCAA sectional game. So he may be more than an adequate replacement for the graduated Alex Besl (9g, 3a), but no doubt, All-American Zachary Senft (10g, 8a) and Garrett Winter (9g, 6a) will be expected to lead the offense again. A year older and wiser, the defense (1.01 GAA) should be improved.|
|4.||Montclair State||2018: No. 10 | 18-2-4 (.833) | SoS .564|
|This fall the Red Hawks enter the post-Terci brother era (combined 97g, 65a, 24gwg over seven years), but things are looking very bright for Coach Tim Tumelty’s squad. After back-to-back subpar seasons, Montclair State received no first-place votes in last year’s NJAC preseason coaches’ poll only to exceed outside expectations to the tune of an 8-0-1 conference regular season, the NJAC tournament championship, and an Elite 8 NCAA run. While they lose four starters including forward Rafael Terci (14g, 9a), a team that scored at the fourth-highest clip in Division III can afford to lose some attacking prowess if they can improve on their defense which was among the most porous of Top 40 teams. However, don’t expect an offensive drop-off. Forward Jose Huerta (13g, 4a, 6gwg) is back for a final season, fellow rising seniors Chaz Burnett (14g, 5a) and Nixon Soglo (9g, 3a) were among the team’s scoring leaders in limited minutes off the bench, and six of last year’s freshmen forwards and midfielders combined for 10 goals and 22 assists led by midfield starters Anthony Pelaez (2g, 6a) and NJAC Rookie of the Year Michael Knapp (0g, 5a). On defense, except for a replaceable goalkeeper (96th best save pct.), all the pieces are back from a unit that showed marked improvement over the previous two seasons and have an additional year of experience individually and as a unit.|
|5.||Kenyon||2018: No. 6 | 18-1-3 (.886) | SoS .578|
|The Lords lose a couple of All-Americans in defender Bret Lowery (3g, 2 gwg) and midfielder David Anderson (13g, 2a, 3gwg), but as a perennial Top 10 team under Coach Chris Brown, that comes with the territory and is something they’ve dealt with before. In terms of raw wins and losses, only two or three programs have been as consistently good as Kenyon over the past five years, and there’s no reason to expect that to change in 2019 even though they have five graduated starters to replace. Last year's freshmen class showed a lot of promise off the bench and in starts (20g, 10a collectively), so expect them to add to rising senior forward Phillipe Stengel's production (7g, 5a) to make up for the losses on the attacking side of things. Defense might take longer to reach top form, but their non-conference schedule should challenge them without overwhelming them. Kenyon looks better equipped to deal with their losses and repeat as a title contender than teams 2 through 5 in the final 2018 rankings.|
|6.||Trinity (Texas)||2018: No. 8 | 17-2-3 (.841) | SoS .534|
|Following another typical season (SCAC title, Sweet 16 run, and Top 10 ranking), the losses are minimal for the Tigers: standout forward Austin Michaelis (11g, 3a) has graduated, and defender Roman Cano won’t be back for his senior year. So there’s more continuity for coach Paul McGinlay to work with than usual, especially with forward Ryan Hunter returning as a redshirt senior. The junior midfield trio of Jacob Hallenberger (7g, 11a), Andrea Codispoti (7g, 5a) and Quentin Van der Lee (4g 6a) should be exciting to watch and will have the Tigers aiming for their first Final Four in over a decade.|
|7.||Franklin and Marshall||2018: No. 20 | 14-4-3 (.738) | SoS .615|
|Coach Dan Wagner tinkered with his starting line-up the entire 2018 season and two of the four seniors who began the campaign as starters saw their starts diminish down the stretch. That means a lot of valuable experience gained by the younger players (eight sophomores and freshmen started at least a third of the games) which should make the Diplomats a stronger outfit than the one that reached the Centennial title game and the NCAA second round last year. Lost to graduation are three or four starters: two midfielders and two forwards, the latter two being better playmakers than finishers. It was goals by committee in 2018 for a modest 1.81 GSA, but returning players scored over 80% of those goals led by midfield captain Connor Whitacre (6g) and standout freshman defender A.J. Kopacz (6g) who may move to forward where he played in high school. The F&M defense should be solid with no losses to graduation and led by a pair of senior backs and a capable senior goalkeeper. A higher conversion rate from one or more of their attacking options could make it a very good year for the Dips.|
