NCAA Soccer – Quick Mid-Major Non-Conference Reviews – Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, C-USA, Horizon, Ivy, MAC, MVC, NEC, OVC, SoCon, Sun Belt, America East

Atlantic Sun

The preseason consensus was…

…that Florida Gulf Coast were slight favorites to retain their title, with Jacksonville and East Tennessee State also in the mix.

So how’s that working out?

FGCU looks to be holding up their end of the bargain, having played a reasonably challenging non-conference schedule and netting a draw with Illinois State in a nice result. A trip out West was bad for the club though, as they drew with Northern Arizona before losing to UNLV. East Tennessee State has also been relatively impressive against a rather middling schedule, though a 7-1 defeat to Middle Tennessee State may have exposed them a bit. Jacksonville has been a disappointment for the most part, going into league play under .500. There were some heavy hitters in the schedule, but the club really should be above drawing the likes of Georgia Southern.

Any surprise packages?

Most of the league is currently well down in the RPI after taking their lumps in non-conference play, but old contenders Mercer have been a pleasant surprise. A great draw with Southern Miss is a highlight, while there really aren’t any bad losses on the slate. They probably aren’t title contenders, but the Bears should be good bets for the postseason in their first year under new management.

Wooden Spoon Watch

There are plenty of contenders, though even the very bottom of the league seems to be making some strides towards improvement. Perennial doormat USC Upstate won their first and last games but has seven losses, many of them heavy, in between. Also in the first year of a new regime, Lipscomb has struggled, though they kept it close against Xavier and beat Austin Peay. Defeat to SWAC side Alabama State was embarrassing though. Stetson is probably the league’s most disappointing team at this stretch. The Hatters did manage to throttle Florida Atlantic, but having just one win at this point of the season is tough to defined.

Top 3 Scorers

1. Ramey Kerns – East Tennessee State (9 G, 3 A)
2. Lauren Gassie – Mercer (5 G, 3 A)
3. Sarah Zadrazil – East Tennessee State (3 G, 7 A)

At the end of the day…

Betting on anyone but Florida Gulf Coast or East Tennessee State at this point seems a bit foolish, but this is a league in which surprises do happen in the conference tournament, which should keep the favorites wary.

Big Sky

The preseason consensus was…

…that it was going to be a muddle at the top, with Portland State, Northern Colorado, and Montana all tipped to challenge for the league title.

So how’s that working out?

The Big Sky’s a notoriously difficult league to get a grip on before league play starts thanks to the inevitable deluge of losses from playing major conference clubs. Northern Colorado tops the RPI at the moment despite entering with a 2-4-2 record. They’ve played a very challenging slate thus far, but a win over Utah State and draws against Colorado College and Northern Colorado show their potential. Montana shocked Wyoming in their opener but has been streaky ever since and will likely need to show more consistency to put up a title challenge. A win over Boise State and draw against Utah State were positive for Portland State, but it’s hard to find the club’s true ceiling as they’ve played a very rigorous slate thus far.

Any surprise packages?

Not really, but if you want to get particular, you could say that Eastern Washington, a side picked to contend for the basement, has been mildly surprising. They’re still under .500, but they also have wins over Boise State, Idaho, and Hawaii, all in the club’s last three games.

Wooden Spoon Watch

Newcomers North Dakota and Southern Utah both got no love in the preseason poll, and neither has done much to prove it wrong, with both near or below the #300 mark in the RPI thus far. Both have not looked competitive early on and will likely be fighting it out to avoid a last place finish in their first year in the league.

Top 3 Scorers

1. Rachel Strawn – Idaho State (7 G, 1 A)
2. Anna Pingree – Idaho State (4 G, 2 A)
3. Cassie Black – Eastern Washington (4 G, 1 A)

At the end of the day…

It’s still likely to be a muddle come the end of the season. Northern Colorado are probably slight favorites right now, but this season screams co-champions in the Big Sky. It’ll also be the type of conference tournament where anyone could emerge victorious.

