Monthly Archives: September 2012

NCAA Soccer – The First XI for September 30, 2012 – Virginia vs Duke

Caroline Miller

Virginia's Caroline Miller Hopes To Have A Win To Celebrate on Sunday Against Duke

(21) Virginia vs (12) Duke – 2:00 PM

The heat will be on in Charlottesville, as two clubs who came into the season with ACC title ambitions will try to avoid falling further behind at the halfway point of the league season. Both sides enter into Sunday’s clash with seven points from four league games, which leaves them tied for third at the moment but also six points behind early leaders Maryland, though the duo do have one game in hand right now. Defeat here though would almost assuredly rule the loser out of the title picture, even at this early stage of the game in the ACC. Few expected such a fate was possible for a Duke side that returned a vast percentage of last season’s league champions and national runners-up. The Blue Devils though have been plagued by defensive problems, also unthinkable going into the season, and kept just their third clean sheet of the season with Thursday’s 3-0 win over Clemson. It broke a string of five games without a shutout, with the club having conceded two goals in three of their last four going into Thursday. In large part, Duke’s been surviving without an in-form Kelly Cobb, with the Alaskan, struggling for fitness and effectiveness at the moment. Mollie Pathman’s been moved back into defense this season, mirroring her role at youth international level, possible in large part due to the emergence of some stars on offense. Known as Duke’s third banana up front last year behind Cobb and Pathman, Laura Weinberg has exploded into prominence this year, with eleven goals in eleven games, including four game winners. Her striker partner has been Kim DeCesare, a breakout star for Duke who likely would have more than just eight goals had she not been hobbled a bit by injury earlier in the year. Topping it all off has been the emergence of rookie Cassie Pecht, who with seven assists already, looks like a contender for Freshman of the Year.

The defense will likely be under most scrutiny on Sunday though, against a Virginia side still looking for its first real statement win. While the Cavs have brushed aside most of their overmatched opposition, their lack of a trademark win has left them struggling to break into the Top 16 of the RPI and a prime position for a national seed. The Cavs had to be most disappointed after Thursday, when they let a golden opportunity slip through their fingers against Maryland. Leading into the seventy-fourth minute, UVA would conceded three in a thirteen minute span to collapse to defeat. The Terps effectively shackled Morgan Brian, keeping her without a shot on goal and did just enough to keep Virginia’s offense in check to leave the Cavs with a 3-1 defeat. The loss will just add to the urgency of Steve Swanson’s club though, with Sunday a potentially vital game for the club’s season. Duke will be wary of forward Caroline Miller, who often saves her best for when the lights are brightest. Given some of Duke’s defensive displays so far this year, the senior out of Rockville will surely fancy her chances of leading Virginia to a much desired win against their ACC rivals on Sunday afternoon.
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NCAA Soccer – Quick Mid-Major Non-Conference Reviews – Atlantic 10, Big West, MAAC, Mountain West, Patriot, Southland, Summit, SWAC, WAC, Great West

Atlantic 10

The preseason consensus was…

…Dayton was going to win the A-10 title in reasonably comfortable fashion, with Richmond and La Salle offering up the closest challenges to the Flyers. Solid seasons were also predicted for league newcomers VCU and A10 stalwarts UMass.

So how’s that working out?

Dayton, wildly enough, has rebounded back to the edge of the bubble after a rather fitful start to the new season. The new look defense had trouble stopping anybody, and wins over Boston University and Northwestern were then offset by losses to Central Michigan and DePaul. Once their at-large hopes dimmed though, Dayton seemed to play better, going into league play on the back of three straight wins. Though it sounds somewhat cruel, Becca Wann getting selected to the U.S. U20 team was all but a death sentence for the Spiders’ at-large hopes, and the club lost four in a row to open up the season. They’ve turned it around since, with four wins in five to close out non-conference play and are a great sleeper for A10 silverware now that Wann’s back. La Salle had a great opening win against West Virginia but has since faded, thanks mainly to a stretch of one win in four which saw the Explorers unable to come up big against tough opponents. They’ve won three in a row entering league play, but the overall quality of their wins has been dismal. VCU has been solid but unspectacular early on, opening with just one win in five but entering league play on a six match unbeaten run, including wins over William & Mary and Pittsburgh. UMass won just two of six to open the season in a tough non-conference stretch but entered league play having won three of four and as the league’s second ranked team in the RPI.
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NCAA Soccer – The First XI for September 29, 2012 – Boston College vs Pepperdine