|8.||Johns Hopkins||2018: No. 21 | 13-5-2 (.700) | SoS .603|
|One year ago, on top of the losses to graduation (five starters, including two All-Americans), the Blue Jays were also without their injured All-American forward Achim Younker for the first seven games of the season. The younger 2018 line-up (six to seven sophomores and freshmen starting) wasn’t as good as the 2017 edition, but still managed the #2 seed in the competitive Centennial conference, an NCAA berth (second-round exit), and gained a lot of valuable experience. The losses this off-season—two full-time starters including All-American defender Cole Rosenberger and one part-time starter—are half that of the previous off-season. Hopkins will be hoping that a healthy Younker from the start will find the net at a similar clip to his break-out sophomore season to lead the attack alongside rising juniors Pablo Martinez (6g, 5a) and Alejandro Maclean (6g, 1a). Rising senior Connor Jacobs will lead the back line that had two freshmen start every game last season. Coach Craig Appleby’s junior-heavy team should be improved at both ends of the field and ready from the get-go with the continuity from last year.|
|9.||Calvin||2018: No. 2 | 22-2-0 (.917) | SoS .578|
|The program that has been three of the last four Final Fours loses four starters to graduation, three of All-American caliber: Bobby McCaw (21g, 12a, 4gwg), Jacob Witte (17g, 8a, 5gwg), and three-time D3soccer.com Defender of the Year Trent Vetger (3g, 6a). The Knights have to drop off some this year, right? Well, consider that Calvin lost five starters the previous offseason, two of which were All-Americans, and that didn’t slow them down one bit. Coach Ryan Souders certainly had a special group with the Classes of 2019 (graduated) and 2020 (seniors), but he also has a style and system of play that has proven very successful as players have come and gone. So it will be interesting to see what players step up to more prominent roles this fall alongside All-Americans Ian Adams (6g, 18a) and Jacob Lyon and top returning scorer Hunter Olson (15g, 7a) to keep the Knights in the mix.|
|10.||Amherst||2018: No. 13 | 14-5-1 (.725) | SoS .590|
|The forward partnership of sophomore German Giammattei (7g, 3a) who isn’t afraid to shoot and junior Sebastian Derby (7g) who is very efficient (.250 shot %, .607 SOG %) seems very promising. If the former can get more proficient with his chances and the latter can get more scoring opportunities, they may give their fans a lot to cheer about this fall. However, Amherst’s attack has been hard to predict over the years. A trio of underclassmen led the team in scoring in 2013 only for 2014 to be the lowest-scoring season of the past decade. Two of their top scorers graduated after the 2015 season, and 2016 was the highest-scoring campaign of the past six years when a handful of upperclassmen scored at an unpredictable clip. Go figure! So who knows what this season holds for Amherst. They lose four starters. The influential Luke Nguyen (%g, 3a) is gone in midfield as are Fikayo Ajayi’s goals and playmaking (5g, 7a), but Dane Lind and his ten assists are back alongside Cutler Coleman and the aforementioned forwards. Two defenders need to be replaced to complete a backline that retains a pair of rising-junior starters.|
|11.||Ohio Wesleyan||2018: NR | 13-4-2 (.737) | SoS .556|
|Given the Bishops' youth and inexperience in 2018, it was a relatively good season even if it ended on a very sour note with a 4-0 drubbing in the NCAC final at the hands of their rival Kenyon. Losing just three players (one starter, one part-time starter) to graduation, it's almost the same Ohio Wesleyan roster, except with another valuable year of experience under their belts. A senior-laden squad, including all but one of an unchanged defensive unit from last year (0.77 GAA), is led by defender Brady Whittekind and midfielder Adam Yingling (6g, 3a). But equally important are the exciting underclassmen like rising sophomore Hector Gomez (6g, 5a) who are ready to push the attack. Increased maturity and consistency should keep the Bishops in the thick of the Top 25 this campaign.|
|12.||North Park||2018: No. 17 | 16-3-0 (.842) | SoS .538|
