League promises big games

By Kate Fratar

DIII is often left on the fringe of collegiate sports, falling under the shadow of professionally bound athletes and 80,000-seat stadiums of DI. While the average Maroons game falls short of capturing DI hysteria, UAA play is guaranteed to add electricity to the stands and the action on the field.

With four of the five fall squads hitting the road to square off against league rivals, this weekend throws the South Siders into the heat of UAA competition. Both soccer squads have packed in two games, football is looking to reclaim the coveted Founder’s Cup, and volleyball could play the spoiler to NCAA hopes at the second Round Robin. All of this is happening at a make-or-break point in the season.

A win for football when it opens conference action at Wash U (5–1) Saturday could set the team out on a sure foot to conference championships. Nine of the past 10 Founder’s Cup winners have taken that momentum all the way to a UAA title. The Maroons (3–1) will lean on the rookies to help them tame the Bears and lead them back to the top spot in the league.

Soccer, on the other hand, needs to use this weekend to reassert its place as one of the tough competitors in the league, a team to beat. Both the men and women have gone 0–1–1 in league play and can’t afford another loss. Without a good result, they risk falling too far behind in the standings to make a run for the title—and the automatic NCAA bid that comes with it.

For the women, (6–3–2, 0–1–1) who go up against Brandeis (7–3–1, 1–1) Friday and NYU (10–1–1, 1–1) Saturday, notching their first league win will hinge on rediscovering the offensive fire that powered them at the beginning of the season.

The loss of first-year scoring sensation Sarah Loh to a knee injury has been a blow to the Maroons’ attack and a blessing for opposing defenses. Loh led the squad with five goals before going down in the 3–2 loss to Carthage September 22. Chicago’s offense has been struggling to find the net since and will need to get back on track sooner rather than later, as this weekend has the potential to turn into a shootout.

While the Judges shouldn’t be taken lightly, outscoring opponents 25–15, it’s the 24th-ranked Violets who pose the big threat. NYU has run amuck in the final third, notching 29 goals on the season while holding opponents to a measly four goals.

This team is a far cry from the one the Maroons hosted last year that was outscored 27–20 and went winless in the UAA with a 6–10–1, 0–7 record. Third-year forward Sarah Pillemer and first-year Rebecca Assing make up the bulk of the Violets’ offensive surge with six goals apiece and the ability to fire with dead-on accuracy. Fourth-year shot stopper Amanda Sutter and the back five will have their hands full containing these two, but look to fourth-year forward Christine Farmer to help organize Chicago up top and jumpstart the offense back into early-season form.

Similar scoring problems may pop up on the pitch on the men’s (5–5–1, 0–1–1) side. They’ll have to overcome recent inconsistencies in creating scoring opportunities by smoothing out the midfield transition game.

That’s an aspect of the game that 15th-ranked NYU (8–2–1, 1–1) has mastered this year with the combo of fourth-year midfielder Jerret Thayer and first-year Anthony Tumbiolo. The rookie sets up the shots with a team-leading six assists, and Thayer provides the finishing touch with a squad-high nine goals.

In addition to watching out for the Tumbiolo-to-Thayer threat, the Maroons will need to fend off Violets looking to avenge last year’s 1–1 tie at Stagg.

With seven seconds on the clock and the team down 1–0, then third-year Andrew Hamilton met a corner kick, deflecting it into the net for the equalizer. Thayer had given NYU the lead early in the second half and the physical play of the Violets had kept Chicago down for most of the match. Hamilton’s buzzer beater pushed the game into double overtime and sent the Violets home having let a win slip through the cracks.

Compared to the soccer teams that need this weekend to set their seasons on course, volleyball has a different agenda in Cleveland at the second Round Robin. Coming off of snapping a nine-game losing streak, the Maroons (4–15, 0–3) will need to channel all of that winning spirit and more against the UAA.

While the squad won’t be gunning for a postseason spot, it can take the next four matches as an opportunity to put the silver lining in a challenging year. A string of injuries upset Chicago’s game plan early on, but if the Maroons can pull it together for the final stretch, they can leave something else to remember 2007 by.

Standing in their way will be Brandeis (15–5, 1–2) and NYU (13–12, 2–1) Saturday and sixth-ranked Emory (19–4, 3–0) and Rochester (15–1, 0–3) Sunday. Sure to give the South Siders a boost will be fourth-year middle hitter Koryn Kendall, who sets the pace in kills per game with 3.33 and can also bolster the defense with her team-leading 0.89 blocks per game.

Whether the opponent comes on the court or on the field, this weekend should bring some nail-biters with high stakes for all Maroons adding to the intensity. It may not be the D-I experience, but it’s DIII at its best.