Stephanie McCaffrey

Stephanie McCaffrey & Boston College Will Aim To Beat Back The Waves on Saturday

(7) Boston College vs (47) Pepperdine – 12:00 PM (at Cambridge, Massachusetts)

It’s go time for Pepperdine on Saturday at High Noon, as they square off in a match against Boston College that could give the official scorer hand cramps, such is the explosiveness of these two offenses. The Waves are averaging over two goals a game, though that pales in comparison to their hosts on Saturday, as BC has knocked in a dazzling three goals a match after eleven action packed games. The ACC side will be hoping to build a little more momentum before a potential make-or-break stretch of the league season, as they play North Carolina, Duke, and Maryland in an eight day span. The Eagles already may have saved their ACC title hopes once last weekend, coming back late thanks to a pair of Stephanie McCaffrey goals against Virginia Tech. McCaffrey is one of the nation’s rising offensive stars, along with fellow Eagle, McKenzie Meehan, and the dynamic duo has combined for thirteen goals thus far in 2012. Of course, the brightest star of all for BC is Kristen Mewis, one of the leaders in the race for the Hermann Trophy with nine goals and six assists thus far. Though they may have the week off from ACC action, the Eagles would love to pick up a win here to further their case for a #1 seed come November. They’ll be facing one of the few clubs out there that can potentially match their offense in Pepperdine. The Waves’ three-headed monster of Lynn Williams, Amanda LeCave, and Anisa Guajardo have devoured a good many overmatched opponent this year, but Pepperdine still finds itself needing to prove it against a top side after falling flat against San Diego State and UCLA. Saturday will afford them that chance, along with likely punching their ticket to the NCAA Tournament with a win. They’ll be wary of their opponents’ firepower though. One only needs to ask the likes of Harvard, Clemson, and UConn to testify as to the damage the Eagle offense can do to even an accomplished rearguard. Pepperdine’s felt the wrath of a top offense before as well, getting trounced by UCLA earlier this season. They’ll need much more from their squad if they’re to pull an upset on the ACC title contenders on Saturday afternoon.

NCAA Soccer – Pre-Conference Play Grades/NCAA Tournament Prospects/Predicted Order of Finish – WCC

BYU

Grade: (A+) – Come on, did anybody see BYU being this good? The Cougars were probably set for a bounce back year after last season’s disappointment, but BYU supporters must surely be on cloud nine after the start to the season they’ve enjoyed. Wins over Long Beach State, Colorado College, Penn State, and Washington have sean BYU soar in the rankings, but until they do it on the road against a strong opponent, College Cup dreams may have to wait.
Current RPI – 5
Top Scorer – Carlee Payne Holmoe (4 G, 6 A)
NCAA Tournament Prospects – They’re in for sure, but they still have a little work to do to ensure a favorable path towards San Diego. The quality of all those wins should be good enough to net them a national seed should they avoid a collapse in league play. The goal now has to be getting a top two seed to ensure the first three rounds of the tournament go through Provo. For that, they might need to win most or all of their games in WCC play.
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#10 Maryland Mounts 3-1 Comeback Win Against #3 Virginia

Senior Olivia Wagner (left) scored two goals but here plays her more familiar role of defensive midfielder

Senior midfielder and team captain Olivia Wagner sent two of her free kicks into the net to lead her Maryland Terrapins to a 3-1 win over the Virginia Cavaliers, putting the team in first place in the ACC standings.
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NCAA Soccer – The First XI for September 28, 2012 – Florida vs Ole Miss

Holly King

Florida Captain Holly King Will Try To Dominate The Midfield on Friday Against Ole Miss

