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College Soccer Update: Maryland goes No. 1; Cuse, Notre Dame play Friday

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Sasho Cirovski’s Maryland program has no problem landing blue chip recruits, so adding the nation’s leading scorer on a transfer just seems unfair.

You might remember Gordon Wild’s name from this space last year, as the German burst onto the scene with USC Upstate and netted 16 times as a freshman.

[ MORE: Pulisic starts again as BVB rolls ]

While USC Upstate certainly won’t love the development, Cirovski was waiting with open arms when Wild decided to seek a challenge bigger than the one provided by the Atlantic Sun Conference.

Wild didn’t need to sit a year after transferring to Maryland — a program which has produced Omar Gonzalez, Graham Zusi, Robbie Rogers, Clarence Goodson, and Maurice Edu amongst others — and his eight goals in seven games show his form is carrying over well.

— Still, all those things said, I’ll never understand polls.

Notre Dame was No. 1 last week, and fell to 6-1 over the next 7 days after a loss to Louisville.

Syracuse entered the latest Top 25 coaches polling period 7-0, having won at NC State and defeated No. 15 Boston College at home. Five of those wins were shutouts.

[ MORE: Wenger praises 2-goal Perez ]

So who’s No. 1 now? Not Cuse, but 5-0-2 Maryland. The Terps and Orange both have 11 first-place votes, while Notre Dame still managed a pair.

The Orange handled the issue well, belting Cornell 3-1 on Tuesday night to move to 8-0. Up next is a Friday date at Notre Dame. Must-watch.

— Keep an eye on Denver, which is following up a very good 2015 season with a 7-0-1 start. They’ve allowed four goals all season — three have come via penalty kicks — and the Pioneers basically brought everyone back from their 15-1-3 season in 2015.

— I had the pleasure of meeting some players this summer who come from a very unusual college system at LIU Brooklyn. The Blackbirds made an NCAA Tournament appearance under head coach T.J. Kostecky last season, and the man has an unusual directive for his players on offense: They don’t talk.

Kostecky is a preacher of “vision training”, in which the coach implores his players simply to “look around” and anticipate the game. His players say the quiet tactics take some time to get used to, but then become second nature.

[ MORE: Zidane, Simeone defend Neymar’s “antics” ]

Claudio Reyna is one of the disciples of this training, and vision training was a topic on Glenn Crooks’ radio show last week.

That reminded me to check in on LIU, which has two of the more gifted young players in the Northeast. Danish attacker Rasmus Hansen and Norwegian midfielder Simen Hestnes were All-Northeast Conference as freshmen, and they’ve picked up where they left off.

Hansen had two goals and three assists this weekend and Hestnes had a goal and two helpers as LIU Brooklyn knocked off No. 22 Rider 2-1 and Manhattan 4-1.

Three Stars

  1. Simon Hestnes, sophomore, LIU Brooklyn — See above.
  2. Christian Thierjung, senior, Cal — Scored five goals against Harvard.
  3. Mohamed Thiaw, junior, Louisville — Scored fourth goal of year in 1-0 upset of No. 1 Notre Dame.

Other notes

— The nation’s leading scorer remains Russell Cicerone of the University at Buffalo, and the 10-goal man is also second in assists with six. The playmaking wizard is a surefire top-end pick in the next MLS SuperDraft.

[ MORE: EFL Cup roundup ]

— The national lead for assists belongs, however, to talented Canadian forward Brian Wright. He has nine, and should be closely watched by MLS teams ahead of the draft as well.

— Other No. 1-ranked teams:

Men’s D2- Charleston
Men’s D3- Trinity (Texas)
Women’s D1- Stanford
Women’s D2- Grand Valley State
Women’s D3- Williams

College Soccer Update: Conference tourney time!

@WakeMSoccer
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It’s that time of year to assess whether your alma mater or favorite program is going to go dancing.

We won’t mess around with the at-large bids, which are heavily-influenced by RPI, but let’s dig into the conference tournament fields.