|The Vikings were a questionable omission from last year’s NCAA Tournament when our Top 25 panel had them ranked No. 9 on selection Monday. North Park loses all four starting defenders (Ricky Pimental, et al.) to graduation which makes defense a huge question mark, and additionally a few underclassmen starters have chosen not to return including midfielder Deni Cresto (4g, 6a) and forwards Joachim Hoff (12g, 2a) while a summer injury to Erik Lundeen (4g, 6a) has him being redshirted. Ohh, and head coach John Born has “moved upstairs.” But all is not lost. First, five-year associate head coach and former Viking All-American Kris Grahn was installed as Born’s successor providing for a seamless transition. Second, All-American Peder Olsen (9g, 8a) and Shatil Khoury (8g, 5a) are back as juniors, and All-CCIW defensive midfielder Ulrik Lund is back for his second season. Third, 2017 assist leader Gustav Ericsson (6g, 10a in 2017) is back after a year in Division I, and 2016 points leader Gianfranco DeCarne (8g, 10a in 2016) is back after two years chasing a career abroad. Fourth, their recruiting class is highlighted by former Swedish U-17 player Niclas Holgersson who is expected to be an immediate impact starter. So that’s three full-time starters and two part-time starters back joined by two former standouts and a top-level recruit. Only problem, not one of them is a defender. The midfield and attack should be dynamic and potent, but can coach Grahn build an adequate back line so the Vikings are ready and positioned to make a November run?|
|13.||New York University||2018: RV | 12-4-3 (.711) | SoS .559|
|It’s usually in a coach’s fourth season—when all the players are their recruits—that they can start to be fairly judged. Given that Coach Kim Wyant was an emergency hire one game into the Violets’ 2015 season, it’d be fair but probably unnecessary to wait until her fifth season which is this fall. Last year NYU were awarded a berth in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in eight years, and they made it through two games without a loss or a win, advancing and exiting on PK’s. With underclassmen comprising over half the starting line-up, it was the program’s best season in over a decade and showed progression from a losing record in 2015, an ECAC appearance in 2016, and advancement to the ECAC semifinals in 2017. Except for a three-goal outburst at Case Western, the Violets were limited offensively in the very tough UAA competition, but their calling card was defense, and it kept them in every game of the season. National semifinalist Rochester needed 104 minutes to find the net and Chicago’s All-American duo of Lopez and Koh were shutout. Unfortunately, their outstanding All-UAA goalkeeper and his Top 20 save percentage (.859) has graduated, but they the back line only loses a coulpe of part-time starters while underclassmen like All-UAA 1st teamer Pablo Vargas got a bulk of the playing time. Graduation claimed a few midfield starters and part-time starters, but the sophomores and freshmen provided two-thirds of the goals, over half the assists, and 75% of the game-winners led by UAA Rookie of the Year Oliver Kleban (8g, 5a). So expect improvement front to back from last year’s experience with goalkeeping being the one position that could be a down-grade.|
|14.||Ithaca||2018: NR | 14-2-4 (.800) | SoS .548|
|Two years ago coach Kyle Dezotell took over a program that had eight straight seasons around or below .500 with no more than seven wins. He wasted no time making-over the Bomber squad with his own recruits such that last year (his second) the team was over 70% sophomores and freshmen. And with a combination of chosen upperclassmen and his young recruits, Dezotell guided Ithaca to a program-best 14 wins (tied) and a .800 winning percentage second only to the 1965 team’s 10-1-1 mark. They had a case for an NCAA berth, but a modest strength of schedule probably just kept them out, something they’ll be seeking to rectify in 2019 (hosting NYU and Messiah opening weekend will help boost the SoS). Four starters won’t be back (three lost to graduation), but that means seven starters are back including midfielder Jack Monnes who will be expected to provide senior leadership. Returning part-time starters and bench players accounted for half the goals and a third of the assists in 2018 lead by rising junior forward Jonathan Kyriakidis (5g, 3a). Finally, only one back is lost from a defensive unit that posted a 0.76 GAA. So look for Ithaca to challenge for the Liberty League title again and get their first NCAA berth in eleven years.|
|15.||St. Thomas||2018: No. 22 | 16-4-2 (.773) | SoS .590|