Conference USA

The preseason consensus was…

…not exactly crystal clear, with Memphis and UCF taking the top two spots, though the actual voting point totals were never released. As you might expect, the second tier of contenders was composed of Colorado College, SMU, and Rice.

So how’s that working out?

UCF looks like it’s got a great shot at a national seed and has held a high spot in just about every poll and ranking measure all season. It’s been more of a struggle for Memphis, who didn’t really cope all that well with some key pieces being missing for the U20 World Cup, and who are very much on the bubble right now. Joining them in that second tier, as expected, are Colorado College and SMU, with the former looking like having an outside chance at an at-large bid with a strong league campaign. Rice has been a mild disappointment though. The Owls just don’t seem to have grown as a team this year, with losses to TCU and Stephen F. Austin unraveling some of the good done by draws against LSU and Oklahoma.

Any surprise packages?

Well, if you’re just going by the RPI, you’d have to consider Southern Miss something of a surprise, as the Golden Eagles are in the RPI Top 80 as of this being written. In some parts of the world, that’d be considered a sign of the apocalypse, given the program’s history. There’s nothing really great or bad on USM’s resume, but they’ve certainly been feisty early on. Whether that means anything in league play is up for debate.

Wooden Spoon Watch

Skeptics would probably argue that Southern Miss is going to fall right back down to Earth come league play, but it’ll likely be a battle at any rate, with a putrid UAB team likely to struggle to make the postseason. OK, that might be overstating it a bit considering the Blazers loaded up with major conference teams in non-conference play. But in any event, the club is still 1-7-0, and a 4-3 loss to lowly Florida Atlantic in their last game before league play can’t have helped with low expectations.

Top 3 Scorers

1. Tess Hall – UTEP (5 G, 6 A)
2. Christabel Oduro – Memphis (5 G, 2 A)
T3. Nicolette Radovcic – UCF (5 G, 1 A)
T3. Claire Nicholson – Tulsa (5 G, 1 A)

At the end of the day…

The winner of UCF-Memphis will likely have a big advantage in the race for the league title. There’s a lot of volatility in the at-large bid situation though. We could be looking at a one-bid league where UCF and only UCF gets in or potentially three or four bids, with Memphis, Colorado College, and SMU all making a run for an at-large bid or the automatic bid in what should be an entertaining conference tournament.

Horizon

The preseason consensus was…

…Milwaukee would challenge again for the league title but would also face a stern challenge from upstarts Detroit.

So how’s that working out?

Oops. Milwaukee has suffered through a fitful start after losing a ton of players through graduation, as well as going through a coaching change. The ambitious schedule has backfired, with the defense being turned into Swiss cheese, while the offense has struggled at times as well. The end result has been one win in seven and plenty of questions going into league play. Detroit has been just as disappointing, with no breakthrough win to speak of and disappointing losses to the likes of Hawaii and Oakland. The Titans come into league play two games under .500 and well down the RPI pecking order.

Any surprise packages?

Nobody’s exactly exploded into prominence, but Valparaiso and Wright State seem to be pacing the field at this point. Valpo’s been an also ran in the Horizon for a while and didn’t look to be doing all that well to begin the season despite some tough matchups but come into league play off three straight clean sheet wins, including an impressive 2-0 triumph against Western Michigan. Some tipped Wright State for a breakthrough before the season, and there’ve certainly been positive signs. Draws with Denver and DePaul have raised hopes, but overall from has been a bit spotty. Having won two of their last three going into the league, the Raiders will be hoping to finally make a trophy breakthrough come the end of the season.

Wooden Spoon Watch

You’d usually pencil Youngstown State in and forget about it, but the Penguins aren’t locks for last this year. YSU is actually over .500 still, though three straight losses have been a serious red flag. Cleveland State has been seriously underwhelming early, though a solid win over Longwood last week have raised hopes that the Vikings might still be able to turn things around. The odds on favorite right now is probably woeful Wisconsin-Green Bay. The Phoenix haven’t gained much altitude this year, going 2-5-0 to open up the season while trying to avoid falling out of the RPI Top 300.

