The Play(off)’s the Thing: Women’s Soccer Power Rankings 10/11

As we trudge through midterms and think about the glorious prospects of Fall break, NESCAC Women’s Soccer nears the end of its regular season with only two weekends left of conference play. Williams and Connecticut College sit atop the division, while Wesleyan and Colby round out the bottom. Tufts and Middlebury look to finish the regular season strong, and build momentum going into the playoff season.

Here are my mid-season power rankings:

1). Williams College Ephs

It’s hard to argue that any other team is more deserving of the number one spot in the power rankings. The Ephs have yet to lose a game all year, including conference and nonconference play. The Ephs are like the Patriots. When New England trailed Atlanta by twenty-five points, Falcons WR Taylor Gabriel told an arrogant Mohamed Sanu, “But they have Tom Brady, though” when Sanu stated the Patriots couldn’t come back. Two weeks ago, the Ephs edged the flaming hot Camels to break their hopes of an undefeated season on a seemingly harmless corner kick in OT. No matter how many goals the Ephs are down by, they are that team that always finds a way to come back. The most staggering statistic to point to the Ephs’ success is their goals against, which is a mere four goals (the next best GA team is Conn with six). Liz Webber ‘20 has come back this season from an injury that kept her out the entire 2016 campaign, and has been an integral part of the Ephs’ offensive and defensive prowess. The rest of the regular season schedule isn’t too challenging for the Ephs, but in all likelihood, they will have to beat the Camels if they want to fulfill their quest for a national championship.

It’s been nothing but smiles for Williams so far this season.

2). Connecticut College Camels

The Camels didn’t disappoint the alumni at homecoming last weekend. They trounced the Bates Bobcats 3-0. I predicted the game would’ve been a tighter one; nevertheless, the Camels showed to the rest of the conference that they’re a special team. Before the season, many people believed that the conference hierarchy was the Ephs at the top, a fifty-foot drop, and then the next team, which wasn’t even comparable to the Ephs. The Camels replied to this statement, “No, not this year. There’s a new sheriff in town.” That sheriff is none other than Kat Norton ‘21. The freshman sensation is second in the conference in goals—notching two in the decisive win over Bates. Most teams rely on veteran players being the difference makers in conference games, so the unrelenting production from Norton has propelled Conn to one of the best teams in the conference. GK Bryanna Montalvo ‘18 has been one of the best in the NESCAC all year—giving her team a chance in tightly competitive games. A NESCAC championship between Conn and Williams would be a thriller, and the victor has a great shot at securing a national championship.

3). Middlebury College Panthers

The Panthers currently rank fourth in the NESCAC. They’re a very good team that excels on both sides of the field. A late goal in a 2-1 OT win over Wesleyan on Sunday showed the team’s tenacity. The conditions were brutal with a humid rain. With ten seconds left in the first overtime period, Eliza Van Voorhis ‘21 scored on a beautiful cross just outside the box from one of her Panther teammates. Wesleyan was just coming off a big win against Colby, and looked like they possessed all the momentum in the world. However, the persistence Middlebury showed by not giving up with only ten seconds to play in the overtime period illustrates that they’re going to be a good team down the stretch. If I were Conn or Williams, I would be worried in a 0-0 playoff game in the second-half against Midd.

Caitlin Magruder ’20 scored her first goal of the season, and Middlebury persevered in OT against Wesleyan.

4). Tufts University Jumbos

The Jumbos must be feeling left out. With all the noise Conn has made, Tufts hasn’t been giving the spotlight they deserve. They’ve put together a very good season thus far, ranking third in the NESCAC. GK Emily Bowers ‘19 has played quite impressively all season with her name in the top five of saves and save percentage. Sophie Lloyd ‘21 leads the team with an impressive five goals. The ‘Bos only have Bates and Bowdoin left on their schedule, which are winnable games. If they can do that, the ‘Bos will enough momentum to possibly knock off the league’s top dogs come playoff time.

5). Trinity College Bantams

After a mediocre start to the season, the Bantams are 2-0 in their past two conference games. Albeit the wins are against Wesleyan and Bowdoin, wins are wins no matter who they come against. The Bantams should be feeling good about themselves after those two conference wins. I predict, however, that those smiles will go away after they travel to both Middlebury and Connecticut College for their next two conference games. Rhone O’Hara ‘20 leads her team in points, and has been a force on defense throughout the year. Right now, the Bantams sit in the middle of the pack in the standings, but look for a fall after a ominous weekend.