(14) Florida vs (24) Ole Miss – 7:00 PM

Florida’s endured a rather trying month in September despite five wins in six coming into Friday’s matchup with Ole Miss. The club lost All-American defender Kathryn Williamson for potentially the season with a torn meniscus at the beginning of the month and then had to stomach seeing Erika Tymrak go down with a sprained left ankle against Tennessee last weekend in Gainesville. All things considered, Florida’s coped reasonably well, able to power through both the Lady Vols and Georgia last weekend to collect six vital points in the SEC. Tymrak has been tipped to return this weekend, but Williamson’s loss has definitely shown for the Gators, as the club hasn’t kept a clean sheet without her in the lineup. That could spell problems on Friday with a high powered Ole Miss side coming into The Swamp. After losing two games in a row to league newcomers Texas A&M and Missouri, the Rebels perhaps notched the most vital win of their season last Sunday when they downed potential bubble rivals Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Goalkeeper Kelly McCormick played the heroine by saving a penalty, with Mandy McCalla then converting a spot kick of her own to send the Rebels to three huge points in the league. Questions still remain over the side’s ability to do it against the top teams though, so Ole Miss will try to answer emphatically on Friday. The Rebels should at least have enough offense to be problematic to the Florida defense. The dynamic duo of Mandy McCalla and Rafaelle Souza haven’t been shy about shooting on sight, and it’s paid off to the tune of nineteen combined goals thus far. The pace has slowed down a bit against stronger SEC sides, but the pair will get the chance to keep their foot on the accelerator in an upset bid on Friday. Victory would not just net Ole Miss another three points in their bid to return to the postseason but would also go a long way in getting the club back in the NCAA Tournament after a three year absence.
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NCAA Soccer – The First XI for September 27, 2012 – North Carolina vs Florida State & Maryland vs Virginia

Amber Brooks

Amber Brooks & North Carolina Will Look to End FSU's Unbeaten Run on A Big Night in The ACC

RPI rankings now added by each team.

(6) North Carolina vs (5) Florida State – 7:00 PM

One of the grander rivalries in all of college soccer will again be at the forefront on Thursday night when North Carolina hosts Florida State in Chapel Hill. These two clubs have played their fair share of classics over the years and will do battle again, with each hoping to keep pace in the cutthroat race for the ACC title. The situation is a little more pressure packed for the home side, who have begun their campaign in the ACC with a 1-1-1 record. The heat was on last week too though, as UNC had come away with just a single point from the opening weekend of league play, with the Heels responding in the end with a convincing 3-1 win over Virginia Tech that breathed new life into their title ambitions. There are still worries over the UNC defense though, with the club having failed to keep a clean sheet in three league games thus far. With Megan Brigman out again through a fractured leg, it’ll be up to junior Crystal Dunn to marshall the backline once more as they try to shut down a volatile Florida State offense. That will, of course, be easier said than done against the nation’s last side with a 100% record. The Noles took last week off from league play, logging a rather pointless win against Jackson State, but had perhaps earned themselves a bit of a breather after two 1-0 wins against Duke and Wake Forest to open up the league season. Those clean sheet wins are just a part of a trend for a side who has won five games by a 1-0 count this season and who has given up just three goals all year, with two of those coming in the opener. That suffocating defense has gone some way in bailing out an offense which has, at times, labored a bit. Still, this is a club that boasts one of the nation’s best strikers in Tiffany McCarty, who is tied for the team’s scoring lead with four goals. She shares that honor with Kristin Grubka, the bruiser proving to be a more than competent target on set pieces. The real key though could be getting Icelandic midfielder Dagny Brynjarsdottir back to full speed after her return from UEFA EURO qualifiers. The budding star could be the piece that puts the club over the top and should be vital in the ACC title race. Vital is also an apt description for this Thursday clash between two title hopefuls. North Carolina knows they can’t afford too many more slip-ups if they want to lift the league title this year. Florida State will be looking to keep their 100% record intact while edging closer to a #1 seed. Given the propensity of these two in playing classics when matched against each other in recent years, Chapel Hill could again be the place to be for college soccer fans on Thursday night.

(29) Maryland vs (17) Virginia – 7:00 PM

It’s #1 vs #2 in the ACC on Thursday night as Maryland battles Virginia for the right to top the league table going into the weekend. The Terps have set the pace early in the league, surprising a good many pundit who believed the club to be a thoroughly inconsistent one after a non-conference season that featured a loss to Fordham and draw with Villanova. But the young Maryland club has come of age in the league, storming out to a 3-0-1 start to rise to the peak of the table going into this week’s set of matches. After a surprising upset over North Carolina to open up league play, Maryland kept the momentum going last week, netting a draw at Duke, though the club will be disappointed to have given up a late equalizer just minutes from a win. They’d shake that setback off though, beating Wake Forest in Winston-Salem for the first time in over fifteen years. The duo of Hayley Brock and Becky Kaplan, who have seemed to grow in confidence as the season has worn on, has been electric in league play and will look to continue their furious scoring pace against the Cavs on Thursday. It won’t be easy though, as Virginia most certainly had Maryland’s number in two wins last season and will fancy their chances against the Terps, even in College Park. UVA might be cursing the schedule makers a bit, with their ACC slate heavily weighted towards the back end, meaning there’ll be little respite for the club over the next few weeks. Perfunctory wins over NC State and Clemson kept the Cavs in the league title race for now, but they surely know that the lack of big wins on their resume is glaring at the moment. While the ship has likely sailed on a #1 seed for UVA, getting a national seed is still paramount for the club, and they’ll need some big wins along the way to solidify that position. Maryland on Thursday represents a great opportunity to deliver a shot in the arm to the RPI for UVA, and Steve Swanson’s side will be eager to make the most of the opportunity. While the Terps have a big time scoring duo, Virginia has some firepower of their own, with Makenzy Doniak and Caroline Miller both coming into this one with seven goals. More than that though, Virginia will likely be looking to take advantage of the mental edge of knowing they’ve owned Maryland in their last two meetings. The Terps have so far defied expectations in the league though, and they’ll be looking to do so again on Thursday in yet another match with ACC title implications.
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NCAA Soccer – Bubble Watch v1.0

