With impressive showings by Saint Ambrose and William Penn, one thing is clear: the KCAC is carving out its place with multiple top-10 teams and a few making their case to join the party.
KCAC Climbing – NAIA Stock Report
The Saint Ambrose Fighting Bees continue to impress me week after week. Only three games remain on their schedule before closing out the regular season, and none of the three teams left appear to be any sort of true competition. With that being said, Saint Ambrose looks to head into KCAC playoffs with an impressive 11-2 record, with its two losses coming against No. 2 Indiana Tech and No. 3 Columbia College.
The team’s offense this year is averaging roughly 14 points a game, which is one of the best marks in the country. The Fighting Bees defense is also doing its job, as they are holding teams to only seven goals per contest. Both sides of the ball need to continue to function at full capacity if they want any chance of winning the KCAC. Columbia College appears to be the clear favorite to win the conference, but I would not be surprised if Saint Ambrose came out with the upset.
William Penn currently sits with a record of 6-6 as the regular season begins to close out within the upcoming weeks. Two of its next three games look like they’ll be wins, which would close out their regular season with an 8-7 record. It is rare for new programs to finish their first season with a positive record, especially considering all of the issue that arose from the COVID-19 outbreak. This William Penn team was very close to upsetting No. 5 Saint Ambrose earlier in the year, losing by just two points in a very low scoring game. It also lost a heartbreaking game by one goal to RV Tennessee Wesleyan in Week 2 of its season.
It is very impressive to see what head coach Luke Christiansen has done with this program in such a short amount of time. The Statesmen are winning games and competing with teams above their current caliber. While they are not currently where they may want to be within the KCAC standings, this program appears to be headed in the right direction for many seasons to come.
ON THE FENCE
The Gray Wolves decided to play with a chip on their shoulder after my prior article mentioned their program’s recent decline. Lourdes traveled to Fort Wayne, Indiana, to play against top-ranked Indiana Tech in what I expected to be an absolute blowout. Senior goalie Tyler Queen made 24 saves on 30 total shots against the second-ranked Warriors, finishing the game with an 80% save percentage. This broke the university’s save record and also earned Queen NAIA National Defensive Player of the Week, regardless of the loss. Even with Queen’s relentless effort to put the team on his back, the offense struggled to run any resemblance of an offense, leading to the teams defeat, 6-4.
While I am impressed Lourdes was able to play a tight game against one of the best programs in the country, its offense still expressed some major doubts. It would then face No. 7 Madonna at home, where it would inevitably pull off the upset, 11-10. This is a quality win, but I’m still not sold that this Gray Wolves team can finish the season with this same level of tenacity. I could see them winning their next three games, but I could also see them losing their next three games. This Lourdes offense really needs to find a consistent rhythm if it wants to finish the season with a positive record.
What a “season” it has been for the Lawrence Tech Blue Devils. After losing their first two games of the season in humiliating fashion, the Blue Devils have been on a two-week quarantine ever since. This has led to six of their conference matches needing to be postponed until a later date. With the season wrapping up in the upcoming weeks, I am not quite sure how they are going to find time to play all of those games before playoffs. This team’s identity was already shaken prior to this quarantine, so I can’t imagine how it will recover from this. It’s unfortunate to see Lawrence Tech’s season unfold like this considering it began the season sitting at No. 2 nationally. It’s going to be difficult to salvage any remains of the team this season after missing so much practice time and game experience.
Don’t forget to keep up with the stock reports throughout the season to keep with the KCAC and the rest of the NAIA and mark the rise and fall of teams, leagues and narratives in 2021: