Playoffs at the ‘Plex

Lori Lindsey holds off Marta, from a gameday program cover for the last team to have a women's professional soccer match at the 'Plex, the 2009 Washington Freedom.

Lori Lindsey holds off Marta, from a gameday program cover for the last team to have a women’s professional soccer playoff match at the ‘Plex, the 2009 Washington Freedom.

Based on what I’ve read on Twitter and elsewhere, Spirit fans have a definite glass-half-empty feeling about losing the first-place spot the last weekend of the season after having held it for several weeks previously. But look on the bright side: this is the best regular-season finish in the history of Washington women’s professional soccer.

Yes, Abby Wambach never managed it in four years here. Heck, Wambach and Mia Hamm combined never managed it. But this bunch of no-names – certainly with no one of the marquee value of the aforementioned – did the job.

However, though this Friday’s home playoff match is a first for the Spirit, it’s not a first for Washington (or the Soccerplex). Back in 2009, the Freedom finished third in Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) on the strength of a 4-1-1 finish to the season, which included a barnburner, 4-4 match against Sky Blue at Yurcak Field that the Freedom tied up in the final minutes off a goal from Cat Whitehill. (I got held up at halftime behind the stands chatting with someone at that match and got back late only to find that I’d missed not one but two goals.) It’s a team with a few players familiar to Spirit fans: Joanna Lohman, Lori Lindsey, and Ali Krieger were all on the roster.
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Virginia Tech Tournament: Hokies Rule, Dukes Split

Ashley Herndon tallied a goal and an assist for James Madison but was only able to lead them to a split of their two matches.

Ashley Herndon tallied a goal and an assist for James Madison but was only able to lead them to a split of their two matches.

Once again I was able to head down to Thompson Field in Blacksburg, VA, to take in a four-team weekend tournament. This time Virginia Tech was hosting James Madison University, Indiana University, and Boston University.
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I went to the protests, and a soccer match broke out

Megan Rapinoe and Laura Harvey talk with the press after the match.

Megan Rapinoe and Laura Harvey talk with the press after the match.

For the second year in a row, the Seattle Reign’s late-season visit to the Soccerplex is overshadowed by happenings outside the match. You can find a zillion recaps and reactions to the sideshow online, both from the sources that cover the NWSL on a regular basis and the ones who only cover the league when something embarrassing or controversial happens.

You can read Spirit owner Bill Lynch’s explanation of why he rescheduled the anthem to prevent Megan Rapinoe from kneeling during the national anthem over at Equalizer Soccer. And I’ve uploaded Rapinoe’s fifteen-minute post-game interview – of which less than a minute is about the game – to Youtube. Caitlin Buckley also has a transcription of key parts of it.

And Steven Goff of the Washington Post has a day-after followup.

I’m still formulating my own opinion on the situation and don’t want to focus on that at this point, anyhow, but I will note on a night that Lynch’s team ensured a home playoff game and the most successful regular season of any Washington team ever, thanks in considerable part to him there’s hardly any attention being paid to that. But I’ll try to remedy that from here on out.
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Spirit Clinch Playoff Spot With 1-1 Draw Against Flash

It’s not hard to tell when the Spirit are going to win: they’ll be pinging the ball around from player to player, players always on the move to make themselves an open passing target, everyone calmly keeping possession and looking for an opening. I knew from the start of last week’s game that they’d beat Orlando because they came out playing that way.

Tonight against the Western New York Flash it was like that for only about ten minutes late in the first half. Other than that and a few minutes in the second half, the team seemed to be on their heels the entire evening. For both halves I sat near the goal Washington was attacking, and for both halves my dominant recollection is peering into the distance as the Flash went after the far goal.
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Spirit Triumph Over Breakers in Playoff Battle of NWSL Reserve Teams

Imani Dorsey scored twice to lead the Spirit Reserves to victory.

Imani Dorsey scored twice to lead the Spirit Reserves to victory.

WPSL East Conference Final: Washington Spirit Reserves 3, Boston Breakers Reserves 1

It was everything you’d expect the first-ever match between two NWSL reserve teams to be: hard-fought, high-quality, and suspenseful. But the 2015 W-League Champion Washington Spirit Reserves came out on top on the strength of two goals from Imani Dorsey and a strike from distance by Maddie Huster that Carli Lloyd would have been proud of. Boston’s Katie Lenz countered with a well-placed goal, but it wasn’t enough.
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Spirit Reserves Tough It Out in WPSL Regional Semifinal

Washington, Boston reserve teams will face off for WPSL East Championship

Midge Purce picked up two assists but should have had a lot more

Midge Purce picked up two assists but could have had a lot more.