Yes, it’s time for the return of Bubble Watch, traditionally one of the most read set of posts all season as we try to make sense of the numbers leading up to Selection Monday. As always, these groupings are based on Chris Thomas’ exemplary work with the RPI. His system has been revised this season, which means there are going to be a lot more teams in contention for the next few weeks before the field of potential at-large teams gets pared down considerably.

With that in mind, I’ve separated clubs into four groups for the moment:

Lock – Clubs who, according to past historical precedent, are locks to be included in the NCAA Tournament.
Bubble Tier A – The “should be in” crowd. Clubs who, if the season ended today, would be all but guaranteed spots in the NCAA Tournament.
Bubble Tier B – All bubble teams not included in the other two tiers.
Bubble Tier C – The danger zone. Teams currently in an RPI position that disappears from at-large consideration in the following week’s report. The “bubble to the bubble” in a way.

America East

Bubble Tier B – Stony Brook, Boston University
Bubble Tier C – Maine, Hartford

The annual mystery of if Boston University will be in the mix for an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament has instead been replaced with the battle to win the league’s automatic bid with the Terriers banned from the conference tournament thanks to their pending move to the Patriot League. It meant that BU would have to get an at-large bid if they wanted to extend their NCAA Tournament streak. Needless to say, with no significant wins and numerous close calls, the best BU can hope for is winning another league title. Their biggest rivals could be Stony Brook, who has wins over St. John’s and Army, though they aren’t anywhere close to an at-large bid either. On the fringe are Maine, who has overachieved to be in their current position, and Hartford, who have very much underachieved to be close to bubble elimination.

Atlantic 10

Bubble Tier B – Dayton, Butler, UMass, Charlotte, La Salle, Fordham, VCU
Bubble Tier C – Saint Louis

I figured that the A10 was going to be the top mid-major league in the country at the beginning of the season. The reality? Not so much. A league which I figured could get an at-large bid or two seems to have underachieved in some respects and is looking squarely at being a one-bid conference. Dayton’s defense has been atrocious for much of the year, and losses to Texas, Central Michigan, and DePaul have likely sealed their bubble fate. A win over Northwestern could do them some good, but there’s just not much room for improvement in front of them, meaning landing on the bubble is unlikely unless a lot of teams lose in front of them. There’s plenty joining them on the second tier of the bubble right now. Butler has a win over Purdue and might have merited some discussion had they not dropped a match to Eastern Michigan. UMass is likely as high as they are because of a tough non-conference schedule, as they don’t have any real egregious losses but don’t have quality wins either. A win over East Carolina and draw with Clemson have served Charlotte well, but defeat to Davidson was a backbreaker. La Salle has put up some gaudy offensive numbers and did top West Virginia on the road earlier, but a loss to Villanova and some real stinkers for non-conference opponents has curtailed their bubble hopes. Fordham may have one of the upsets of the season against Maryland, but puzzling losses against Marist, St. John’s (NY), and Columbia raise questions about how the club will do against top A10 competition. VCU got off to a rough start with a draw against High Point and loss to Akron but are now unbeaten in six, including knocking off CAA favorite William & Mary, meaning they may be a club to watch in the league. 2-5-2 Saint Louis is likely on the list for now thanks to a very challenging non-conference slate, but the Billikens don’t have anything approaching a quality result.