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America East: Surprising Binghamton will test the mettle of No. 1 Albany in one semifinal, while the other sees Brian Wright and Vermont take on last year’s NCAA darlings in UMBC.

American Athletic: SMU is the No. 1 seed, and hasn’t lost since a Sept. 13 defeat to powerhouse Stanford. If they get past No. 4 Tulas, they’ll get the winner of UConn and USF.

Atlantic 10: Still eight teams in play, including our No. 1 star of this week (See below). George Washington finished a remarkable rise to the No. 1 seed last weekend, while No. 2 Dayton looks mighty dangerous.

ACC: What a conference! In one semi, you have annual power Notre Dame against a Wake Forest side which has looked as impressive as any side in the nation this year. On the other, last year’s darling Syracuse used a Liam Callahan penalty kick to force a match-up with Clemson. Any of these four could win the national title. Game on.

Atlantic Sun: No. 4 USC Upstate and No. 2 North Florida square off Saturday for the title, with freshman Gordon Wild and his 16 goals hoping to lead the upset. And Upstate is playing with heavy inspiration after losing two teammates in a car accident earlier this season.

GoXavier.com
GoXavier.com

Big East: Some massive matches in the semis, with red-hot Xavier mixing it up with Georgetown and last year’s College Cuppers Providence going after former national No. 1 Creighton.

Big South: Sneaky-loaded Radford faces High Point in one semi, while No. 1 seed Winthrop will have to tend with one of the nation’s top scores in Brad Farias and No. 6 Campbell.

Big Ten: Columbus is the venue for No. 1 Ohio State and No. 4 Rutgers, with the winner earning a date with the victor of the other semi: Indiana vs. Maryland.

Big West: UCSB and Cal State Fullerton won their divisions, with UC Davis and Cal Poly the wild cards for the semis.

Colonial: Elon has dipped a bit since its lofty start to the season, but is still the favorite to emerge from a bracket with Delaware, Hofstra and James Madison.

Conference USA: Kentucky has a bye with the No. 1 seed, and Charlotte (See Star No. 3 below) is a very dangerous No. 2 seed. Five other teams are alive in the tournament, with South Carolina, Old Dominion, Marshall, Florida International and New Mexico.

Horizon: No. 1 seed UIC gets a tricky No. 6 in Wright State in one tournament semifinal, while No. 2 Oakland faces No. 4 Cleveland State.

Ivy League: Dartmouth is through to the NCAA tournament.

MAAC: Charlie Inverso’s Rider beat No. 25 Monmouth in an thrilling final to win the conference’s outright berth.

Mid American: Tantalizing bracket in one of the more under-the-radar conferences in the country. Akron is widely-expected to win the thing, but then West Virginia snuck into the tournament as the No. 4 seed. Buffalo and Western Michigan tangle in the other semi.

Missouri Valley: SIUE is the first seed and will look to go to another NCAA tournament by holding off a field which includes Bradley, Drake, Missouri State, Loyola and Central Arkansas.

Morris

PAC-12: Jordan Morris and Stanford have already clinched the conference title.

Patriot: No. 1 seed Colgate hosts Lehigh in one semi, while American and Boston tangle in the other.

Southern: Top four seeds are still alive heading into Friday’s semis: UNC Greensboro, Furman, Mercer and Eastern Tennessee State.

Sun Belt: There’s a whole five-team tournament left, but No. 1 Hartwick is favored to go to the tourney for a second-straight season.

Summit League: It’ll be decided Thursday and Saturday. Unbeaten Denver (see Star No. 2 below) is the top seed and faces Western Illinois, with the winner taking on the winner of Omaha and Oral Roberts.

West Coast: It’s win (or draw) and in for San Diego in Saturday’s conference finale at Santa Clara, which needs a win. San Francisco needs a win against Loyola Marymount and a San Diego loss.

WAC: Seattle and Utah Valley are your Nos. 1 & 2 seeds, and will get to face the winners of the 3v6 and 4v5 matches on less than a day’s rest after Thursday’s quarterfinals. No. 3 seed UNLV has a gem in striker Danny Musovski.