|8th-year head coach Jon Lowery has a good thing going at St.Thomas, and the Tommies appear to have staying power as a Top 25 team (as long as they can find a new home within Division III). Lowery seems to keep developing or finding players to step up when their time comes as upperclassmen. And he always has high-scoring defenders. Last year it was senior midfielder Will Kidd (9g, 6a) who emerged as an All-American, and helped lead the Tommies to another MIAC title and a Sweet 16 finish despite a young and fairly inexperienced roster (just seven upperclassmen out of 32). Four starters have graduated, but even without Kidd’s production and Walter Alvarado and goalkeeper Aidan Hogan’s leadership in defense, this junior- and sophomore-dominated squad which provided about 75% of the offensive production in 2018 is only going to get better. Who knows which player(s) will this year’s standout(s). It might even be an underclassman this time. Last year defenders Jack Barry and Halvor Houg each scored seven goals in their freshman and sophomore seasons, respectively.|
|16.||Messiah||2018: No. 4 | 19-1-3 (.891) | SoS .579|
|After a decade as Division III’s top program, the Falcons are now just one of the top programs that will range between legitimate title contender and mere Top 25 team from year to year. Last year’s team may have been expected to fall somewhere in the middle of that range or lower, but despite several injuries to key players throughout the season, Nick West’s unpredictable 30-goal All-American season made a 12th national title realistic even if they were always quite vulnerable due to their over-reliance on his goals. Barring another unexpected historic season, Messiah may be a mere Top 25 team this year. Lost to graduation are five starters and players responsible for two-thirds of the goals and one-third of the assists from last year (and another third of the assists were on goals scored by West). Besides West, All-American center-mid Samuel Ruiz-Plaza, midfielder Justin Brautigam and goalkeeper Connor Bell need to be replaced. Are there any game-changers in this edition of the Falcons besides All-American rising sophomore Luke Groothoff who was forced to play center back much of 2018 due to injuries but may feature in a more advanced midfield role this fall? Can rising senior Brit Haseltine (6g, 2a as a substitute) become a dependable scorer as a starter?|
|17.||Oneonta State||2018: NR | 10-4-5 (.658) | SoS .608|
|After posting their worst winning percentage of the past decade (.658), expect the Red Dragons to bounce back this season. Graduation has claimed five of last year’s starters, but Ian Byrne is too good a coach and has too strong a program to not climb back into the Top 25 picture. Their two leading scorers, each a former SUNYAC Rookie of the Year, return: rising senior forward Witman Hernandez (12g, 4a) and rising junior midfielder Roberto Ventura (6g, 4a). Despite a fair amount of changing personnel in 2018, the defense still posted a respectable 0.84 GAA, but Coach Byrne will certainly aim for more stability at the back and the improved stinginess that should come with that. The biggest question may be the midfield where Ventura is the only full-time starter that returns: while the roster may contain adequate reinforcements, how quickly can the rebuilt midfield gel?|
|18.||Connecticut College||2018: No. 16 | 13-3-2 (.778) | SoS .583|
|The Camels completed their most successful season in program history in 2018 culminating in their first-ever NCAA tournament win and a disappointing second-round loss. Can that level of success be maintained with six starters lost to graduation and the retirement of head coach Kenny Murphy? In 2018, Connecticut boasted arguably the best defense in the nation with a 0.27 GAA playing a challenging schedule, and three-fourths of the backline and Goalkeeper of the Year AJ Marcucci (.928 Save Pct.) are back. Similar stinginess this fall will give the Camels a chance every time out. The more significant losses are at forward and midfield, highlighted by All-Region midfielder Ben Manoogian and NESCAC 1st Team forward Uzii Dieng (4g, 5a). However, matching last year’s modest 1.69 GSA isn’t an unreasonable expectation for the returning players who scored 60% of last year’s goals, the majority by substitutes and occasional starters who will have more prominent roles this campaign. And then there’s the question of the impact of new head coach Reuben Burk who came to Connecticut just one year ago as an assistant, so a smoother transition perhaps than a complete outsider, but a transition nonetheless.|
|19.||Claremont-Mudd-Scripps||2018: RV | 15-2-1 (.861) | SoS .532|