ACC

Lock – Florida State, North Carolina, Boston College
Bubble Tier A – Duke, Virginia, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, Maryland
Bubble Tier B – Clemson, Miami (FL)

Last season, the ACC got an unprecedented nine bids to the NCAA Tournament. This season? Well, the league is looking good for eight bids, but matching last year’s nine could be trickier. Florida State, North Carolina, and Boston College have all done enough to ensure their spot in the Big Dance and will be pushing for one of the coveted #1 seeds. With FSU and UNC meeting this week, the winner could gain a serious leg up in the race for that top seed. Duke looks pretty close to joining that top line, but probably needs to finish strong if they want to be in line for a strong national seed given their 1-1-1 record in their past three. Virginia’s posted a gaudy record, but their lack of a statement win is keeping them from rising higher, though they’ve got plenty of chances from now to the rest of the season. Wake Forest is paying the price for the early season stretch that saw them draw with UNC Wilmington and lose to UNC Greensboro. They should be in contention for a national seed, but their chance for a #1 seed may have passed. Virginia Tech has a great win over Illinois to hang their hat on, but their odds of a national seed are slipping after a slow ACC start. Maryland’s an extremely curious case right now. An indifferent non-conference slate had them well back from their ACC brethren at the beginning of league play, but a 3-0-1 start have them on top of the league and gaining ground in the RPI. They have to keep winning to guarantee themselves of a national seed though, and a non-conference match against Francis Marion isn’t going to help their RPI. Clemson are winless in five and may struggle again to avoid the wooden spoon in the ACC, with the Tigers also unlikely to end up at .500. The fact that Miami (FL) is below Clemson at this point in the RPI is a bad omen for the Hurricanes, who have won just two of five. With a win over Florida and a draw against West Virginia but little else of note, the Canes need to win and win big down the stretch to get a ticket back to the NCAA Tournament. They also are just a game over .500 right now, meaning they’ve got a tough road to travel on that front as well.
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NCAA Soccer – RPI Bracket v1.0

Some notes:

-This is not meant to be a substitute for the actual selection process by the committee come November. Instead, this is a selection purely based on the calculated RPI at a point in time.

-Projected conference winners are at this point the highest ranked team in the RPI in each conference. This will change to the team leading the standings once a league has completed half of its league games.

-As are the rules, no team under .500 is considered for an at-large bid.

Seeded Teams

1 – Stanford – Pac-12*
2 – BYU – WCC*
3 – Penn State – Big Ten*
4 – UCLA – Pac-12
5 – Florida State – ACC*
6 – North Carolina – ACC
7 – Long Beach State – Big West*
8 – San Diego State – Mountain West*
9 – Missouri – SEC*
10 – Boston College – ACC
11 – Texas A&M – SEC
12 – Duke – ACC
13 – Santa Clara – WCC
14 – Portland – WCC
15 – UCF – Conference USA*
16 – Florida – SEC
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NCAA Soccer – The First XI for September 23, 2012 – Wake Forest vs Maryland

Hayley Brock

Hayley Brock & Maryland Will Try To Stay Top of The ACC Against Wake Forest

Wake Forest vs Maryland – 1:00 PM

The ACC title race has taken an early turn, with these two sides coming into Sunday with a chance to sit alone on top of the standings come day’s end. Maryland sits there going into the day, a rather surprising fact considering some of the club’s early non-conference struggles. The Terps’ draw with Villanova and defeat to Fordham had some likely fearing the worst, especially with Maryland’s RPI lagging behind many of their ACC rivals. The league opener was a time for a statement though, and Maryland shook off non-conference blues to top North Carolina in a 2-1 upset. A dominant performance against Clemson then set up a 2-2 draw in Durham against Duke, leaving Maryland on top of the table. Staying there means getting something from Sunday’s clash against a defensively stingy Wake Forest side. The Demon Deacons kept Boston College’s explosive offense off the board on Thursday, holding Kristen Mewis without a shot on goal over ninety minutes. It was another exemplary display from a group that has kept four clean sheets in five games and hasn’t conceded multiple goals all season. The real story was Katie Stengel’s big night, as she toyed with the Boston College defense en route to scoring both goals in the 2-0 win. The brace allowed Stengel to break the school’s points and goals record despite the Floridian having played just more than two seasons with the club. The victory not only gave Wake Forest three valuable points in the ACC, it also gave them a way back into the title race after a damaging 1-0 loss at Florida State the previous Sunday. Stengel again will be called upon to carry a lot of the load, with strike partner Rachel Nuzzolese an injury doubt after missing Thursday’s game. Stopping the rampaging forward isn’t an easy task, but it’ll be one that Maryland has to accomplish if they have hopes of topping the table come the end of Sunday.
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