Top 3 Scorers

1. Emilie Fillion – Wright State (4 G, 2 A)
2. Vickie Havas – Cleveland State (3 G, 4 A)
T3. Kaitlyn Quarrell – Detroit (3 G, 2 A)
T3. Ini Umotong – Wright State (3 G, 2 A)

At the end of the day…

Given their previous history, it’s very tempting to avoid writing off Milwaukee just yet. While the Panthers are likely better than their record, it’s really questionable as to whether they’ll be able to defend their title though after failing to really settle during the first half of this season. I’d wager right now that it’s Wright State’s year, but this could be a rather unpredictable conference tournament, with four or five clubs realistically coming in with a shot of winning the league’s auto bid.

Ivy

The preseason consensus was…

…not really there, as it doesn’t seem a preseason poll was ever released. If there had been though, you’d think Harvard would’ve been favored to repeat, with Penn, Princeton, and Yale also likely for the top half of the table.

So how’s that working out?

Harvard’s on top of the RPI in the Ivy League, despite just a 3-2-1 record. Wins over UMass, Colgate, and Quinnipiac have done the trick, with a draw over Boston U not really helping as much as it would have in previous years. At-large hopes were likely ended by Boston College in an embarrassing 8-1 loss at home. Princeton and Penn have both started rather tepidly, with both sitting at .500 right now, and the former’s defense looking like a real liability right now. Yale has been disappointing, with a rather unflattering RPI, not helped out by a soft non-conference schedule on the whole.

Any surprise packages?

Likely mid-table candidates Dartmouth and Brown have both been surprising thus far, at a combined 11-3-0. The Big Green have been beneficiaries of an explosive offense thus far, scoring seventeen goals in five games. That’s allowed them to upset South Florida and run Rutgers close as well. Brown’s taken the almost exact opposite tact, using a mean defense to run up a 6-1-0 record, with all of their wins being by shutout. Their victim list includes St. John’s (NY), Northeastern, and UMass, showing that these Bears pack some bite.

Wooden Spoon Watch

This one’s not hard. Cornell’s 0-7-0 and has been getting pasted by everyone, not just the big teams on the docket. It’s not outside the realm of possibility that the club could go winless in 2012.

Top 3 Scorers

1. Jen Hoy – Princeton (9 G, 0 A)
2. Kristen Forster – Yale (5 G, 3 A)
3. Emma Brush – Dartmouth (5 G, 2 A)

At the end of the day…

You’d tip Harvard to just about edge it in the league, though they probably aren’t going to be able to afford slips, with an at-large bid looking unlikely. Princeton, Penn, and Yale of course will all be looking to spoil the party with a late run to the title, while it’ll be interesting to see if Dartmouth and Brown can keep pace after strong starts from both.

MAC

The preseason consensus was…

…painfully obtuse, as the league took its coaches’ poll with a divisional split. As you might expect, Toledo and Central Michigan were favored in the West, though Toledo being comfortable favorites over CMU might be a little surprising. In the other division, Kent State opened as comfortable favorites over MiamI (OH). Toledo was picked by nearly half of the coaches to win the league’s auto bid.

So how’s that working out?

Toledo have been pretty bad. While they’ve had some hard tests on the schedule, they’ve also lost to Belmont, Samford, and were crushed by Texas. It adds up to a 2-6-0 record and a horrible RPI as they enter MAC play. It’s been much better for their rivals Central Michigan, as the Chippewas made waves by beating West Virginia and Dayton before drawing with Marquette. A loss to Purdue has hurt their at-large bid hopes, though CMU should still be clear favorites in the league going into conference play. Kent State has been solid, with a 5-1-1 record entering MAC action, though competition hasn’t been great, with the Golden Flashes also dropping a game against Duquesne in their non-conference finale. Divisional rivals Miami (OH) have packed a potent offensive punch that should make them one of the league’s most exciting teams, but a 1-0 loss to IPFW was a reminder that they aren’t always the most consistent of teams.

Any surprise packages?

