NCAA – Hey, All Those Other Conferences – Projections, Part II

* = Projected NCAA Tournament Team

Missouri Valley

*1. Illinois State – 43
2. Loyola (Ill.) – 24
3. Evansville – 22
4. Missouri State – 19
5. Indiana State – 16
6. Drake – 15
7. Northern Iowa – 10

As is usually the case in the MVC, everyone’ll likely be looking up at ISU when all is said and done, as the conference bully looks to again have the best squad in the league by a mile. The Redbirds are going to likely drown opponents in goals with Rachel Tejada and Hannah Leinert to supply the firepower. It remains to be seen if the defense can stand up against tougher non-conference opposition, but that’s of little worry in the league. The Redbirds have already taken a big scalp in the NCAA Tournament last season and could very well match that this year.

Of the best of the rest, Loyola (Ill.) figures to stay in the upper half of the table. Getting nine starters back should help considering some of the other losses around the league, and the club returns a fair amount of strength in depth, though losing last year’s best player, Tricia Stonebraker, hurts. Evansville are largely in the same boat, losing their top player in Stephanie Thompson but returning almost everyone else. They should be able to improve on last season’s fifth place finish with ease.

Missouri State doesn’t have as much strength in depth as the above but does return the league’s Defensive Player of the Year in Kelsey Fouch. Indiana State are likely on the road down given the loss of star midfielder Abby Reed and top defender Shelby Troyer. Drake may struggle to make an impact after a wretched 3-12-5 season losing a league high five starters, including excellent defender Megan Fisher. Northern Iowa are favorite for the bottom of the league again with a shortage in top talent at this level and lost their best player from last year in defender Sam Copley.
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Lori Lindsey retires 12 years after turning professional

Someday there should be a DC Women's Soccer Hall of Fame, and Lori Lindsey should be in it

Someday there should be a DC Women’s Soccer Hall of Fame, and Lori Lindsey should be in it.

The Washington Freedom had a laudable tradition that I hope the Spirit eventually decide to emulate: they created a “Hall of Freedom”, an honor bestowed on former players and personnel “in recognition of exceptional achievements, dedication and service.” The first year’s honorees were the obvious ones: forward Mia Hamm, goalkeeper Siri Mullinix, midfielder (and later World Cup organizer) Steffi Jones, and the late David Vanole, goalkeeper coach during the WUSA era. Those were chosen by the staff. In 2010, they set up a voting process that involved fans, media, and staff, and defender Jennifer Grubb – who both captained or co-captained the team and played every single minute during the WUSA era – was elected the next inductee.

There was no 2011, of course, but the next thought is who should have been honored but wasn’t. First on the list would definitely be John and Maureen Hendricks, who helped establish both the WUSA and WPS and supported the Washington Freedom from 2001 through 2010. Next, in my opinion, would be coaches Jim Gabarra and Clyde Watson, who were part of the team through the entire WUSA era and most of the WPS era, and as well kept the team going during the lean years from 2004-2008 when there was no professional league to participate in.

Finally, there are people who have earned the honor but are still too active to be awarded it yet. (Gabarra might arguably fall into this category as well.) Abby Wambach is clearly in this category, having led or co-led the Freedom in scoring in every year they’ve played professionally. Louise Waxler – the operations manager for the Freedom for most of its existence – would also get my vote. The only other person who’s definitely earned the honor – again, in my opinion – is Lori Lindsey.
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NCAA – What Chris Is Watching – 08/25/14 – BYU vs Washington State

BYU vs Washington State – 7:30 PM

It took a while thanks to some disagreeable weather, but Washington State made a winning start to 2014 and under Steve Nugent with a 3-0 victory over Big XII side TCU. The Cougars did an incredible job in putting their efforts on target, with thirteen of their fifteen shots on goal. In reality, given the above, the scoreline could’ve been a lot worse on TCU, and the likes of Cara Wegner, Sofia Anker-Kofoed, and Kaitlyn Johnson up front and Mesa Owsley and Jocelyn Jeffers terrorized the Horned Frog defense all night long. The defense did give up seventeen shot, but at the same time, only four of those were on frame, which WSU will probably take most of the time. Historically a team known for their suffocating defense, it’ll be interesting to see if WSU’s identity morphs into a more attacking side under their new boss. BYU on Monday will be a big acid test though. Provo has a way of breaking even the toughest teams, and WSU winning at high altitude against a hard nosed Cougar side would be a bit statement just one weekend into Nugent’s reign on The Palouse.