|Despite coming off a 4-11-1 season in 2017 and having an extremely young squad—the starting line-up consisted of eight freshmen and sophomores—the Stags rose to claim the SCIAC regular season title ahead of perennial favorite Redlands who they beat twice. From the squad that posted a 12-2-0 mark in the conference regular season and an overall record of 15-2-1, Claremont loses their starting defensive midfielder (and a handful of underclassmen who appeared in eight games or less). That’s it. Everybody else is back including All-American left back and free kick specialist William Burchard and GK Jacob Mays who posted the seventh-best save percentage in the nation (.892) as a freshman. The Stags’ season came to a premature end on PK’s after a scoreless draw in the conference semifinals, so the team will feel like they have some unfinished business and will be hungry to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament this time around.|
|20.||Haverford||2018: RV | 14-4-1 (.763) | SoS .599|
|In seven years, previous head coach Shane Rineer turned Haverford into a winning program and then into a Top 25 program with legitimate title aspirations. He left the cupboard full for his replacement, Zach Ward who did well to guide the Fords to the Centennial Conference top seed and championship and NCAA berth. But with nine upperclassmen in last year’s starting line-up, over half of whom had started since their freshmen season, and upperclassmen expected to fill eight starting positions this fall, the jury will remain out on Coach Ward for a couple more seasons. For the Fords to match or exceed last year’s success, which came with a relatively narrow margin for error (GSA 1.77 vs. GAA 1.01), they will likely need to improve their goal differential. Can they do that? Five starters have been lost to graduation—three backs and two midfielders, but the forward pairing of All-American Nick Jannelli (13g, 9a) and Peter Baroff (7g, 5a), both rising seniors, returns to lead the attack. In midfield, the hope will be that, after missing major portions of his first two seasons, rising-junior Ryan Sholes can play the whole season alongside Noah Schwab, the only freshman starter in 2018. A relatively young and inexperienced defense will be led by a pair of juniors, neither of whom have been full-time starters.|
|21.||Brockport State||2018: RV | 16-5-2 (.739) | SoS .552|
|The Golden Eagles surprised people with a SUNYAC championship (just their second in Coach Gary LaPietra’s 22 years) and the defeat of St. Lawrence in the NCAA first round last year. That win, their 16th, tied the program record just two years after one of the worst seasons in program history (3-10-2). Only two starters from 2018 have graduated, one of which was the heart-and-soul of the team: midfielder Quintin Volpe, who was involved in both goals to win the SUNYAC final and scored the game’s lone goal against St. Lawrence. Both his production and leadership will be missed; however, if that was all that was lost, Brockport would have featured higher in our rankings. Unfortunately, the exciting Ayub Jeylani (10g, 2a), one of two sensational freshman forwards, isn’t returning. That still means that nine starters are back and collectively returning players scored 60% of the last season’s goals and provided 70% of the assists. Expect as many as seven seniors in the starting line-up led by midfield captain Jason Hayes (1g, 6a). In attack, rising senior Jeff Hibbard (8g, 6a) will be joined by Jeylani’s replacement, the other standout freshman, leading goal-scorer Matthew Stefaniw (12g, 0a) who played major minutes off the bench. Seniors will man three-fourths of the back line, looking to improve on last year’s 0.97 GAA.|
|22.||Lynchburg||2018: No. 23 | 13-2-2 (.824) | SoS .516|
|Fate conspired against the Hornets in 2018, eliminating the safety net they needed when they got tripped up in the ODAC semifinals. A schedule that would have been expected to give them a strength of schedule of at least .550 ended up being just .516 due to a couple of opponents having enormously worse seasons than could ever have been predicted and two SoS-boosting games being canceled in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence. Lynchburg finished 13-2-2 with a GAA only topped by fifteen other teams in Division III but did not have their name called on Selection Monday. But four-fifths of that defense that was in the top ten in limiting shots on target has graduated (three backs and the goalkeeper), and precious few minutes were given to defensive substitutes. So it’s unlikely the Hornets are anywhere near as strong defensively. But returning players scored 75% of their goals and provided 70% of the assists last year, and, with another year of experience, attacking players like rising juniors Ben Mackey (7g, 3a) and Abibi Osman (5g, 4a in injury-shortened season) may represent Lynchburg’s strength this campaign.|