Ohio’s been a pleasant surprise so far, especially when you consider they dropped their first three. The Bobcats’ defense promptly buckled down and shut four of their final five non-conference opponents out en route to five straight wins. Northern Illinois has also looked decent early on in year one of a new regime, with four wins from seven that have raised hopes of a postseason berth. In a negative kind of surprise, Western Michigan hasn’t quiet lived up to their early promise. They played Illinois hard in an opening day loss and then won four straight but closed out non-conference play by losing three in a row to go tumbling down the RPI.

Wooden Spoon Watch

An offensively challenged Bowling Green side has done interim boss Kellie Evans no favors, and the Falcons entered league play a lowly 1-7-0 in a run that included a blistering 7-0 defeat to Minnesota. Likely challenging them for the basement spot in the MAC is a Buffalo side that seemed to have turned the corner last year and started this season 1-1-1. They then lost four of their next five, including three straight 1-0 defeats to leave them with a 2-5-1 record going into MAC action.

Top 3 Scorers

1. Jaclyn Dutton – Kent State (8 G, 2 A)
2. Jess Kodiak – Miami (OH) (6 G, 3 A)
3. Cat Rogers – Ohio (5 G, 2 A)

At the end of the day…

Central Michigan should be comfortable favorites to lift MAC silverware, but they’ll be challenged every step of the way. The likes of Kent State, Miami (OH), and Western Michigan have all shown flashes early this season and could easily topple the Chippewas in a one-off situation. MAC sides will also be wary of a revival from Toledo, who shouldn’t be written off, even with their early season struggles.

Missouri Valley

The preseason consensus was…

…Illinois State would win the league title, but the voting on the preseason poll was closer than you might think, with the coaches believing Missouri State was in with a shot of taking home league honors.

So how’s that working out?

Well, Illinois State has the top RPI ranking of the seven MVC clubs, but they haven’t quite been as good as some might have expected. They did get a great draw against Illinois and followed with a solid draw at Florida Atlantic, but a loss to Western Michigan basically ended their at-large bid hopes. A heartbreaking defeat to Wisconsin followed, though the club has recovered to win their last three matches. Missouri State’s been inconsistent through out, going through an awful stretch of one win in five at one point. Their early wins were pretty spotty, but the club have seemingly turned it around as of late, with a 3-1-1 record in their last five.

Any surprise packages?

That would be Drake, who are having a fantastic season up to this point. The Bulldogs shocked Nebraska in a 1-0 upset and have used that as momentum to win their last seven, including six by a single goal. Drake hasn’t exactly been pushing themselves with top notch opposition, having not played a single team over .500, but nine wins in eleven is nine wins in eleven.

Wooden Spoon Watch

Evansville looks odds on to end up in the MVC basement and be the unlucky team to miss out on the postseason after a flailing start to the new year. After a win over Murray State, the Purple Aces have promptly gone 0-4-2 to come into league play with a dismal 1-6-2 record. The offense has been public enemy #1 early for Evansville, with just three goals in the club’s last six games.

Top 3 Scorers

1. Rachel Tejada – Illinois State (10 G, 3 A)
2. Ashlie Stokes – Drake (6 G, 2 A)
T3. Charlotte Jones – Northern Iowa (4 G, 1 A)
T3. Brittney Neumann – Creighton (4 G, 1 A)
T3. Generve Charles – Drake (4 G, 1 A)

At the end of the day…

They don’t figure to be in the at-large picture, but you’d think Illinois State would have enough to just about see off all their other league rivals to raise MVC silverware before potentially giving someone fits in the NCAA Tournament.

NEC

The preseason consensus was…

…probably what you expected if you’ve been paying attention to the NEC. All the first place votes went to St. Francis (PA) and Long Island, with the Red Flash earning top billing, though the margin was unknown as the league didn’t release the points total in the preseason poll.

So how’s that working out?

