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Madness at the Top: NAIA Weekend Recap

Just when we start to feel like we have an understanding of what’s going on in the NAIA, there’s a major shake-up. With each coming week, it becomes tougher to figure out how things will shake out for the National Tournament. We’re wishing the best of luck to the coaches who will be tasked with seeding it. 

Let’s take a look at this week’s matchups that had the biggest Impact on the NAIA.

Conference Rankings: March 21, 2022

#3 Cumberlands (10) – #2 Keiser (4)

In this game, Cumberlands looked to bounce back after their worst performance of the year against Indiana Tech. With this Keiser squad, it’s hard to tell if you’re going to get one of the best team’s in the country or if they will fall short of those expectations. In this performance we saw the latter out of Kaiser. Cumberlands leaned on their strong defense headlined by Jake Morgan to Cause Turnovers and generate more possessions for their offense. Those extra possessions mattered early as the Patriots would start the game on an 8-0 run. It would take until 6:13 in the second quarter for Keiser to finally put one in the back of the net.

A big reason that the Keiser offense couldn’t get anything going was Will “Pork Chop” Settle tying a season high with 13 saves in net for Cumberlands. This win should put Cumberlands as the No.2 seed in the AAC and leave Keiser with their destiny in their own hands. 

#7 Benedictine (16) – William Penn (7)

In the KCAC, St. Ambrose has cemented themselves at the top of the conference, the rest of the conference however, seems up for grabs. This KCAC matchup feature two teams battling to place themselves at the top of the league. The Ravens traveled to Oskaloosa to face the Statesmen. This game would start close, with both teams scoring in the first couple of minutes. However, the Ravens would score back to back goals shortly after, and their lead would grow from there. Benedictine’s defense stifled the Statesmen offense allowing only 25 shots in the game, while their offense generated 41. Michael Hogan and Joseph Doyle each scored 4 Goals to lead the way. 

#8 Webber (14) – Madonna (8)

Coming off a game where they were eyeing an upset over Reinhardt, Madonna looked to stay hot and attempt to upset another Top 10 opponent. Coming into this game, Madonna had just that one contest under their belt, while Webber came into this meeting after having already played in 11 games. Madonna looked like they were still shaking off the rust while Webber operated as a well-oiled machine. The Crusaders played tough, battling to a 3-3 tie at the beginning of the second quarter, but couldn’t keep up with the Warriors. A goal with 3 seconds before the end of the first half would give Webber a 3 goal lead going into the half. Madonna could never close the gap. Cole Gingell and Ian Rush combined for 6 of Madonna’ s 8 goals but needed a little more help from the rest of their team. 

#3 Saint Ambrose (16) – #6 Aquinas (13)

The most competitive game of the weekend actually took place on a Monday as the St. Ambrose, the presumed, new No.1 in the NAIA faced-off against No.6 Aquinas. This game resembled a heavyweight boxing match where the two parties just kept throwing and landing haymakers. The Bees would jump out to a 2-0 lead but Aquinas would battle back to tie it up at 4 in the second quarter. The rest of the first half featured the teams going on runs in route to a 2 goal difference in favor of the Bees.

The second half would belong to Nolan Hayes, who recorded 10 saves in the third quarter, while only allowing 1 Goal. This allowed St. Ambrose to stretch the lead to 4 goals. Mitch Haggart attempted to lead a comeback for the Saints, with two early 4th quarter goals. The Bees responded with 3 quick goals, which the Saints quickly matched with 3 of their own making the game 15-13 with 5 minutes to go in the game. That would be the end of the comeback attempt however, as the Saints couldn’t find the net for the remainder of the game.

NAIA Players of the Week: 

Offense – Michael Shakerin – St. Ambrose – Attack, Jr – 7 Goals, 6 Assists in 2 games

Defense – Will Settle – Cumberlands – Goalie – 18 saves, 81.8% Save Pct. in 2 games