|23.||Rochester||2018: No. 5 | 16-3-2 (.810) | SoS .592|
|2018 was a special season for the Yellowjackets and longstanding head coach Chris Apple as they reached their first-ever Final Four, avenging their 2017 tournament ouster by defeating defending champion Messiah in an Elite 8 rematch. They missed the goal-scoring of Geoffrey Rouin, but the midfield stepped up to provide much of the scoring led by All-American midfielder Bryce Ikeda (7g, 7a). Turning to the new season, nine players graduated in the spring, six of them starters led by Ikeda and two All-Region defenders, and transfer Ulrik Koren (4g, 3a) is not on the 2019 roster. Numerically, players lost represent 17 of 38 goals, 22 of 30 assists, and 8 of 15 game-winners from last year’s campaign. So while the question about dependable goal-scorers is back, the bigger question may concern the playmakers and providers. The starting line-up will consist of five rising seniors who will have gained not just valuable experience, but perhaps, more importantly, a lot of confidence from last year’s success. However, besides defender Will Eisold who locked down a starting spot as a freshman when a senior was lost to an injury, last year’s underclassmen got very little playing time. How good Rochester can be might depend on the emergence of a few non-seniors.|
|24.||Carnegie Mellon||2018: No. 19 | 11-5-3 (.658) | SoS .641|
|The Tartans have lost five starters to graduation; six if you count forward Zack Masciopinto who was leading the team in scoring after nine games when injury ended his season and collegiate playing career. The losses hit the defense (.84 GAA) the hardest: gone are two starting backs, one part-time starting back and the goalkeeper. Offensively, the eventual leading scoring, rising senior Elliot Cohen (8g, 3a), is back as well as all the other top attackers besides the Masciopinto, a group that includes a pair of rising juniors—forward Patrick Kollman (4g, 2a) and midfielder Jordi Long (4g, 4a)—who produced in spot starts and off the bench. Carnegie Mellon’s offense should be improved, but the season will start with question marks on defense.|
|25.||Hope||2018: RV | 14-3-1 (.806) | SoS .566|
|In his first season back in Division III, head coach Dave Brandt (the architect of the Messiah’s first six national titles) relied primarily on the players he inherited with a starting line-up consisting of five seniors, four juniors, and two sophomores. Coming off a 7-10-2 season—their third straight losing campaign—the Flying Dutchmen improved to 14-3-1 and more than doubled their scoring output under Brandt’s guidance. While there’s no denying the turn-around, Hope’s strength of schedule was mediocre and their two 5-0 losses to rival Calvin showed just how far they still had to go. As the squad slowly turns into one of Brandt’s own making, lost to graduation are five starters including two forwards—Christian Dault and James Reymann—who both tallied seven goals and six assists. On the other side of the ledger, returning players represent 65% of last year’s goals and over 50% of the assists led by rising seniors Logan Bylsma (14g) and All-Region midfielder Isaac Braak (5g, 7a). Replacements for the departed midfielders may prove to be upgrades as Ryan Flynn contributed five goals and two assists off the bench as a freshman. Rising senior Jordan Hooker (2g, 5a) will try to replace some of the front line production lost to graduation. The back line, featuring two returning starters, is an area in need of some improvement (1.09 GAA) if the Dutchmen want to close the gap on the top teams.|
Receiving a Long Look
|Middlebury||2018: RV | 10-4-3 (.676) | SoS .572|
