Expectations were high to start the season. Now, halfway through the fall schedule, reality has set in.
So, does that mean it’s time for an imminent playoff push or an extended winter break for your favorite teams? Let’s take a look:
The cross-country program continues to get its footing in the A-10. Urban cross country programs have historically had a difficult time finding success, but the Owls look to change that. The men’s team has made strides, finishing a program-best 11th in the A-10 Championship last year. The women’s team finished 13th, but looks to build on that foundation in 2008.
Prediction: Everyone gets to run in the A-10 Championship, but the Owls will remain toward the back for quite some time.
It’s been a turbulent season for coach Amanda Janney. Early on, it was all too perfect, as the Owls went 3-0 and knocked off No. 14 Boston University. Since then, it has been a series of beatings from some of the country’s best. Ohio State and No. 11 Penn State posted back-to-back shutouts, and rivals Drexel and Delaware stole two games at Geasey Field. On Sunday, No. 8 Michigan State thumped Temple 9-0. It appears that the Owls’ non-conference schedule was overly ambitious. The good news is that A-10 play begins this week. Last year, the team went 6-1 in conference. Do the Owls have the firepower to get past No. 17 Massachusetts? Four years of playoff debauchery may continue.
Prediction: Another playoff bust: A-10 semifinals loss.
It’s like The Little Engine That Could. The men’s soccer team continues to scrap and claw its way into the win column. Finally, there is some progress after two painful seasons at the Ambler Sports Complex. In 2006 and 2007, the team amounted to an overall record of 7-25-3 and plenty of frustration. The Cherry and White are currently 4-3-2 and about to embark on their A-10 schedule. Fortunately, heavyweights Saint Louis and Charlotte are off that schedule. The Owls have five straight home games to close the season, so the postseason isn’t out of consideration. In 2004, the team made it to the A-10 finals, but ultimately lost to George Washington.
Prediction: Only six teams get to dance, and 14 are jockeying for position. Another year of growth and this squad gets in.
Much like its male counterparts, the women’s soccer team is kicking it up a notch. The Owls (2-6-3) look to improve upon their 5-10-4 season of a year ago, and it starts with their young guns. Freshman goalkeeper Courtney Douglas has assumed duties from sophomore Kara Williams. In her two starts, the Owls earned two ties, including a 0-0 shutout against Massachusetts. Freshman Niki Conn has been able to spark a notoriously anemic offense with four goals through 11 games. Playoffs might be too much for this squad right now. A step in the right direction would be a handful of conference wins on the road. Last season, the Owls went 0-5-1 in that department.
Prediction: No go on the postseason, but improved record from 2007.
Coach Bob Bertucci has done a remarkable job with this squad. The team is comprised mostly of underclassmen, but you wouldn’t know it. With an 11-7 record, they are a legitimate threat in the postseason. So far, they have dominated the Atlantic Ten Conference, posting a 4-1 record. Finding a replacement for outside hitter Yue Liu hasn’t been a problem, as junior Yun Yi Zhang has more than adequately fit the role. Zhang leads the conference in kills with 261 and total points with 291.5. If the Owls want the respect they deserve, they’ll need to cut down the conference’s traditional powerhouses. The West Division has a stranglehold on the crown, with Saint Louis winning in 2006 and Dayton from 2003-2005 and in 2007.
Prediction: The beasts of the east, but runners-up to the rest. Owls fall in a late-round game in the A-10 Championship.
Some Owls will get to taste the postseason, while others are far from it. Hey, there’s always next year.
Anthony Stipa can be reached at email@example.com.