Three Stars

  1. 11470145Colin Phillips, Duquesne (right) — The redshirt-senior Canadian is making the most of his fifth year. Phillips still plays some back, but his great speed and size has forced coach Chase Brooks to play him up top. All the kid’s done is scored 12 goals and add five assists this season, including five goals and two assists in his last four games. The Dukes get Dayton in the first round of the A-10 tourney.
  2. Denver — Still unbeaten at 13-0-3, the Summit League’s No. 1 team has a 522-plus minute shutout streak moving into the conference tournament. Redshirt-senior Dan Jackson has been at the helm for 10 clean sheets, including the Pioneers’ last five matches.
  3. Brandt Bronico, Charlotte – The midfielder with a killer name has played a massive part in the 49ers charge to No. 24 in the nation. Bronico has 7 goals and 8 assists, and Charlotte has lost just once in its last eight games. The seven wins include victories over South Carolina and New Mexico.

Other notes

— Wake Forest maintains its status as No. 1 team in men’s Division 1, and now has 23 of 24 first-place votes. Clemson has the other.

— St. Francis Brooklyn still leads the nation with a minuscule 0.38 goals against average.

— On the flip side, Dayton has scored more goals than anyone in D-1. The Flyers have netted 46 goals in 18 games.

— Other No. 1 sides: Pfeiffer (Men’s D2), Calvin (Men’s D3), Virginia (Women’s D1), Grand Valley State (Women’s D2), Messiah (Women’s D3).

College Soccer Update: Xavier’s giant killers are giants themselves

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Head coach Andy Fleming and Xavier couldn’t change history, but they have certainly eased the sting of last season’s NCAA tournament exit while cementing themselves as both giant-killers and potential giants themselves.

The Musketeers knocked off a second Top-2 team this season when they toppled unbeaten No. 1 Creighton in Omaha this week, partially-avenging the 2-1 loss that knocked them out of last year’s NCAA Tournament in the third round (Xavier beat No. 2 Notre Dame in South Bend on Sept. 15).

“I said we can’t go back and change what happened, but as far as the difficulty of winning in Omaha and beating an unbeaten team,” Fleming said. “If there were eight boxes to check to make up for the loss, we checked off six, which was fine cause we couldn’t (change last season).”

Xavier is 10-4-1 this season, yet another strong run during Fleming’s five years in charge. He took over a side that won five games in the two seasons before he took over, one that saw the national standard for red cards taken.

[ MORE: College soccer news ]

Since Fleming was hired in 2010, Xavier has gone 71-32-18. The six-straight double-digit win seasons is a standard for the program, and matches the total number of 10-plus win seasons in the 35 years since he took over. And the Musketeers have rebounded from the reds to become one of the least-carded teams in the country.

Fleming says he looked at Duke basketball for inspiration in terms of representing a university, and Boston University’s hockey program as a powerful program in a non-traditional power sport. And while he thinks others saw “a graveyard” in the open coaching job at Xavier, he wanted to fix the culture of a sleeping giant, one he compared to his last stop in Illinois.

“I saw this as a mini-Northwestern and I thought I could get people to come here,” Fleming said. “We try to develop ‘hires’ and ‘spouses’, people you’d hire into your company or want your kid to marry.”

This season’s star has been the defending, which is little surprise given the Musketeers posted the Big East’s best defense in 31 years last season.

“Defense is our catalyst,” Fleming said. “And Cory Brown, a center back from New Zealand in the U-23 World Cup this summer, is definitely going to leave here as the most-decorated player we’ve had here. He’s a very savvy, experienced player.”

The coach also points to the performance of South Florida transfer goalkeeper Dallas Jaye and U.S. national futsal teamer Walker Andriot, and says the side has seen great offensive contributions from Jalen Brown and Matt Vasquenza.

The side’s progression led Fleming to a pivotal point in any season. He has a physical “key to the team” that he’s passed to them at Friday’s training session.