|In Alex Elias’ first year as head coach, the Panthers put together a season largely on par with the last few under his predecessor David Saward who spent 33 years at the helm. Despite some disappointing results in September when finishing let them down, Middlebury was sitting at 10-2-3 and riding a six-game winning streak into the NESCAC playoffs. Unfortunately, their season ended with back-to-back losses, both frustrating, but for different reasons: underperformance being their own undoing in the NESCAC quarterfinals; an excellent performance stymied by one of the nation’s top goalkeepers in the NCAA first round. With the bad taste of those defeats in their mouths, the Panthers shouldn’t lack motivation in 2019. Four starters were lost to graduation including three-time All-Region midfielder Daniel O’Grady. But 80% of 2018’s goals and assists were by players back this fall, led by rising seniors Ben Potter (6g, 2a) and Drew Goulart (1g, 6a) up top. Rising senior Henry Wilhelm (5g) will be the midfield veteran while senior co-captain Aidan Robinson leads a stingy defensive unit (0.56 GAA) that only lost one back to graduation. So if the offense can improve on last year by generating more chances and improving their finishing, it could be a special year for Middlebury.|
|Mary Washington||2018: No. 18 | 14-1-5 (.825) | SoS .543|
|After regressing to a .500 record in his fourth season at Mary Washington, head coach Jason Kilby has had the Eagles on the upswing culminating in last year’s 14-1-5 campaign—a program record for fewest losses—and a second straight conference championship and with it an NCAA berth. They will feel they should have done better than a PK loss to Eastern in round one of the national tournament, but it illustrated the limitations of their offense against their better opponents. The Eagles cumulative season statistics (i.e. 2.56 GSA, +2.18 goal differential) helped by 18 GF, 0 GA in a pair of wins over Southern Virginia disguised the number of tight, close games, sometimes against inferior opponents. On the other hand, the combination of a solid senior-laden back line and one of the nation’s top goalkeepers in Ken Kurtz (.897 save pct.) yielded the fourth-best GAA in the nation (0.38) and sixth-best shutout percentage (68%). Kurtz is back but three defenders have graduated, so the quality of their replacements will determine if they can stay in every game they play. Their chances of consistently winning hinge more on an improved attack that can produce in big games. Losing All-American midfielder Justin Carey (8g, 3a), forward Ryan Van Maanen (7g, 2a) won’t help in that regard.|
Other Teams of Interest (in alphabetical order)
|Chicago||2018: No. 3 | 18-3-1 (.841) | SoS .639|
|Losing three 3-time All-Americans (Max Lopez, Matthew Koh, Nicco Capotosto) and your head coach would be tough for any program, but on top of that, the Maroons will also be without the best two juniors from last season (early graduate Dayo Adeosun who was third in points the last three years and defender Sam Drablos). The past three seasons were easily the best in program history, but with 75% of their offensive production, two of the top defensive mainstays, and their head coach not returning, it may be a rude slide back toward the status quo for the Maroons after three exhilirating years near the pinnacle of Division III soccer.|
|Eastern||2018: No. 12 | 18-3-2 (.826) | SoS .547|
|Luther||2018: No. 15 | 19-4-1 (.813) | SoS .563|
|Lycoming||2018: RV | 15-4-2 (.762) | SoS .555|
|Ramapo||2018: No. 24 | 17-4-2 (.783) | SoS .564|
|Stevens||2018: No. 11 | 17-3-2 (.818) | SoS .524|
|In 2018, the Ducks had their best season of the last five and on their day seemed to be able to play with just about anyone, but it will be a completely different squad that takes the field in 2019. Last year’s roster was dominated by seniors and freshmen and the starting line-up typically consisted of eight seniors and three freshmen, one of whom isn’t back. So this year the squad has just two seniors with 2 and 19 games played, none started, and only two returning starters, rising sophomore midfielders Adam Silva (7g, 7a) and Leo Musacchia. On the positive side, Silva and part-time starters and substitutes made a disproportionate offensive contribution such that returning players can take credit for half of last season’s goals and nearly half the assists. Defense is the much bigger question mark as Stevens makes their debut in the MAC Freedom Conference. Given the extreme turnover, it’s not a foregone conclusion that Stevens will be the Freedom’s top side, but Eastern, with less pedigree, has their share of key loses to deal with as well.|
|St. Lawrence||2018: RV | 12-3-3 (.750) | SoS .565|
