Entering the season with nine seniors who had the character to adjust, Western Washington women’s soccer coach Travis Connell knew he had a team that could make a change in style of play and still succeed.
A year ago, the Vikings had one of the top defensive teams in NCAA Division II. They had 14 shutouts and entered the West Regional undefeated. Western Washington lost its first round game 1-0 and finished the year 16-1-4.
“We changed things around so we could score more goals and attack more and be a little more versatile,” Connell said. “We have scored a lot of goal this year for us.”
Plenty of evidence exist that the change in style is working wonderfully. The Vikings, ranked No. 2 in the NSCAA top 25, beat Seattle Pacific 3-1 Saturday in the championship game of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference tournament.
Western Washington, 18-1-1, now waits to see who it will play next when the Division II tournament is announced 4:30 p.m. ET Monday. Go to www.ncaa.com/liveschedule for the schedule of the live video feed of the selection shows for various sports.
“It is during training,” Connell said. “We will sprint into the locker room and watch it. Everyone is interested in who we play and what that looks like.”
Whoever faces the Vikings should be prepared for a much more explosive attack on offense. In the 2014, Western Washington scored more than two goals only three times.
So far this season, the Vikings have scored three or more goals nine times, including seven goals in two games in the GNAC tournament. Senior forward Catherine Miles is one player who has increased her scoring. She has 10 goals and four assists for 24 points compared to eight goals and no assists last year for a team-leading 16 points.
Connell said he has the right nine seniors to be able to have a successful season.
“You still have to have quality,” Connell said. “We certainly do. Not just quality of talent, it makes it a lot easier when you have mature quality kids to have the character that they have. That is what makes it easier for you. To have players who have that mental discipline who are the seniors because they have a lot of experience. They lead the right way. We are fortunate to have that.”
One player benefitting from the senior leadership is freshman forward Gabriela Pelogi, who scored a goal in the GNAC championship match. For the season, Pelogi is second of the team in scoring with nine goals and 22 points.
The thing that Connell likes most about this year’s team is the consistent play.
“We have been good on both sides of the ball,” he said. “The energy has been real high no matter who we are playing against, which is hard to do. But we have been consistently able to do that.”
Rockhurst men’s soccer wins GLVC Tournament
Before the season started, sophomore forward Kaleb Jackson said the Hawks knew they were better than their 9-6-2 record from a year. Yes, they were young, but that was no excuse.
“Last year our season wasn’t what we wanted it to be,” Jackson said. “We knew we had a lot of potential on the team, but we didn’t play to it.”
The Hawks changed their mentality.
“We took practices seriously,” Jackson said. “We knew the potential that we had so we knew if we put our minds to it, we could be pretty good.”
Rockhurst went into this weekend GLVC tournament ranked No. 1 in the Midwest Region and fifth in the NSCAA top 25. The Hawks wanted to win the conference tournament.
“It will be a huge accomplishment for us,” Jackson said on Thursday. “We want to win the whole thing but we have a lot of young kids on the team. This will be our first time to actually have a chance to win the GLVC Tournament so we are looking forward to that.”
Mission accomplished. The Hawks beat Quincy 1-0 Sunday afternoon in the championship game. Now the Hawks wait to see who they play in NCAA Division II soccer tournament. The selection show for men’s soccer is scheduled for 6 p.m. ET Monday.
“It will mean a lot to us,” Jackson said. “We know not everybody gets to play in it. We have to represent and put on a good show.
“This is the best part of the season. We know if we lose it is all over so we are all giving a 110 percent for 90 minutes because we know if we don’t win, it is going to be over.”
Some top regional cross country performances
Grand Valley State men’s and women’s cross country teams head into the National Championships Nov. 21 in Joplin, Mo., feeling great about themselves. Both teams finished first in the Midwest Regional Championships Saturday in Evansville, Ind.
The women finished 18 points ahead of Hillsdale. Grand Valley freshman Gina Patterson finished second behind overall winner Emily Oren, a senior from Hillsdale.
On the men’s side, Grand Valley was the easy winner, finishing ahead of Southern Indiana. Led by the fifth from Zach Panning, the Lakers placed three runners in the top seven.
One team that wants to hold off Grand Valley men is three-time defending champion Adams State. The Grizzlies won their fourth straight South Central Regional Championship on Saturday in Canon, Texas. Adams State placed three runners in the top 10.
Like Grand Valley, Adams State also swept its regional. In finishing first, Adams State women had runners who placed third, fourth, fifth and sixth.
Prelude to Division II football playoffs
Entering Saturday’s game ranked eighth in Super Region Two, Florida Tech faced No. 1 and undefeated West Georgia. Florida Tech absolutely needed to pull off an upset to keep its NCAA Division II playoff hopes alive.
Only the top seven teams in each of the four regions make it to the playoffs. It was a daunting task for the Panthers.
Florida Tech was ready for the challenge.
The Panthers pulled out a thrilling 28-26 victory and improved to 7-3 overall and 6-2 in games in their region.
“I don't even know what to say,” head coach Steve Englehart said on the school’s website. “We came out absolutely on fire.”
The win sets up one of the most important games in Florida Tech’s three-year history of playing Division II football. The Panthers will play at Valdosta State at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday in the last regular season game. Valdosta State is 7-2 and ranked sixth in Super Region Two.
The winner of this game will earn a spot in the Division II playoffs. The game will be televised on ESPN 3.
The Division II football selection show will be Nov. 15 (Sunday) at 5 p.m. ET.