6). Hamilton College Continentals

At this point in the season, the Continentals are trying to win out to avoid playing Williams or Conn in the first round. Therefore, these next two games are critical for them. This last weekend didn’t treat Hamilton too well with a loss against the Jumbos and a tie against Amherst. A win in both games would’ve propelled Hamilton up into the upper-tier of the standings. Now, they don’t carry much momentum from earlier in the season anymore. GK Emily Dumont ‘18 has been a stud in net, however. She has won the Continentals some games that could’ve gone either way. The goal scoring went dry last weekend, and that must change if Hamilton wants to have a deep playoff run.

7). Wesleyan University Cardinals

I avoid as much bias as I can in my writing, so choosing the one win Cardinals as the seventh team in my power rankings may be a shocker to some. Look, the Cardinals had some really tough breaks on Sunday. After a decisive win against Colby on Saturday, the team almost beat Middlebury on Sunday. One of the team’s best players, Liz Young ‘19, went down with an injury during the game. Another Cardinal injury only plagued them more. Even though the Cardinals haven’t looked great all year, Emily Ribatt ‘21 and Carly Bechtloff ‘21 have been key freshman contributors. Bechtloff’s hustle and keeping a play alive in the corner led to a nifty Ribatt cross, which tallied the only Cardinal goal in the Middlebury game. It is premature to say, however, that the Cardinals have a good chance at making the playoffs since Williams comes to Middletown on Saturday. Sports are weird, though. Anything can happen.

Wesleyan battles, which is a trait that could serve them well if they can sneak into the playoffs.

8). Bates College Bobcats

A week ago, I would’ve put the Bobcats at least top five in these rankings. An upset loss to Bowdoin last Wednesday and a loss to Conn on Saturday have really turned the Bobcats’ season upside down. I know that Conn was going to be a really hard game to win, but Bowdoin represented a winnable game. Losses like that hurt down the stretch because as a lower seed in the playoffs, the Bobcats will likely face the Ephs or Camels. The Bobcats have depended way too much on GK Sarah McCarthy ‘18. She leads the league in saves, and has shown she’s one of the best in the conference. Bates’ fall from the top of the league has been surprising, but their season isn’t over. The toughest games are out of their way, and winning out is a must to avoid Williams and Conn in the early rounds of the playoffs.

9). Bowdoin College Polar Bears

Bowdoin, unlike Bates, must’ve felt really good about themselves after Wednesday’s game. Any win against a Maine NESCAC opponent is significant. Right now, Bowdoin’s on the outside looking in regarding the playoff picture. They aren’t a hot team, so facing Hamilton and Conn next week will be tough. Picking up a win against Hamilton would be huge, but I don’t see that happening. Look for the Polar Bears to stay around #9 in the power rankings through the rest of the regular season.

10). Amherst College Mammoths

To say this season has been a disappointment for Amherst is an understatement. Normally, Amherst is really good. Like really good in just about everything— sound familiar, Williams? Therefore, a single win in conference play so far is quite shocking for an Amherst team. They’re scoring goals, but simultaneously they’re letting way too many in. They’re tied with Bates for the league’s worst in goals against. With only a few weeks left in the season and without much playoff hope, it’s now all about pride for Amherst.

11). Colby College Mules

In my high school’s athletic conference, there were numerous awards. The top team award was obviously the league championship. Nevertheless, all the awards were great, except one: the sportsmanship award. In New England prep school athletics, sportsmanship was code for ‘we feel bad for you’. In watching Colby play, they’re not a bad team, they’re really not. They don’t deserve the ‘sportsmanship’ award. A lot of the games they’ve lost were close. Obviously someone has to be last in the power rankings, but I will make excuses for Colby. They’re much better than their record. Look for a turnaround in the 2018 season because Colby truthfully has nowhere to go but up.

 

Here Come the Camels: Women’s Soccer Weekend Preview 9/29

Friday, 9/29

Wesleyan vs Hamilton (Clinton, N.Y., 4:15 PM)

Following 1-0 defeats this past weekend, both Wesleyan and Hamilton look to get off the snide this Friday. Against Bates on Saturday, Wesleyan still exhibited signs of great defense, but limited execution on the offensive end. As I predicted last weekend, the game was determined by a bounce one way or another. Unsuccessful Wesleyan corners in the first-half opened the door for Bates to put one into the back of the net later on in the game. Similarly, Hamilton’s loss to the undefeated Camels proved to be a tightly competitive game, but a bounce here and there led to the Continental’s defeat. Cat Gambino ‘18 leads the team in goals thus far, and will be the difference maker if Hamilton wants to ascend in the NESCAC standings. However, look for a sense of assertiveness in the eyes of the Cards as they look for their first league win. This will be a defensive-minded game, but I think Wes will be playing for their lives.