|With Liberty League regular season and tournament titles and a final overall record of 12-3-3, it wasn’t a bad season for the Saints (at 8-7-3, 2017 was bad), but they got bounced in the first round of the NCAA tournament by surprise SUNYAC champion Brockport State. This should have been the Saints year with a senior-laden starting line-up that included the All-American Jethro Dede in midfield. The eight graduated seniors, seven of them starters, scored 80% of the team’s goals, provided 75% of the assists, and all but one of the game-winners. Excluding the one senior reserve, the bench only chipped in with two goals and one assist. The four returning starters are defenders or defensive-minded midfielders and collectively this year’s roster has less than ten career goals and less than 15 assists. It’s going to be a young and very inexperienced line-up, probably half underclassmen. Coach Mike Toshack has his work cut out for him.|
|St. Norbert||2018: RV | 17-1-1 (.921) | SoS .531|
|St. Joseph's (Maine)||2018: No. 14 | 21-1-0 (.955) | SoS .511|
|Washington and Lee||2018: No. 25 | 14-3-2 (.789) | SoS .566|
|Most of the Generals offensive weapons on the 2018 squad have graduated. Led by All-American Dylan Ritch, they represented two-thirds of the goals and assists registered last season. At least five new starters will need to step up to fill some pretty big shoes and Top 25-level performances out of the gate is probably a bit much to expect from coach Mike Singleton’s side. The defense should be in good shape, however, with three starting backs returning as well as the excellent goalkeeper Michael Nyc (.875 save pct.). That should give the Generals a chance every time they play; but will the re-built offense be able to take full advantage?|
|Williams||2018: NR | 10-6-3 (.605) | SoS .588|
|In reviewing the Ephs’ 2018 season on paper, a couple things stand out fairly quickly. Dual positions were listed for well over half the players. There wasn’t a very fixed starting line-ups with only four players starting 15 or more of their 19 games, and just a single one with the full 19 starts (senior defender Scatt MacDonald). And finally, nobody scored more than four goals. That lack of goal-scoring (1.30 GSA) left little room for error for a good but not great defense (.70 GAA). Williams was bound for a fifth straight season without an NCAA Tournament appearance, but two timely shutout wins in the NESCAC tournament, and a tie in the final earned Williams an at-large berth only to go one-and-done. Losses to graduation (seven players, six that started at least half the games) come primarily on the defensive side of things, so about three-quarters of the limited offensive production is back. And three defenders that started at least half the games return. There’s room for improvement all over, but will they be improved? There’s not enough reason to expect Top 25 performances for Williams to start the season.|
Methodology, Caveats, and Comments:
- This is not a poll; this ranking and the entire process to develop it has been done by D3soccer.com staff as further explained below, not by our weekly Top 25 panel.
- The primary source of our player statistical information is the NCAA Soccer Statistics databases which have occasional reliability glitches but are the only comprehensive source of detailed Division III individual statistics.
- Our D3soccer.com databases were mined for team-related statistical data such as annual W-L-T records, Goals For and Against per Game and NCAA Final Strength of Schedule.
- As a starting point, we assume that all players listed as seniors on the 2018 rosters in the NCAA database have graduated and will not return for the 2019 season. Of course, there are a few rare exceptions each year.
- As a starting point, we assume all underclassmen on the 2018 rosters in the NCAA database will return which of course is only directionally correct, but it’s safe to think that most, excepting serious injury, of the attrition will be at the end of the bench with limited impact on a team's performance.
- If additional and deeper research on specific teams is done, it may be discovered that some of the assumptions mentioned in the previous bullet items are not accurate. In those cases, we take that corrected information into account in the evaluation and ranking of that team.
- We do not attempt to evaluate incoming recruiting classes. However, we do recognize that some programs perform at a consistently high level over many years and assume that these programs are more likely to “reload" rather than to "rebuild.”
- We acknowledge honors received by players from both the United Soccer Coaches and from our website. The USC names larger All-American teams than we do in addition to their All-Region teams which we do not name. The larger sample provides better insight into impact players at the team level.
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