Aggies' success carries over to SEC
Also: Whitworth, CSUSB to host key conference matchups
New teams, new cities, new venues, new coaches. Yet despite all of these recent changes, it doesn’t look like the Texas A&M women’s soccer team has been bothered in the least by the school’s switch from the Big 12 Conference to the Southeastern Conference this year.
In fact, the Aggies are making themselves right at home. While Texas A&M has been successful nationally for many years, and won multiple Big 12 titles, the No. 6 Aggies are enjoying the change of scenery as they are off to a 10-1 start with a 4-0 mark in SEC play.
Texas A&M is fresh off a weekend that saw the new kids on the block knock off defending SEC regular-season champion South Carolina and defending SEC Tournament champion Auburn. The pair of shutouts ran the Aggie’s shutout streak to a program-record seven games, and propelled them to their highest ranking of the season at No. 6 in the NSCAA Division I Top 25 Poll.
Incredibly, the Aggies have allowed just three goals in 11 games, and are riding a nine-game winning streak as they head on a SEC road trip to Kentucky and Mississippi State this weekend.
Sophomore goalkeeper Jordan Day has been an integral part of the Aggies’ defensive clamp down. A native of Gilbert, Ariz., Day has put together a 696-minute scoreless streak, equaling the SEC record set by South Carolina’s Mollie Patton in 2009.
This season, Day has recorded eight shutouts and she's one shy of the nine she tallied as a freshman in 2011. Her 0.27 goals-against average ranks second among all DI players and leads the SEC. “Jordan has come light years in her development as a player,” Texas A&M head coach G Guerreri said. “She came in from a very small club in Arizona with huge potential but not as much confidence as we hoped.”
In her first season, Day played in 19 of 21 games, compiling a 1.07 goals against average and .774 save percentage. In the first eight games of the 2011 season, the Aggies gave up 18 goals, many of them with Day in front of the net. But as the season progressed, Day and the Texas A&M defense tightened up considerably, allowing just 11 goals in the final 16 matches. As a team, the Aggies finished the 2011 season ranked 117th in the nation with a 1.145 goals against average.
“I played like a freshman and needed a lot of work,” Day said. “After working with the coaches, and especially [volunteer assistant] Wally Crittenden, he’s gotten me to raise my level of play.” That trend has definitely continued this season with eight shutouts in 11 games.
“Defensively, our team has gotten so much stronger,” Day said. “We’ve worked a lot on defensive shape and the defenders have done a lot of work individually with shot blocking and aerial play, and that makes my job so much easier because I have to make less saves.”
Interestingly, this year’s dominant defensive squad led the led the nation in scoring with 3.17 goals per game in 2011. While the 2012 version may not be as prolific (2.09 goals per game), the Aggies 10-1-0 record is what matters most. “This year’s team is a very young team, but still very experienced,” Guerrieri said.
“Last year, we led the NCAA in scoring with a lineup that at times was starting seven freshmen. It’s been really special watching those players mature and the team improving around them.”
And, that more mature offense is the Aggies’ first line of defense.
“A lot of our defending really starts with how we attack and how much we keep the ball away from the other team,” Guerrieri said. “Attack has always been a big emphasis of ours. As an old goalkeeper, I’ve felt the best defense is to keep the ball away from the goal and keep it with the attack. That’s still a big part of our defense.”
Texas A&M will face a challenging test on Friday when the Aggies travel to Kentucky, which enters the contest with an 8-2 mark and a 3-1 record in the SEC. The Wildcats have not been shut out in 10 games this year.
“It is a more grueling schedule,” Guerrieri said. “In the Big 12, we only play eight games spread over five weeks. In the SEC, we will play 13 games in six-and-a-half weeks. There’s no rest.”
• A depleted Grand Valley State football team will hit the road to Michigan Tech on Saturday in a Division II Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference clash. While the No. 4 Lakers are 4-0 on the season, winning games has not come without significant losses because of injury.
Two weeks ago, GVSU lost starting quarterback Heath Parling with a season-ending knee injury, and then in last week’s 46-41 win against Ohio Dominican, the Lakers lost leading rusher Chris Robinson to a knee injury in the fourth quarter. Head coach Matt Mitchell announced Monday that Robinson, who was averaging 90.2 yards rushing per game, is done for the season.
Sophomore quarterback Isiah Grimes made his first collegiate start against Ohio Dominican, connecting on 14 of 30 passes for 316 yards, three TDs and two interceptions. The GVSU offense totaled 460 yards on the day.
“You can either whine about it and cry about it and complain about it and seek sympathy, or you can man up and do the best job you can,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell and the Lakers may not whine about the injuries, but they are concerned as they know Michigan Tech is a solid opponent. The Huskies are 3-0 and on the verge of breaking into the AFCA DII Top 25. Michigan Tech is hoping for its largest crowd when the Lakers come to town for only the second night game in Sherman Field history.
• In DIII football, the focus will be on Wisconsin when the three-time defending NCAA champion UW-Whitewater travels to unbeaten UW-Platteville for the 18th Annual George Chryst Memorial Bowl, which is played in honor of George Chryst, the Pioneers’ coach from 1979 to his death in 1992 at age 55.
The No. 5 Warhawks have won the past seven meetings in the series, but have shown they are vulnerable this year, losing to Buffalo State in the second week of the season. The No. 12 Pioneers have been explosive in their first three games, scoring 157 points for an average of 52.33, which is the third-best in the nation. It definitely will be a battle of wills as the Warhawks’ defense is allowing just 4.67 points per game – the fourth-least in the nation.
UW-Platteville’s strength is its passing game, led by quarterback John Kelly, who boasts the ninth-best passing efficiency rating in Division III at 179.51.