Fleming has also powered a very personal cause at the school. His daughter Devin was born with Down’s syndrome, and each Spring the side stages “Devin’s Game” to raise awareness for those born with the disability.

“Every time I get asked about it at the right moment it gets me,” Fleming said. “This university exists to take teenagers and make them into adults, and show them perspective and broaden their horizons. To put things in front of them, not the flowers and candy but the challenges. One of the most empowering things and special things is I think this all happened for a reason. In 10-20 years if one of them has something happen with a wife or parent or have a child born with a disability, if I got through to one of them I’ve done my job. Devin has changed everyone’s life.”

Three stars of the week

http://wolverinegreen.com/
http://wolverinegreen.com/

1, 2 and 3) Fabulous freshmen playmakers — Wake Forest’s Jack Harrison, Utah Valley’s Aaron Meyer (above) and UCSB’s Geoffrey Acheampong are in the race to lead D-1 in assists. The first two have 11, while Acheampong has 10. West Virginia’s Joey Piatczyc leads the league with 12, but West Virginia may well miss the MAC tournament and provide him few chances to improve on the total.

Other notes

— Creighton’s loss opens the door to a wealth of teams, including surging Wake Forest, Clemson and Stanford.

— Denver looks very good and remains unbeaten at 11-0-3, but will likely fail to leap up the table due to a perceived-soft non-conference schedule.

— Other No. 1s in this week’s poll were: Pfeiffer (Men’s D-2), Franklin & Marshall (Men’s D-3), Florida State (Women’s D-1), Gannon (Women’s D-2), Messiah (Women’s D-3), Rio Grande (Men’s NAIA), Lindsey Wilson (Women’s NAIA), Louisberg (NJCAA Men’s D-1), Genesee Community College (NJCAA Men’s D-3), Eastern Florida State (NJCAA Women’s D-1), Fresno City (NJCAA Women’s D-3).

— Nick DePuy from UCSB leads the nation in goals, with 15 in 18, after scoring three in his last two.

Still, the race for the scoring title remains fairly open:

Screen Shot 2015-10-30 at 12.30.27 PM

 

College Soccer Update: Tragedy strikes USC Upstate with horrible car accident

USC Upstate
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No interviews today. No star players and programs. Just mourning.

USC Upstate lost four students earlier this week, two of them men’s soccer players, in an early morning car accident this weekend. A fifth was injured when the car they were driving in ran off the road, hit a tree, and caught fire.

James Campbell and Mills Sproul are the soccer players who’ve left the pitch for the final time.

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USC Upstate’s athletic department held a candelight vigil on Monday, and honored both players with online memorials.

From Campbell’s, entitled “James Campbell Was an Intense Player Whose Competitiveness Made Those Around Him Play Harder”:

While Kyle Juell and James attended different high schools, they played club soccer together. “James was intense and passionate on the field,” Juell said. “He was the kind of aggressive player you wanted as a teammate. He was fun and warm and full of life and he cared so much about his teammates.”

From Sproul’s, entitled “Mills Sproul Put the Needs of Others Before His Own and Was Accepting of All”:

Mills’ teammate Deon Rose said that Mills was like the brother he never had.

“The first time I met him, I knew that he was special,” Rose said. “Not because he asked me if we had beaches in Canada or how Canadians survived without Chick-fil-A, but because he had an unconditional love for everyone and everything.”

Our thoughts are with the USC Upstate team, and entire community. Rest in peace.

Three stars of the week

1. University of California Santa Barbara — The Gauchos leapt from “receiving votes” to No. 14 in the nation. The Gauchos have won five-straight, all in-state, by a combined score of 13-3.

2. Joey Piatczyc, West Virginia — The midfielder leads the nation in assists with 12, one coming in Tuesday’s upset of Penn State, a match in which he also scored his first of the year. The Mountaineers shocked PSU with a 3-0 home win in Morgantown.

3. Francis Atuahene and Colin McAtee, Michigan — The Ghanaian freshman is a lightning bolt, and keeps producing goals along with the redshirt senior McAtee, who hails from San Diego. The Wolverines beat Duquesne 3-0 on Tuesday.