Well, none of the above are the current top ranked club in the RPI in the NEC. That honor would go to Quinnipiac, who has started with a flourish at 4-2-1, though they entered league play on the back of two losses. The Bobcats still raised an eyebrow or two with a win over Providence, though they’d raise just as many for all the wrong reasons by drawing with NJIT a few weeks later. SFPA is next in the RPI and probably paid the price for an ambitious non-conference slate, though they really should have taken care of business against the likes of Morehead State and Niagara. Long Island are in the mire at the moment, having begun with five losses in six during a suicidal non-conference schedule. Whether taking their lumps on a constant basis outside of NEC play has a knock-on effect in the league is yet to be determined.

Any surprise packages?

Considering Quinnipiac was picked to finish sixth in the league, you’d have to tip them as the surprise of the half-season thus far. Likewise, Bryant has been pretty impressive for a club without much of a DI pedigree. They gave UMass a tough time early and ended up going into the beginning of league play with a 5-4-0 record and no real bad losses to their name.

Wooden Spoon Watch

The bottom of the NEC is like the Bermuda Triangle, and there’s always some very bad teams on display near the basement of the conference. The fact that Central Connecticut State, once a titan in the league, is down in the dregs has been a shock. While CCSU has played some tough opponents, to have won just one of seven entering NEC action has been jarring. The bar wasn’t quite set as high for either Wagner or Robert Morris. The Seahawks have been pretty streaky throughout the season but have been consistently bad on defense, not keeping a clean sheet in any of their nine non-conference matches en route to a 3-6-0 record. Robert Morris has been one of DI’s worst, winless in ten games and having gone four straight without a goal entering into league play. Couple that anemic offense with a leaky defense, and you’ve got the recipe for a very bad season for RMU.

Top 3 Scorers

1. Tesa McKibben – St. Francis (PA) (5 G, 6 A)
2. Dana Costello – Monmouth (5 G, 2 A)
3. Rachel Hoekstra – Fairleigh Dickinson (5 G, 1 A)

At the end of the day…

Expect a fun race for the league title. St. Francis (PA) will still likely be favored, but Quinnipiac should provide a very stiff challenge and might just fulfill some of the promise that last year’s side came into the season with. Don’t rule out runs from Bryant or Long Island either, with the number of challengers likely making the NEC Tournament an entertaining affair in November.

Ohio Valley

The preseason consensus was…

…for a two horse race between last season’s regular season champions Southeast Missouri State and last year’s OVC Tournament winners, UT-Martin. Though the voting was pretty close, the edge was given to the Skyhawks to continue their winning ways in the league.

So how’s that working out?

UTM has been one of the OVC’s better teams out of conference, which means they haven’t taken as many knocks as some of their league rivals. They did play Mississippi State close and draw with Butler and Georgia State, so there’s potential there, though it doesn’t appear that they’ll be running away with it. SEMO’s obviously got more important things to worry about at the moment, but they’ve struggled on the pitch as well, with a 1-6-2 record coming into league play. They’ve played a punishing schedule to this point though, and could well come good once league play commences.

Any surprise packages?

Jacksonville State were picked to finish tied for dead last in the preseason poll but finds itself closer to the RPI Top 100 after a stunningly successful season to this point. Wins over Georgia State, Louisiana Tech, and Samford have been inspired and have made the Gamecocks one of the more surprising mid-majors in a smaller conference this season. Whether they can keep that pace in league play will be intriguing. SIU Edwardsville has also made a decent start to the season, with a win over a strong Drake team being a highlight, while they also managed a creditable draw with Missouri State.

Wooden Spoon Watch

Murray State has turned it around a bit since a horrid 0-5-0 opening stretch, winning their last two, but they’re still out of the RPI Top 300, which should be a potentially foreboding sign. There’s little separating the club’s directly in front of them in the RPI, though Morehead State’s presence so low in the rankings sticks out like a sore thumb. After a few years of strong results, MSU’s slipped badly this year, going winless in seven matches leading into league play. Making matters worse, they’ve conceded multiple goals in all but one of those matches, meaning a quick fix could be hard for the Eagles.