Unlike last season in the W-League’s fiercely competitive Southeastern Conference, the Washington Spirit Reserves have seldom been challenged this year, with their toughest opponent being the Spirit Academy. That changed tonight when they faced the regional hosts the Penn Fusion. They came away with a 3-1 victory, but it was hard-fought.
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NCAA – Chris’ 2017 Recruiting Rankings Summer Update (Top 50)

I’ve decided to dump Mallory Pugh into this class for UCLA since she’s not enrolling until January, so her clock doesn’t start until then.

1. Stanford
2. UCLA
3. Penn State
4. Michigan
5. North Carolina
6. Duke
7. Virginia
8. Santa Clara
9. Cal
10. USC
11. Ohio State
12. Arkansas
13. Louisville
14. Texas Tech
15. Syracuse
16. Texas
17. Tennessee
18. Texas A&M
19. Florida State
20. Clemson
21. Wake Forest
22. Boston College
23. Auburn
24. South Carolina
25. Kent State
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NCAA – Chris’ 2018 Recruiting Rankings Summer Update (Top 25)

As always, still early, so these will likely change a bunch before next year, especially beyond the top handful.

1. North Carolina
2. Stanford
3. Virginia
4. Florida State
5. Penn State
6. Notre Dame
7. Washington
8. UCLA
9. BYU
10. Duke
11. Boston College
12. Oklahoma State
13. Portland
14. Northwestern
15. Arizona
T16. Michigan
T16. Ohio State
18. Oregon
19. Tennessee
20. USC
T21. Rice
T21. South Carolina
23. LSU
24. Princeton
T25. Louisville
T25. Texas

Blue Chip Prospects

Brooke Bollinger – Florida State
Jaelin Howell – Florida State
Rachel Jones – North Carolina
Brianna Pinto – North Carolina
Alexa Spaanstra – Virginia

NCAA – 2016 CoachRank – The 2011-2013 Replacements

* = Coach departed following 2015 season.
BOLD = Newly eligible coach in rankings (minimum three seasons in position)

Going Up

2583.78% – Clemson (19.86 – Eddie Radwanski – 0.74 – Hershey Strosberg)
1086.01% – UMBC (28.82 – Leslie Wray – 2.43 – Alyssa Radu)
993.56% – Arizona (28.87 – Tony Amato – 2.64 – Lisa Oyen)
696.90% – South Alabama (74.59 – Graham Winkworth – 9.36 – Mike Varga)

593.66% – Lipscomb (20.81 – Kevin O’Brien – 3.00 – Jon Ireland)
390.81% – Arkansas (18.16 – Colby Hale – 3.70 – Erin Aubry)
344.67% – UC Riverside (17.92 – Nat Gonzalez – 4.03 – Veronica O’Brien)
324.55% – Indiana (19.02 – Amy Berbary – 4.48 – Mick Lyon)
302.94% – San Francisco (12.33 – Jim Millinder – 3.06 – Mark Carr)
252.16% – Vermont (12.22 – Kristi Lefebvre – 3.47 – Kwame Lloyd)
249.35% – Cincinnati (29.73 – Neil Stafford – 8.51 – Michelle Salmon)
237.20% – Montana (33.72 – Mark Plakorus – 10.00 – Neil Segwick)
176.32% – Southern Miss (3.15 – Mohammed El-Zare – 1.14 – Scott Ebke)
165.35% – Cornell (3.37 – Patrick Farmer – 1.27 – Danielle LaRoche)
109.36% – George Washington (19.91 – Sarah Barnes – 9.51 – Tanya Vogel)
88.02% – Albany (32.64 – Caitlin Cucchiella – 17.36 – Mary-Frances Monroe)
77.67% – Northwestern (16.31 – Michael Moynihan – 9.18 – Stephanie Foster)
77.05% – Southern (15.74 – Courtnie Prather – 8.89 – John Knighten)
74.10% – Virginia Tech (42.95 – Chugger Adair – 24.67 – Kelly Cagle)
47.43% – Oral Roberts (23.84 – Roger Bush – 16.17 – Ryan Bush)
46.61% – Wyoming (20.32 – Pete Cuardado – 13.86 – Danny Sanchez)
44.65% – *Western Michigan (40.43 – Nate Norman – 27.95 – Suzie Grech)
37.37% – *Georgia State (13.60 – Derek Leader – 9.90 – Dom Martelli)
30.61% – *Lamar (14.72 – Orlando Cervantes – 11.27 – Dewi Hardman)
28.02% – East Tennessee State (24.72 – Adam Sayers – 19.31 – Heather Henson)
24.74% – Florida Atlantic (12.96 – Patrick Baker – 10.39 – Brian Dooley)
23.73% – VCU (23.15 – Lindsey Martin – 18.71 – Tiffany Roberts-Sahaydak)

