SPORTS

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November 12, 2004

Time to prove it

With fall sports completed aside from 2-6 football, the Maroons field has been whittled down to three playoff contenders, each participating in regionals this weekend. Women's soccer, men's cross country, and women's cross country all enjoyed some of the most successful seasons in their respective programs' histories. Although each began with different expectations and faced different challenges, they've all arrived at the same critical point where every shot, step, bounce, and mistake matters. By all accounts, they're ready for the challenge.

Women's soccer has put the pieces back together from last year's championship loss, having nearly as successful a season as last year. Injuries have required some shuffling in the midfield and defense, but the bench has filled in impeccably. Their offense and defense remains some of the nation's best, locking down opponents with physical and skillful play. Although last weekend's loss to Wash U was a setback, women's soccer has the playoff experience to know that now is when it all counts. They host University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Saturday in a rematch of the Maroons' 4-1 road win September 11.

Men's cross country began the season with a changing of the guard, losing its top two runners from a squad that missed qualifying for nationals by one spot. They've made up for the loss with one of the nation's deepest squads. The men have shown they can step it up under pressure, finishing sixth at the all-division Loyola Invite October 2. That run, in which Chicago's top five runners finished within 20 seconds of each other, vaulted them to the ninth ranking in the NCAA, the best polling position in program history. Having won UAA championships even without running their best race, the men will need a performance like last month's to get over the regionals hump and into nationals.

Women's cross country, on the other hand, had four of its top five runners return this fall, but injuries and off-races have kept the women from performing up to potential. They finished third in UAA championships by a wide margin, and will need to take advantage of their experience—which netted them 18th at NCAA championships last year—to return to form Saturday on Augustana college's hilly course.