In their first eight games, the Elmhurst College women’s soccer team posted a 7-1 record. They have scored 32 goals, allowed their opponents just two goals, have six shutouts and fired 253 shots on goal compared to their opponents 22.
However, those were all non-conference games. And, in reality, all that matters is how you do in conference games.
But, conference games have been the Jays’ Achilles Heel, as they have finished no higher than fifth in the CCIW since 2003. Last year, the ‘Jays had an opportunity to be eligible for the CCIW Tournament but stumbled the home stretch, losing their final four conference matches. Even when they did qualify for the CCIW Tournament back in 2002 and 2003, the ‘Jays were knocked out immediately, losing in the first round.
With all things going their way to start the 2011 season, is this the year the ‘Jays finally break the curse and place fourth or higher in conference?
The answer would have been “yes” if the ‘Jays came out and pounded North Park University, like they probably should have on Oct. 1. But, they did not. Instead, the ‘Jays fell to North Park 1-2, despite outshooting them 15-3.
If preseason polls are anything to base a decision on, which as of Oct. 1 are pretty much dead on, a loss to North Park is not good, as the ‘Jays were predicted to finish fourth, while North Park was selected to finish sixth.
Prior to the season, the order of teams went Wheaton College, Augustana College, Illinois Wesleyan University, EC, Millikin University, North Park University, Carthage College and North Central.
Currently, Illinois Wesleyan and Augustana are tied atop the conference chart, followed by North Park, Millikin, EC, North Central and Carthage (Wheaton has yet to play a conference game but currently has a 10-0 record and ranked fourth in the nation.)
So, where does this leave the ‘Jays?
The good news for the ‘Jays is that it is only one game.
Some even better news is that their next conference opponent is Carthage, who has the highest goals allowed average (2.22) and the second lowest shots taken average (17.67).
This is the perfect opportunity for the ‘Jays to reestablish themselves as a competitor for the CCIW title.
The loss does not erase the success the ‘Jays have had so far either. The ‘Jays lead conference in almost all categories including: shots (253), points (92), goals (32), goals per game (4.00), assists (28), assists per game (3.50), goals allowed (2.00), goals against average (0.25) and shutouts (6). They own basically every team high state in points (25, 23), goals (9, 8), assists (9), and shots (90, 51). The ‘Jays also have three of the top 10 players in the points category, more than any other team.
Perhaps the loss to North Park will be a wakeup call for the ‘Jays, to show them that no team can be overlooked, especially in the CCIW. They have proven that they can whip teams out of conference, but the true test will be if can they repeat that success against conference opponents.