Ed. note: This represents the first in a running series on the major doings in Division II and Division III men's and women's soccer across the nation. If something's happening in your neck of the woods, feel free to let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Teams haven't scored many goals against the Eckerd men’s soccer team this season. That trend only continued last week.
Eckard's staunch defense is mainly due to goalkeeper Alex Gott. Gott, who was born and raised in England, has allowed a miniscule .32 goals per game, good for fourth in the nation. Only three teams - No. 1 Charlestown, No. 4 St. Edwards and No. 28 Seattle Pacific - have allowed fewer goals per game.
Eckerd is off to a 5-0-1 start thanks to Gott, who was recently named Sunshine State Conference player of the week. He has allowed two goals and has made 20 saves, good for a 91% save percentage. However, Gott credits his back four for his success.
“I think that this year the back four in front of me have been incredible and it’s easy to take away the credit from them because the shutout goes under my name,” Gott said. “However, without the solid line in front of me, we may well not be in the position we currently are (in).”
Gott worked hard on his game over the offseason. Eckerd has already won more games this season than last, when they finished 4-11-1. He allowed 31 goals and made 72 saves last season, good for a 69.9% save percentage. He has improved greatly, and it shows in his statistics and the team’s record. Eckerd faces No. 16 Rollins College next, which will be another great test for the highly talented goalkeeper.
Azusa Pacific women’s soccer has had an impressive run this season. The Cougars' 5-1 record is no surprise, as they were ranked No. 53 in the nation in the preseason. With a strength of schedule that ranks third in the country, the 5-1 start has the Cougars sitting at No. 15, and they figure to continue to climb. Three of their five wins have come against top 25 teams, including a season opening 1-0 victory over no. 4 Stanislaus St and a 1-0 win over no. 5 Cal State L.A.
Azusa Pacific has outscored opponents 9-2 this year. Their 1-0 win over No. 19 UC San Diego gave them 1-0 wins over the three top teams they have faced, and they have taken care of teams they should beat, topping No. 90 CSU East Bay 2-0 and No. 77 Dixie State 4-1. Their single loss came in their most recent game, a conference 1-0 OT defeat in conference play.
Their schedule the rest of the way is relatively easy compared to their games so far. Their only tough opponent will be no. 57 California Baptist on October 15. The rest of the teams they are set to face are currently ranked 123 or lower.
Two contrasting approaches have been successful for No. 51 Bellarmine and No. 4 North Georgia. These two teams lead Division II women’s soccer in goals allowed per game, at .108 and .167, respectively. Yet their goaltending approaches couldn’t be more different.
North Georgia has kept Mallory Sayre in goal for all 540 minutes this season. She has allowed one goal for the 6-0 Nighthawks in a 3-1 victory over No. 187 Lees-McRae. Bellarmine, on the other hand, has started three different keepers. Taylor Smith has started five games, Hannah Poteet has started three, and Erin Ottman has started two for the 8-0-1 Knights. Ottman is the lone keeper to allow a goal, giving up one in a 2-1 victory over UI Springfield.
North Georgia has yet to face an opponent ranked higher than 78. Their defense will soon be tested, as they are set to play four top 40 teams over their last 10 games. Perhaps their superior goals allowed percentage is due to the competition they have faced. We will soon find out.
Katie Vanden Avond, a senior forward for the St. Norbert women's team, has been a special goal scorer from day one. Fifteen minutes into her first career game, in the fall of 2011, she had already netted two goals. Two more came after that. In her second game she tallied a hat trick, bringing her total for her first two career games to seven.
Coming into the 2015 season, she had 91 career goals. The all-time Division III women’s mark was set by Luther’s Katie Pettigrew at 124 goals 10 years ago. That mark is currently in jeopardy, as Vanden Avond paces Division III goalscorers with 17 already this season. At her current pace, she stands to eclipse the mark in St. Norbert’s second to last game of the season at Ripon College.
Her coach, Dennis Detrie, absolutely raves about her, saying “she has earned every goal she has. Coaches after games will sometimes say she isn’t that good or I thought she would be better. I usually respond, that she scored two goals on you! Then I think, I will take her over every kid you got.”
Watch out for Katie Vanden Avond looking to set a new NCAA record.
On September 26th, the previously top-ranked Tufts Jumbos fell to the Brandeis Judges - ranked No. 7 by D3soccer.com and No. 16 by the NSCAA - by a score of 1-0. The victory vaulted the Brandeis men up to the third spot on D3soccer.com and seventh in the NSCAA rankings, while the Jumbos fell to sixth and third, respectively.
It was a close affair for the now 8-1 Judges. In fact, it was their fifth straight 1-0 victory, sixth overall, and they have won all eight of their games by a single goal. Impressively, they have only allowed four goals in their first nine games despite a respectable 39th-ranked strength of schedule.
Tufts was undefeated going into the home loss at Brandeis. The lone Brandeis goal was just the fourth goal surrendered by Tufts in its first seven games. They tied with Wesleyan three days after falling to Brandeis, bringing their record to 5-1-1. The loss to Brandeis was just their third loss since the start of last season; Brandeis was a culprit last season as well, handing Tufts a 2-0 loss in 2014.
The Franciscan University Barons have had an interesting two weeks of soccer. Sophomore forward Leo Herrmann leads the 4-5-1 Barons with 13 goals scored. His goals have been very scattered; he netted four in the first game, failed to score in the next three games, then scored nine more in the next five.
On September 19, Herrmann scored two goals in a 5-3 win over Muskingum. In the same game, senior forward John Imbimbo netted a hat trick. Two days later in a 3-1 victory over Waynesburg University, Herrmann recorded another hat trick in just over three minutes of game time.
Hat tricks in consecutive games by two different players does not happen very often. Perhaps to bring things full circle, Imbimbo took a pass from Herrmann and scored his sixth goal of the season two days later in a 2-1 loss to Washington & Jefferson. How often do we see two straight hat tricks by different players, only to see one assist the other in the third game? That was quite a week for the Barons.