16.14% – Mercer (44.48 – Tony Economopoulos – 38.30 – Grant Serafy)
9.45% – North Dakota State (33.46 – Mark Cook – 30.57 – Pete Cuadrado)
6.33% – Duquesne (19.48 – Al Alvine – 18.32 – Tim Zundel)
6.11% – Oklahoma (17.36 – Matt Potter – 16.36 – Nicole Nelson)
4.42% – UCF (64.71 – Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak – 61.97 – Amanda Cromwell)
0.43% – *Louisiana-Monroe (2.33 – Roberto Mazza – 2.32 – Stacy Lamb)

Eddie Radwanski Continues A Great Salvage Job

There’ll likely be more improvement yet this season with Clemson a College Cup contender, but it still boggles the mind how quickly Eddie Radwanski has taken a program at rock bottom and made it viable once more. Radwanski’s overall CoachRank numbers aren’t much to crow about yet, but considering where he started out, he’s done amazing work to get the Tigers contending for honors in the ACC. He’s been the best hire of the past half-decade, and it’s not even close.

The Big Hitters on Last Year’s Ranking Are Still Going Fine

UMBC and Arkansas probably had seasons to forget in 2015, but the bad years didn’t really take too much of a dent out of the improvement made in each program since their current boss took over. Elsewhere, the likes of Lipscomb, UC Riverside, and Vermont keep on rising, though all but the former are still quite modest as compared to some of their conference rivals right now.

Getting On The Right Side of the Ledger

Elsewhere in those on the positive side of the ledger, Jim Millinder nearly getting San Francisco to the WCC title sent his number soaring after the appearance of more modest gains following last season. Likewise with Sarah Barnes at George Washington, though the Colonials boss actually brought home a regular season title in impressive fashion last year for GW. More notably, Northwestern’s Michael Moynihan used an NCAA Tournament season to affect a huge swing and get well into positive percentage numbers after finishing last year at -34.5% from his predecessor. Al Alvine of Duquesne used an A10 Tournament title to similarly boost his number, while there were also turnarounds at North Dakota State for Mark Cook and Oklahoma for Matt Potter.
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WPSL DC-Area End of Season Roundup

Spirit Reserves Capture Colonial Crown with 6-0 Win

The 6-0 final scoreline was not a shock, particularly considering that the Washington Spirit Reserves had plenty of subs, while the Richmond Kickers showed up with 11 players and no goalkeeper. (Or, as @jstats tweeted at me, “if they have 11 they have a goalie…that person just doesn’t know it yet”.) And that was with the start being delayed 25 minutes to allow the visitors time to show up.

That being said, it seemed anything but inevitable for the first 45 minutes. Despite having Ashley Herndon (James Madison), Imani Dorsey (Duke), Meggie Dougherty Howard (Florida), and Yanara Aedo (Colo-Colo) on the pitch, the first half seemed more like a game of keep-away: the Reserves had much the better of possession but had nothing to show for it. The best chance of the first 40 minutes was a 6th-minute shot by Wake Forest’s Maddie Huster from about 30 yards out that went off the top of the crossbar.

Richmond suffered further misfortune as their #2 went down in the 38th minute after tangling legs with a Spirit player. She was diagnosed with a bad ankle sprain and missed the rest of the match, so the Strikers were down to ten players.

Quite possibly as a result, the Reserves got two decent chances late in the half. In the 41st minute, Dorsey received a nice cross just inside the top of the 18 but sent it right to the goalkeeper. In the next minute, Dougherty Howard took a shot from about 20 out but sent it high.

Assistant coach JP Sousa was not happy at halftime. “We started off very flat. That was a boring first 45 minutes, very uninspiring. We were just a little bit lazy around the ball, let things happen. We were happy to keep it, but we didn’t do anything positive with it in their half of the field.”
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