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Resurgent CAA shows remarkable depth
by Paul Kennedy, October 22nd, 2010 2:36AM
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[MEN'S CONFERENCE WATCH] One of the deepest conferences in the country is the CAA with seven teams in the top 60 in this week's RPI rankings and two teams -- No. 20 Old Dominion and No. 25 William & Mary -- in the Soccer America Top 25. Such is the depth of the CAA that last-place Towson is perfect at 6-0-0 in non-conference play. It's a big turnaround for a conference that only sent its tournament champion -- UNC Wilmington -- to the postseason in 2009.

With four games left to play in the CAA regular season, William & Mary has a four-point lead, but only five points separate the next 11 teams.

WILLIAM & MARY (*RPI ranking: 5). The Tribe, No. 25 in this week's Soccer America, ran its unbeaten streak to seven matches with a 2-1 win over James Madison. Alan Koger, who had the winning goal in Saturday's 1-0 win over VCU, had both goals against JMU. William & Mary's other win last week was 2-0 over Wake Forest. Ghanaian Nathaniel Baako, a senior midfielder, is one of the nation's most unheralded players.

OLD DOMINION (11). The Monarchs, No. 20 in the Soccer America rankings, fell into third place in the CAA when they lost at Georgia State, 4-3, on Wednesday. ODU, whose biggest win was 2-1 over North Carolina, is one of the youngest teams in the country. All its goals have been scored by sophomores and freshmen. Jordan LeBlanc leads with five goals, and Chris Harmon and Gideon Asante follow with four. Senior Evan Newton has been big in goal.

GEORGE MASON (29). After opening conference play with three losses and a tie, the Patriots have gotten themselves back in the race for one of the four tournament berths with wins over Towson (3-2) and James Madison (3-0) and a tie with Delaware (0-0). Senior forward Ernesto Marquez was involved in all six Mason goals and leads the team with five goals and five assists.

UNC WILMINGTON (36). The defending champions have played three straight scoreless draws but are still in second place in the CAA with a 3-1-3 record. UNCW has been impressive defensively, allowing only eight goals in 13 games, but its offense has been suspect. Quebecois Etienne Boulanger (five goals) is the only player with more than two goals.

JAMES MADISON (48). The Dukes are only 2-3-1 in the CAA but 5-1-1 in non-conference play, including a 0-0 tie at defending national champion Virginia last week that ended a streak of 15 consecutive losses to the Cavs. JMU's 2-1 loss to William & Mary on Wednesday was its first loss in Harrisburg after five wins.

TOWSON (51). The Tigers (8-4-1 overall but only 2-4-1 in CAA) opened the season with six straight wins, all against non-conference opponents. They ended a three-game losing streak with a 2-1 win over Northeastern on  Wednesday. Senior Marco Mangione began the week tied for the CAA lead in goals with nine.

DREXEL (59). The Dragons opened with four wins and a tie at nationally ranked Florida Gold Coast but they dig themselves a hole when they lost their first three CAA games. Conference wins in three of their last four games leave them tied for sixth place with four games to play. Nathan Page leads the Dragons with six goals, while Nate Baker is first with five assists.

VCU (90). The Rams had their 10-game unbeaten streak -- their longest in 12 years -- snapped when they fell at William & Mary, 1-0, on Saturday. First-year coach Dave Giffard, a former Akron assistant, has rebuild the Rams, starting two freshmen and five transfers. Guatemalan goalkeeper Gabriel Rodriguez began the week as the conference leader with a 0.57 GAA. Senior C.J. Gehin-Scott leads the Rams with five goals and 12 points.

NORTHEASTERN (116). The Huskies opened with three straight losses, but they have played above .500 since then. They climbed back into the CAA race last week a 4-0 triumph over Hofstra and a 0-0 draw with UNC Wilmington. NU out-shot UNCW 28-13, but was unable to score in a rematch of last year’s CAA championship. Mike Kennedy leads the Huskies with five goals.

GEORGIA STATE (132). The Panthers got a goal and an assist from Gimel Gordon in their 4-3 win over Old Dominion on Wednesday and moved back above .500 overall with a 6-5-3 record. Gordon is one of seven players with two or more goals.

HOFSTRA (145). Swedish freshman Lukas Ahman scored a golden goal to give the Pride (2-3-2 in the CAA and 4-6-3 overall) a 1-0 win over Drexel on Wednesday evening and three points that kept it in the hunt for a berth in the CAA Tournament. The Pride started five freshmen in each of its last four games.

DELAWARE (165). The Blue Hens have the worst overall record at 3-7-3 but are unbeaten in their last three CAA games with a win over Drexel (2-1) and ties with Hofstra (0-0) and George Mason (0-0). Their other conference win was 1-0 over Old Dominion.

*Oct. 18 RPI index.



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