Top 3 Scorers

1. Courtney Hurt – Jacksonville State (5 G, 2 A)
2. Ellie Iaciofano – Tennessee Tech (5 G, 1 A)
3. Kendyl Wilson – UT-Martin (4 G, 3 A)

At the end of the day…

There aren’t going to be too many rooting against Southeast Missouri State the rest of the way, but the Redhawks face a competitive field in their bid to bring home silverware. Jacksonville State has had a promising start, but nobody knows how they’ll react to a potential title race since they’ve been out of contention for so long. Tennessee-Martin figures to be in with a great shot of winning another piece of the OVC crown, be it in the league or in the conference tournament again, while SIU Edwardsville could also be a dark horse for a run at honors.

Southern

The preseason consensus was…

…Samford would repeat as league champions, with College of Charleston and Furman in as outside bets to lift silverware.

So how’s that working out?

Inconsistently. Samford began with three SEC clubs on the docket and lost in convincing fashion to all three before winning three in a row, including a big victory over another SEC club, Kentucky. Instead of using it to boost themselves for the rest of non-conference play though, the Bulldogs instead lost to Kennesaw State and Jacksonville State, squandering all that gained momentum. Furman, however, has been enjoying a fine season and came into league play having won six straight and seven of eight, with the lone loss being to SEC side Georgia. The Paladins’ record included a shock win over Clemson right after that loss. CoC has been a flop in large part though. While few expected them to challenge sides like Florida State and South Florida, defeats to Eastern Kentucky and Jacksonville were less excusable.

Any surprise packages?

Old contenders UNC Greensboro showed there’s still a little life yet left in the club with a win over Wake Forest, while they also took Georgia to extra time. The Spartans again played a massively difficult non-conference schedule which could well toughen them up for the grueling SoCon season. Also tip your cap a little to Western Carolina, who didn’t really have any terrible losses and also handled Big South contender Winthrop and America East contender Albany in non-conference play.

Wooden Spoon Watch

Chattanooga was the overwhelming pick to prop up the table at the end of the season, and thus far, they’ve done nothing to refute those projections. The Mocs were humiliated by losing to SWAC side Alabama State and went into league play with just a 1-4-1 record against DI foes, with the lone win against a DI side being a narrow win over Big South strugglers Gardner-Webb. Though the league season is long, it appears it’ll take something big for the Mocs to not finish dead last in the league again.

Top 3 Scorers

1. Stephanie DeVita – Furman (10 G, 2 A)
2. Mariana Garcia – The Citadel (5 G, 0 A)
3. Markie Studnicky – Western Carolina (4 G, 1 A)

At the end of the day…

Right now, it looks like a three horse race for the league title. Defending champs Samford weren’t very convincing for much of non-conference play but have still nonetheless showed the talent at times to be a real threat. Furman have the momentum of a brilliant non-conference campaign and one of the league’s best players in rookie Stephanie DeVita, but do they have the pedigree to prevail in a title chase? UNC Greensboro are the wild card. They’ve had a tough non-conference slate, but that could be enough to prepare them for the long and challenging league season.

Sun Belt

The preseason consensus was…

…basically for three distinct tiers in the league after Denver’s departure for the WAC. Florida International and North Texas to contend for the title, Middle Tennessee State and Western Kentucky as dark horse picks, and then everyone else trying to avoid taking to many beatings from the above.

So how’s that working out?

Generally as expected. North Texas and Middle Tennessee State are both currently in the RPI Top 100 and having fine seasons. The Mean Green started out on fire against some bad teams and then had a great draw with Baylor to raise hopes of an at-large bid but close defeats to Long Beach State and Oklahoma State proved heartbreaking, before a rare home defeat to TCU essentially ended those hopes. MTSU came up short in their big test against more renowned clubs but did well to take down regional rivals and should also be among the favorites to lift the league title. Western Kentucky’s taken some tough losses from major conference schools but hasn’t really put up any wins to distinguish themselves in non-conference play. Defending conference tournament champs FIU have been much the same way, though they did manage a draw with LSU in a fine result that limited some of the damage a 3-4-1 non-conference record brought.

Any surprise packages?

