Big Ten men are off to flying starts

No men's conference can match the Big Ten in terms of success over the first two weekends of the season.

The five teams in the Soccer America Top 25 -- No. 3 Indiana, No. 14 Ohio State, No. 17 Northwestern, No. 19 Michigan and No. 20 Wisconsin -- are a combined 16-1-3.

Add to that unranked Michigan State, which is 4-0-0, and you have six of the seven Big Ten teams off to flying starts. Only Penn State (1-3-0) has underperformed.

The five ranked teams and Michigan State all won tournaments over the weekend, and all seven Big Ten teams won on Friday night.

Not bad for a conference that only sent two teams to the NCAA Tournament in 2006!

Here's how the red-hot Big Ten teams look so far.

No. 3 INDIANA. After scoring only three goals in their first three games, the Hoosiers broke out on Sunday, scoring three unanswered goals to beat defending Atlantic-10 champion Rhode Island, 3-1, and take home the title at the Mike Berticelli Memorial Tournament.

"Our offense is starting to click now as we start to figure things out," said Indiana coach Mike Freitag after the URI game. "I was again pleased with our defending as they didn't give up much. Our strength again today was also our depth. Guys like Neil [Wilmarth] and Michael [Roach] came in and did some good things."

Forward Darren Yeagle, last year's Big Ten Freshman of the Year, is out with a torn AC, but several other players have come through, notably Kevin Noschang, who has scored three goals, matching his total of the first two years. Besides Wilmarth and Roach, Andy Adlard, another freshman, has looked good in the IU attack.

The strength of the IU team, though, is its midfield with former U.S. U-17s Kevin Alston and Daniel Kelly, a pair of juniors, Brian Ackley, the team's leading scorer in 2006, and
Brad Ring, and sophomore Eric Alexander.

No. 14 OHIO STATE. The Buckeyes' 3-0-1 start is their best start since 2001.

In Sunday's 5-0 victory over William & Mary at the Penn State Nike Classic, the Buckeyes scored four goals in a span of 21 minutes and held W&M without a shot on goal.

Senior Eric Brunner has emerged as one of the top defenders in the country. The senior was named the MVP of the Penn State tournament. But it has been a collective effort so far. Nine different players have scored OSU's 10 goals.

"After four games, we are 3-0-1 and in that tie, we really had Syracuse on the ropes," said Buckeye coach Jon Bluem. "We're playing pretty well right now, but the team understands we have a lot of big games and a lot of hard work left, so we have to keep after it."

No. 17 NORTHWESTERN. After opening with three wins, Northwestern had to settle for a 0-0 tie with Dartmouth on Sunday, but it was good enough to give the Wildcats the Yale Classic championship on total goals.

"While I'm a little disappointed we didn't get a result, I'm encouraged by the way we played," Wildcat head coach Tim Lenahan said, praising Dartmouth for defending very well.

The Wildcats also won their Lakeside Classic and go for three in a row this weekend at the NIU-Adidas/Baymont Inn Invitational.

"One of our goals was to win each of the tournaments that we're playing in and we accomplished that for the second straight weekend," said Lenahan. "I think we made some good progress from last week to this week."

Eamon O'Neill, who collected a goal and an assist in Friday night's 3-1 win over Yale, was named the tournament MVP.

No. 19 MICHIGAN. The Wolverines improved to 4-0-0 with a 4-0 win at previously undefeated Cal State Fullerton on Sunday night.

The highlight of the game was defender Matt Schmitt's first goal of his UM career -- he ran the length of the field untouched and knocked a blazing shot that bounced in off the left goal post.

"I think that we are very consistent right now," said Michigan coach Steve Burns, "and that had to come from somewhere, which is all the experience these players have had over the last two years, all the chances we've had but didn't capitalize on. Now it's starting to pay off for us."

No. 20 WISCONSIN. The Badgers improved to 3-1 with 1-0 wins over Stanford and host California at the adidas Cal Legacy Classic.

A pair of Spaniards Victor Diaz and Pablo Delgado provided the goals. Against ranked Cal,
Wisconsin had a little luck as the Bears twice hit the post in the first half.

But goalie Alex Horvath turned in an "outstanding performance," according to Coach Jeff Rohrmann, and senior Nick Caronna held the backline together in the face of a persistent Cal attack in the second half.

"The team just battled and battled today and got the job done," Rohrman said. "This is about the best defensive performance I've ever seen out of this team."

The Spartans' 2-1 victory over Vermont Sunday in the Nike Soccer Festival gave Coach Joe Baum 300 wins in his 31-year career at Michigan State.

Junior Joe DeMartin remained on fire for Michigan State, scoring the game-winner in double overtime and upping his total to four goals in four games.

The defense has been the difference for MSU. It hasn't allowed a goal from the run of play in four games. Baum praised Chris Austin's work in goal.

"Chris has been our anchor on defense," Baum said. "We haven't given up any goals this year in the normal flow of play. Both of the goals we've allowed came after re-starts. Chris has been fantastic."

As for his 300th win, Baum was modest.

"Honestly, I was so happy to win this match that it didn't come into my consciousness," Baum said. "It's a nice thing for the program. But in the middle of such an intense season, you really don't have time to think about numbers. I'm just honored to have been at Michigan State University this long. I have really enjoyed all these years here."

August 31 (4-2-1)

Indiana 1, Maryland 1 (OT)
Michigan 3, Rutgers 0
Michigan State 1, Oregon State 0
Northwestern 3, Colgate 0
Ohio State 1, West Virginia 0
Syracuse 4, Penn State 0
Tulsa 3, Wisconsin 1

September 2 (5-1-1)
Indiana 1, UCLA 0
Michigan 1, Hofstra 0
Michigan State 2, Western Kentucky 0
Northwestern 2, Bucknell 1
Ohio State 0, Syracuse 0 (OT)
West Virginia 1, Penn State 0
Wisconsin 1, Western Michigan 0

September 7 (6-0-0)
Indiana 1, Northern Illinois 0
Michigan 2, Cal State-Northridge 1
Michigan State 2, New Hampshire 1
Northwestern 3, Yale 1
Ohio State 3, Old Dominion 2
Penn State 4, William & Mary 1
Wisconsin 1, Stanford 0

September 9 (5-1-1)
Indiana 3, Rhode Island 1
Michigan 4, Cal State Fullerton 0
Michigan State 2, Vermont 1 (OT)
Northwestern 0, Dartmouth 0
Ohio State 5, William & Mary 0
Old Dominion 1, Penn State 0
Wisconsin 1, California 0

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