Other notes

— Creighton dropped two of its 24 first place votes, one each to North Carolina and Stanford, but remains the No.1 men’s team in the nation.

— Wake Forest hasn’t allowed a goal in three matches, against quality competition in NC State, South Carolina and Boston College. There were stretches in the 2-0 win over South Carolina where they looked unbeatable.

— Speaking of the Demon Deacons, they’ll face dangerous UNC on Saturday in what will be a cracker.

— Also No. 1:Florida State (Women’s D-1), Gannon (Women’s D-2), Trinity of Texas (Women’s D-3), Pfeiffer (Men’s D-2), Franklin & Marshall (Men’s D-3).

College Soccer Update: Stingy Kentucky picking up speed; Cal Poly’s overhead wonder (video)

@UKMensSoccer
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Three-hundred thirty-two minutes and 26 seconds. That’s how long it’s been since an opponent has managed to put a ball into the goal behind the University of Kentucky men’s team.

It’s a statistic which not only makes an impression, but carries hope; Hope that the Wildcats will improve upon last season’s tournament work that saw them exit their conference tourney and the NCAA tournament early.

“If you go back to last year we had a really good run, but got knocked out in our conference tournament and then in the first round of the NCAA Tournament,” said fourth-year head coach Johan Cedergren. “Peaked too early and got a little overconfident.”

[ MORE: College soccer news ]

The Wildcats are atop Conference USA with a 3-0 record in league play, having knocked off a strong New Mexico side this weekend. They’ll face Evansville and Ohio State the following two Wednesdays before meeting fellow CUSA 3-0 squad South Carolina.

It’s all according to plan for Cedergren, who is experiencing the senior years of his first recruiting class. One of those is goalkeeper Callum Irving, who is one clean sheet away from making program history for the most blankings as a Wildcat.

It’s helped having a versatile team to help out. Despite injuries to a pair of key backs, junior center back Jordan Wilson and senior holding mid Kristoffeer Tollefsen have combined with Irving to keep the side well-organized.

[ USMNT: Looking back at the top moments in the Mexico rivalry ]

“Over here you are very stat focused and Callum wouldn’t have these numbers without (Wilson),” Cedergren said. “And Tollefsen plays that holding mid role that is very hard to quantify. He made third team all conference last year, but he’s one of the best players and he’s playing at 75% percent.”

Cedegren also credits Hermann Award watch lister Napo Matsoso, who leads the team in shots, with keeping teams off-balance. And between Irving and the attack, the coach hopes that this season is the year the Wildcats will peak at the right time.

Three stars

  1. Oregon State — The Beavers opened PAC-12 play with a pair of 1-0 wins, knocking off UCLA with a Timmy Mueller (remember the name goal) before knocking off San Diego State by the same score. Next weekend? Cal and Stanford, both on the road.
  2. Nick DePuy, UCSB —  The 6-foot-4 junior forward has only been held off the score sheet thrice this season, and fired off 10 shots including three goals this weekend. Two were road game-winners at UC Irvine and Cal State Northridge.
  3. Chase Minter, Cal Poly — All three stars stay on the West Coast, thanks to Minter’s work setting himself up for this bicycle kick goal.

Other notes

— Creighton is back as the unrivaled No. 1 in the country amongst men’s Division I sides, claiming all 24 votes.
— Only one change in the Top 10, as Virginia moves up a spot to No. 10 and Elon falls three spots to No. 13. Leaping into the Top 25 after not receiving any votes last week is Oregon State. Kentucky, Butler and Syracuse move from receiving votes to Top 25.
— There s a single player who is in both the D-1 Top Ten in goals and assists, and his name will be familiar to those who read this space: Buffalo’s Russell Cicerone has eight goals and six assists after a 2+3 performance at St. Bonaventure on Saturday night.
— Also No. 1: Midwestern State (Men’s D2), Franklin & Marshall (Men’s D3), North Carolina (Women’s D1), Gannon (Women’s D2), Messiah (Women’s D3)