• The Samford football team is 4-0 for the first time since 1995, and 2-0 in the Southern Conference for the first time since becoming a league member in 2008. The Bulldogs, ranked No. 25 in the FCS Coaches Poll for the first time since 1995, will be challenged this week when they visit No. 9 Georgia Southern. It will be Samford’s third consecutive road game.
The Bulldogs have had stellar play on both sides of the ball. Last week against Western Carolina, junior running back Fabian Truss ran for 180 yards and two scores, while freshman defensive back James Bradberry made two key interceptions.
However, the Bulldogs will be tested by Georgia Southern’s powerful ground game. The Eagles’ option offense is pounding out 403.87 yards per game on the ground, good for second in the nation.
• Big West Conference men’s soccer action opens up with a showdown of two nationally ranked teams on Friday as No. 3 UC Santa Barbara visits No. 24 UC Riverside. The two squads seem to be evenly matched offensively and are tied for 10th in Division I with 2.50 goals per game.
UCSB is off to a 6-0-2 start and is coming off a 1-1 draw last week with No. 9 UCLA. UCR is looking to bounce back from its first loss of the season -- a 2-0 setback to Cal State Bakersfield -- when the Highlanders play host to the Gauchos in a contest that is sure to draw a crowd. Last year’s game in Riverside, which UCR won, attracted a school-record crowd of 2,016.
• The casual observer might believe a team that has only given up two goals in eight games and leads the nation with a 0.22 goals against average might be considered one of the best teams in the nation in the weekly polls. But despite its stingy defense behind the play of goalkeeper Tanner Olinger, Cal State San Bernardino men's soccer has only managed to compile a record of 3-0-5.
The Coyotes are unbeaten through eight games for the first time since 1991, and when their offense gets going, wins are more frequent. CSUSB netted on only goal in its first four games, going 0-0-4, while in the last four contests the Coyotes have scored six goals and posted a 3-0-1 mark.
CSUSB plays host to Cal State L.A. on Friday with first place in the California Collegiate Athletic Association South Division on the line. The Golden Eagles own a three-point leader against the Coyotes in the standings and have won five consecutive conference contests.
• In DI women's volleyball, after surviving its first top-five showdown of the week with a back-and-forth 3-2 victory against No. 4 and defending NCAA champion UCLA on Wednesday, No. 5 Washington’s schedule does not get any easier. The Huskies play host to No. 3 USC on Friday as they look to keep their perfect record intact while staying on top of the Pac-12 standings. The match will be broadcast live at 9 p.m. ET on the Pac-12 Network.
The Trojans are coming off their first loss of the season after falling to Oregon last weekend. USC hasn’t lost back-to-back matches since the first week of 2011.
USC, the defending Pac-12 champion, defeated the Huskies in both regular-season meetings last year. The Trojans victory against Washington in Seattle ended the Huskies’ streak of seven home-court wins against USC (2004-10).
Washington is one of just three undefeated DI teams. Second-ranked Oregon enters the weekend 11-0, while No. 11 BYU has started the season with 14 consecutive wins.
• Division III’s Whitworth’s men’s soccer team has posted a 0.12 goals against average, which leads all divisions, and the No. 11 Pirates will host a pair of solid Northwest Conference foes in a heated league race this weekend.
Whitworth welcomes Pacific Lutheran, the 2011 NWC co-champions, on Saturday and No. 21 Puget Sound, which is riding a seven-game winning streak, on Sunday. All three teams are tied on top of the NWC standings at 4-0 (12 points).
• While you can only play one goalkeeper at a time in soccer, it must be awfully nice to have two stoppers of such high caliber on one team. Defending NCAA champion Stanford is currently enjoying that luxury.
Emily Oliver -- the 2011 College Cup Defensive MVP and third-team All-American -- sat out the Cardinal’s first eight games of the season due to injury, but made her season debut in the second half of Stanford’s Pac-12 opening win against Arizona State last weekend. While Oliver was sidelined, Aly Gleason filled in nicely, compiling a 0.55 goals against average and helping the Cardinal post a 6-1-1 record. She started the game against ASU, sharing the shutout with Oliver.
"It's hard decision, because Aly Gleason has been amazing for us," Stanford head coach Paul Ratcliffe said. "But Emily's also an incredible goalkeeper. She has a great presence, she's a great leader. It's going to be a difficult decision from here on out, with quite a few fantastic goalkeepers to decide on."
• If you’re watching college football this weekend and wondering what the special patch coaches are wearing on their shirts, it represents support of the Coach to Cure MD program, an annual fundraising effort by AFCA members to battle Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
College football fans are donate to research projects supported by Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy (PPMD) by going online to www.CoachtoCureMD.org or by texting the word CURE to 90999 (a $5 donation will automatically be added to your next phone bill).
Last season, more than 10,000 college coaches at 505 different institutions participated. More than $1 million has been raised for the cause in the program’s first four years.
• Cross country season ramps up when Louisville plays host to the Greater Louisville Classic on Saturday at E.P. 'Tom' Sawyer State Park -- the same course where the 2012 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championship will be run on Nov. 17.
There are 115 colleges and universities from 24 different states slated to compete, making it what should be the largest college meet in the United States this year.
Division I men’s teams ranked in the USTFCCCA Top 30 competing in the race are No. 6 Texas, No. 8 Iowa, No. 25 Eastern Kentucky and No. 28 Columbia. The runners-up from each of the past two national championships also will be running -- both from Arizona -- Lawi Lalang (2011) and Stephen Sambu (2010).
On the women’s side, No. 1 Washington, No. 8 Vanderbilt, No. 10 Arkansas, No. 12 Arizona, No. 14 Michigan State, No. 17 Penn State and No. 29 Wisconsin will participate in Saturday’s meet.
Follow Amy Farnum on Twitter: @NCAA_Amy