BYU found out that life without a whole lot of last season’s stars isn’t going to be a walk in the park. Against Big West contenders Cal State Fullerton on Friday, the Cougars had a bit more of the offense on the stat sheet and had a win in the bag seemingly after sophomore Ashley Hatch netted at 77′. They’d give up an equalizer just six minutes later though and tapered off in the extra frames to walk away with a draw. All things considered, it wasn’t the worst result in the world given that BYU was blooding a whole lot of new young talent to replace all the graduated players they lost after 2013. BYU did end up playing five of their subs for forty-five minutes or more, so you have to wonder if there’ll be some serious lineup changes ahead of the club’s home opener. Also keep an eye on the goalkeeping situation, with Hannah Clark and Taylor Campbell Isom splitting time against Fullerton, something that hasn’t happened in a long time in Provo. BYU’s non-conference slate is brutal, and getting a win against WSU would be big, with a grueling road trip to Knoxville to play Tennessee ahead on Friday.

DC-area AmWoSo 2014 summer in review

Four of the year's best players: Spirit Reserves' Sam Lofton and Ashley Herndon battle Braddock Road's Allie Wisner while Marisa Park looks on.

Four of the year’s best players: Spirit Reserves’ Sam Lofton and Ashley Herndon battle Braddock Road’s Allie Wisner while Marisa Park looks on. (photo by Larry J. Clark)

Power Rankings:

1. Washington Spirit Reserves
2. ASA Chesapeake Charge
3. Braddock Road Stars Elite
4. ACF Torino USA
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NCAA – What Chris Is Watching – 08/24/14 – Crunch Time in Chapel Hill (UPDATING)

Updates to come…

All times Eastern.

Duke vs Stanford – 12:00 PM

Stanford’s win over North Carolina wasn’t exactly a thing of beauty, but the result would’ve been something that Duke would’ve taken after the Blue Devils dominated the stat sheet against Ohio State on Friday but fell on a single goal. While the likes of Imani Dorsey and Toni Payne showed some scintillating potential in the attack, the club just couldn’t find the decisive goal and paid the price as OSU found a winner in the second half. Duke pounded the woodwork three times but couldn’t find a breakthrough, and come November, one wonders if the Blue Devils won’t rue Friday if they fall short of a national seed or a high national seed. Much will be forgiven if they can upset the odds against Stanford on Sunday though. Duke will probably be favored until Penn State comes to Durham in a few weeks, so this might be seen as a chance to start a big string of wins. It might also be an invaluable opportunity to get the offense in scoring form after Friday’s misfire, though it’s not likely to be easy against a Stanford side that shut down UNC’s attack with Jane Campbell in fine form in goal.

Campbell was needed on more than one occasion on Friday night as the Card were forced to turn back a relentless North Carolina attack in the first half before gradually getting more of a foothold after the intermission. The Card would seemingly be rueing a handful of missed opportunities through the second half and extra time before Chioma Ubogagu made herself an instant heroine with the golden goal. Ubogagu was strong all night, and there’s little doubt that her form is going to be crucial to Stanford’s form this season. Especially considering Taylor Uhl played just forty minutes against UNC and failed to put a shot on goal. Ubogagu’s experiment with an attacking midfield role looks to be over, and Card fans will be hoping she can continue to show end product in front of goal to go with her spectacular dribbling ability. The defense will probably need to tighten up a bit to keep Jane Campbell from being so overworked, but there’s a ton of potential here all things considered. The only worry is if the extra time match against UNC drained the batteries a bit. But if the Card triumph on Sunday, they’ll likely be favored in every match until the showdown with UCLA in October.
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NCAA – What Chris Is Watching – 08/22/14 – Opening Night (UPDATING)

Second half will be completed later Friday.

For goal/score updates through the day check me on twitter: @chris_awk

For a scoreboard/live RPI updates through the season, check here.