No, not really. The top four in the preseason poll are the top four in the RPI going into league play.

Wooden Spoon Watch

It looks like a standoff between UALR and Louisiana-Monroe at the moment. You’d tip the Trojans for the basement given their unfathomably bad defense right now. UALR were giving up over three and a half goals per game going into league play, including eight to Ole Miss and three or more on five other occasions. ULM has history on their side, in an unfortunate manner of speaking, and their 3-6-0 record is inflated by all their wins coming against SWAC foes. They’ve struggled against everyone else, and the matchup against UALR could decide who finishes last this season.

Top 3 Scorers

T1. Whitney Jorgenson – Middle Tennessee State (4 G, 5 A)
T1. Cecilia Thorngren – Troy (4 G, 5 A)
3. Kelsey Hodges – North Texas (6 G, 0 A)

At the end of the day…

There don’t figure to be too many surprises in the race for Sun Belt glory, with the four predicted to have a title impact before the season likely to finish as the top four come season’s end. Right now, you’d tip North Texas to prevail and win their second straight league crown, but it’s going to be a heck of a battle with three other accomplished sides to fend off.

America East

The preseason consensus was…

…for another league title for Boston University, though they won’t get a chance to defend their AE Tournament title after being barred from the postseason after the announcement of their move to the Patriot League. Behind the Terriers, Hartford and Albany were expected to put up the biggest fight for the league’s auto bid to the NCAA Tournament.

So how’s that working out?

BU have been getting knocked back like a Whack-A-Mole against a flurry of top opposition, though defeats to Dayton and UMass were undeniably disappointing. For the first time in ages, the Terriers are below the #100 mark in the RPI, with most of their wins of little consequence at the moment. Indeed, BU’s best win right now might be a triumph over a weak NC State side in the final non-conference game before league play starts up. Hartford has the look of a one-hit wonder, as they’ve been nowhere near their form from last year, even with a very forgiving non-conference schedule. 4-2-3 was certainly not what was expected going into the season, and the Hawks have it all to do to challenge for a league title. It’s been worse for woeful Albany, who enter league play at a dismal 3-6-1. The season started out promisingly, with a draw at Syracuse but has headed downhill in a hurry. There was a loss to Western Carolina and a five goal defeat to Colgate. Momentum isn’t on the Great Danes’ side either, as they’ve lost three in a row going into league play and have given up multiple goals in eight straight, while not keeping a clean sheet all year.

Any surprise packages?

Tipped for mid-table, Stony Brook has instead been the league’s big surprise to this point. The Sea Wolves certainly didn’t look like much early, not winning in their first two before exploding for six wins in seven, including a 3-0 mauling of Big East side St. John’s (NY). A sterling 6-2-2 record before the beginning of league play has some believing it might finally be their year to break through into the NCAA Tournament. Maine has also been decent early. The Black Bears weren’t picked to do much in the league this year, but have been a solid 4-3-1 so far, including a nice 2-1 win over Rhode Island to close out non-conference play.

Wooden Spoon Watch

Albany don’t exactly look to be in a great spot right now, while Vermont have also been massively disappointing early on. The Catamounts looked to be turning a corner last season but have been abysmal thus far, going 1-8-0 in nine games and head into league play on a six match losing streak highlighted by an inability to score goals. Perennial basement club UMBC have shown a few signs of improvement, including a shock 0-0 draw with VCU, but on the whole, most would expect the club to finish on bottom again as they try to rebuild this season.

Top 3 Scorers

1. Amelia Pereira – Hartford (6 G, 3 A)
2. Shayla Bergeron – Albany (6 G, 2 A)
3. Sarah Furminger – Binghamton (5 G, 1 A)

At the end of the day…

Boston University are the champs until proven otherwise and won’t be going down without a fight in the league. Stony Brook looks best positioned to dethrone the Terriers, but the likes of Maine, Hartford, and even Binghamton could figure into the title picture. Without BU in the conference tournament, it figures to be a battle royal, with six clubs eager to win the league’s auto bid for the first time in ages.

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