Predicted Score: Wesleyan 1-0.

Saturday, 9/30

Olivia Greif
Olivia Greif ’21 (Courtesy of Colby Athletics)

Colby vs Middlebury (Middlebury, VT, 11:00)

The Mules will leave Waterville with some desperation in their eyes as they look to pick up that ever elusive first conference win. Olivia Greif ‘21 still stands tall in all three of the NESCAC major statistical offensive categories. She is in the top five in goals, assists and points. Mostly because of Greif, the Mules have proven that they can generate some offense with an above average GFA, but also have a less than stellar GAA. Middlebury, in contrast, plays a defensive-minded game. Keeper Ursula Alwang ‘20 has done a solid job between the pipes, and the Panthers have several strong defenders. Like Wesleyan, I think Colby will go on the road with a similar mentality with the goal to pick up their first conference win. Look for Greif to be a difference maker on the offensive end on the pitch.

Predicted Score: 1-0 Colby

Bates plays a gritty, defensive game that allows them to win close games.
(Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Trinity vs Bates (Lewiston, ME, 11:00 AM)

The Bantams and Bobcats are riding high after squeaking out 1-0 victories, respectively, this past weekend. In any sport, the strength of a team is measured in its mental toughness. Grinding out a 1-0 win illustrates this mental toughness. Bates made that long drive to Middletown to defeat the Cardinals in a nail-bitter. Caroline Bogue’s (‘21) goal provided the offense, while clutch defense against some dangerous Wesleyan corner-kicks sealed the game. In even bigger news, the Bobcats tied the undefeated Ephs on Sunday. It’s not just Williams and Amherst at the top of the pack this year; Bates has shown that they can truly compete with anybody. The Bantams look to stay hot coming off a 1-0 win against Colby. Like Bates, Trinity won a close game on the road–the sign of a good team. Led to victory by a goal from Tricia Pollock ‘20, Trinity looks to seize another road win. However, Bates will ride the momentum from the Wesleyan win and the Williams tie to victory. I’m taking Bates.

Predicted Score: 2-0 Bates

Tufts vs Amherst (Amherst, MA, 12:00 PM)

Hannah Guzzi
Hannah Guzzi ’18 has seven goals already this season. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

Amherst has to be kicking themselves after how close its defeat was to Williams. A win at a Williams homecoming would’ve proved to be incredibly sweet in front of all the Eph alumni. As an eighth seed right now in the NESCAC, this game is almost a must-win for Amherst. Hannah Guzzi ‘18 leads the entire league in goals; she’s the best offensive weapon in the league, and needs to put the team on her back like Greg Jennings did. Coming into the season with high expectations, a win here would push the Mammoths in the right direction. The Jumbos are undefeated–albeit with two ties. Emily Bowers ’19 has come into her own, and she has shown the league that she’s one of its best keepers. The Needham, MA, native (the best town in the country– no prejudice), ranks second in save percentage. Even though she’s a rock in net, Amherst will come out on top in this must-win game:

Predicted Score: 2-1 Amherst.

GAME OF THE WEEK: Connecticut College vs Williams (Williamstown, MA, 12:00 PM)

Williams dominant offense has been a true team effort this season.

Alas, we’ve finally come to the best game of the week: the Conn Camels vs the Williams Ephs. Conn’s performance this year has been incredible. A sleeper to begin the year, the Camels simply keep winning games. Much of their success can be attributed to their wealth of assets. Kat Norton ‘21 and Mackenzie Kingston ‘18 cannot be stopped on the offensive end. Norton is top three in the league in goals, and Kingston is top five in assists. Tieing Bates after a great win against Amherst has to be a wakeup call for the Ephs that there are many competitive teams in the NESCAC. Alison Lu ‘20 leads the Ephs offense. She is one of the best players in Division III soccer–ranking third in the NESCAC in goals. However, the most impressive Eph feat is that they rank first in all of the offensive major metrical categories. And by all I mean ALL; points, goals, assists, GFA, they’re dominant. However, the Camels have opened eyes all season and won’t stop here. Look for Conn to pull off the shocker:

Predicted Score: Camels 3-2.

Standings as of 9/26
(Courtesy of NESCAC.com)