North Carolina vs Stanford – 7:00 PM EST

You think Stanford’s sick of hearing about their twelve matches against North Carolina without a win? The Card have had two seasons to stew after a bitter 1-0 defeat to the Tar Heels in the 2012 College Cup semi-final. Despite having been knocked out of the NCAA Tournament twice in the past five seasons by UNC, Stanford has two draws in the teams’ last two regular season meetings, including the last one in 2010, a 2-2 draw in Chapel Hill. This might be the Card’s best shot at burying that lamentable record for good. The Card return nine starters from last year’s team, a group that finally relinquished control of the Pac-12 to rivals UCLA, albeit one that finally had to rebuild a bit after so many years of success. The U.S.’ U20 WWC failure will work to Stanford’s advantage, as Jane Campbell, Stephanie Amack, and rookie Andi Sullivan all are in Chapel Hill with the Card this weekend. While Courtney Verloo departs, the combo of Taylor Uhl and Chioma Ubogagu could be volatile up top if the chemistry comes, which wasn’t quite apparent at times last season. Blooding Sullivan and some of the other rookies like Sarah Robinson will be key for the Card and could boost a midfield that might move Amack back to full-back with the loss of Natalie Griffen. The defense could again be a strength after some teething problems last season as new personnel was integrated. It’ll also be tested against a UNC side boasting the explosive Summer Green and other raw talent. The real test might be mental though, as Stanford tries to cure their mental block against their rivals. A win on the road here would be a big step towards proving the club is ready to make another College Cup run.

Anxiety in Chapel Hill might be a little higher than usual after a preseason defeat to Missouri that featured a few too many defensive errors leading to goals. The return of Katie Bowen, likely to a defensive role if the defense doesn’t play better, should help things out, while the simultaneous return of Summer Green should add needed punch to the attack. How the attack comes together will likely make or break the Tar Heels’ season. Losing Crystal Dunn and Kealia Ohai at the same time would break most teams, but UNC always seems to find some way to pull it together in the end. Green is likely to be a focal point and is capable of the spectacular but has only shown it in spurts in her first two years at this level. If she’s consistent, UNC should flourish. If not, it could be a headache inducing season, as the other talent, the likes of Amber Munerlyn, Emily Bruder, and Megan Buckingham among others, are all young and raw. The backline will have to coalesce quickly with Satara Murray as the leader, because the goalkeeping situation is unsettled. Lindsey Harris is hardly battle tested, while Bryane Heaberlin has hardly inspired confidence in two seasons here. There’s no grace period for the Heels this season.The non-conference schedule is murderous as usual. Trial by fire should ensure the club is well prepared for the ACC slate, but it also means they could get scorched a few times in the process.
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NCAA – Famous Last Words (2014 Edition) – NCAA Field Projection + College Cup Picks

List by conference and a cluster of the teams that just missed out after the jump.

Here Are Some Nice Parting Gifts (One and Done) – Hartford, Florida Gulf Coast, DePaul, Marquette, Butler, Texas, Memphis, UConn, Portland State, Liberty, Minnesota, Cal Poly, William & Mary, Rice, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Monmouth, Western Michigan, Illinois State, Fairleigh Dickinson, Morehead State, Navy, Stephen F. Austin, Denver, Louisiana-Lafayette, Alabama State, Seattle, San Diego, La Salle, Iowa, Long Beach State, Pepperdine, San Diego State

Second Round – Wake Forest, Saint John’s (NY), Wisconsin, Colorado College, Utah, Arizona State, USC, Washington State, South Carolina, LSU, Furman, Portland, Santa Clara, Kentucky, Boston College, Texas Tech

Sweet Sixteen – Georgetown, Oklahoma State, Harvard, UCF, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, Florida, Penn State

Elite Eight – Duke, West Virginia, Texas A&M, North Carolina

College Cup Semi-Finals – Florida State, Stanford

College Cup Final – Virginia

National Champion – UCLA
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NCAA – Hey, All Those Other Conferences – Projections, Part I

The rest coming later. * = projected NCAA Tournament team


*1. UCF – 35
*2. Memphis – 24
*3. UConn – 21
4. SMU – 19
5. East Carolina – 18
6. South Florida – 16
7. Cincinnati – 16
8. Temple – 9
9. Tulsa – 6
10. Houston – 5

My projections show UCF as clear favorites in the AAC and a sleeper for making it to the College Cup in a wide open season after the top trio. Unlike Amanda Cromwell’s sides, this Knights team looks hell bent on scoring with Tatiana Coleman and Lena Petermann running the show up top. Add in big hitters Ashley Spivey and Saga Fredriksson, and there’s no shortage of talent here, though replacing ace defender Marissa Diggs won’t be easy. The big question might be in the technical area, as the club’s first round NCAA Tournament loss last season despite dominating Saint John’s (NY) raised questions about head coach Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak in big matches. If she puts those worries to bed, UCF will have a great season.

Memphis and UConn are title dark horses but should be in the mix for NCAA Tournament berths. The Tigers return Valerie Sanderson in the attack and Diamond Simpson in defense but have to do away with their increasingly inconsistent ways. The Huskies have a top flight forward in Rachel Hill but may be looking for more to get them beyond being just bubble battlers, as has too often been the case lately.

Chris Petrucelli’s SMU returns all their top talent and picked up a big addition in Oklahoma transfer Paige Jacobs, both signs that they could sneak their way into the NCAA Tournament. My system overrates East Carolina thanks to their conference move, but they should still emerge in mid-table despite a lack of reinforcements that figure to be up for it at this level. Battling them in mid-table figure to be South Florida, a side with no shortage of intriguing international talent but still stinging from the loss of goalkeeper Christiane Endler to Chelsea of England, and a Cincinnati team that appears to have their groove back.

At the bottom figure to be a Temple side with a solid number of returnees but little talent that can cut it at this level, a Tulsa side that languished in mid-table in C-USA last season and loses seven starters, and a Houston side that was abysmally bad last season and looks little better on paper this year.
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NCAA – AWK’s 2014 Big XII Preview

Systemized League Projection

*1. West Virginia – 45
*2. Texas Tech – 31
*3. Oklahoma State – 28
*4. Texas – 27
5. Kansas – 17
6. TCU – 16
7. Oklahoma – 11
8. Baylor – 10
9. Iowa State – 6

* = Projected NCAA Tournament Qualifiers

Well, so much for that. There was a sense that the Big XII may well have been a league ready for a breakout season in 2013, but in the end, flagship programs West Virginia and Texas Tech were done well before the end of the business portion of the NCAA Tournament, while the rest of the league largely floundered in mediocrity. Nobody’s expecting the Big XII to suddenly morph into the ACC, but league supporters probably would hope for a little better than scrapping to stay in the top five strongest conferences perennially.

You doubt that it’s going to get markedly better overnight, but there is some hope for positive movement forward. West Virginia’s a contender to make it to the College Cup but has to improve on some disappointing postseason performances in recent years. Texas Tech’s window may close a bit this season, but they are good enough to win a few NCAA Tournament matches, as are a reloaded Oklahoma State team. Additionally, Texas may finally be an NCAA Tournament team again after some rebuilding seasons and a close call in 2013.

The rest of the league is largely a mass of rebuilding programs. TCU’s effort looks promising, while Oklahoma surely can’t be as hopeless as last season. Iowa State’s logic on a new start was sound, but perhaps not this new start. The doom and gloom is perhaps only prevalent in Kansas, where head coach Mark Francis looks like a dead man walking, and Baylor, where the seldom loved Bears’ reputation has made them few friends, making their slide backward last season make few lose sleep.

The gulf between the creme de la creme and the rest is pretty stark in this league, but the gap between mid-table and the basement isn’t, so the Big XII could again see a team or two make a late charge to steal an NCAA Tournament bid in 2014.
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NWSL – Fantasy Round Nineteen Preview – End of The Road

It’s THE FINAL COUNTDOWN. Well, it turns out we got one last double game round after all. Though take advantage of that at your own peril. The Dash have been mailing it in for the past month and don’t have much incentive to win given how close they are to Morgan Brian. By one count, SBFC has a 100:1 shot at having Wednesday’s match be a playoff decider. They’ll also be without Nadia Nadim for both games and Christie Rampone for the midweek make-up game. SBFC will likely be praying for a Houston win on Sunday to ensure they go into their last game ensured of the #1 pick in January.

Elsewhere, go with the teams with the most motivation and the most pliable opposition. Chicago should roll over a WNY team that looked short on fight towards the end of their defeat to SBFC in midweek. Boston will be looking to make sure SBFC doesn’t get the #1 pick by not finishing on bottom of the league. Portland has a tougher matchup but will be attack-minded to try and get the three points against a Seattle side that may rotate many starters. The Spirit will be eager to clinch the playoffs with a win of their own.

I’d generally stay away from Seattle, Western New York, and Houston players. But it’s not an easy week with so much on the line.

Round Nineteen Team Rankings

2. CHI
3. BOS
4. POR
5. WSH
6. SEA
7. WNY
8. HOU



JILL LOYDEN’s the obvious pick with two matches against a feeble Houston team in midweek and a Jodie Taylor-less Spirit on the weekend. But she may yet be called in as an injury replacement for ASHLYN HARRIS for the midweek game for the USWNT, which would see her value decline in a big way. KARINA LEBLANC seems a pretty safe option, while ALYSSA NAEHER, dare I say, may have her best shot at a clean sheet all season. Meanwhile, if you trust CHANTEL JONES, she may be a sneaky clean sheet contender given the Nadim-less SBFC attack.
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