The latest conference rankings that were released were vastly different from the rankings at the start of the season. It seems that every week, there is an upset or close game that has us rethinking who will come out of each conference. Indiana Tech and St. Ambrose sit atop their respective conferences, but figuring out who sits behind them is a total guessing game. Tennessee Wesleyan has somehow emerged as a prevalent threat in the NAIA. Also, good luck figuring out what’s going on in the AAC, your guess is just as good as anyone else’s. Let’s look at how this week’s action shaped the national NAIA picture.
Conference Rankings: March 21, 2022
#9 Tennessee Wesleyan (9) – #4 Keiser (8)
Keiser may soon be regretting their decision to join the AAC. After handing Reinhardt their first loss in three years, they’ve gone 1-3 in conference matchups since. Their latest loss was to a rolling Bulldogs squad. The Seahawks would ride a 3 goal run in the first quarter to lead 4-1 early. The second quarter saw the defenses begin to takeover as neither offense could really generate much and were forcing shots. Two minutes into the second half, Max Heistand would pour in his 11th goal of the year to give Keiser a 7-3 lead. From there however, TWU took over.
A 4 goal run including a pair from Robert Holekamp, would tie the game going into the final quarter. In the fourth, TWU would only be able to get off 3 shots. However, two of them went in the net and it was enough to upset the No.4 Seahawks. Austin Hall was a difference-maker in net with a career high 14 saves for the Bulldogs.
#9 Tennessee Wesleyan (10) – #7 Webber (9)
Following their upset of No.4 Keiser, TWU decided to keep the ball rolling with another Top 10 upset. This time the Webber Warriors were the victims. Kyle Gasior controlled the faceoffs winning 13 of 22 on the day which helped TWU lead the possession battle. Webber would lead early, but the Bulldogs never waivered. The Bulldogs would outscore the Warriors 4-1 in the second quarter leading to a 6-4 halftime advantage.
In the third quarter, both defenses would step up and allow only one goal apiece. In the final period, the teams would trade goals back and forth until two late man-up goals made it a 1 goal game with 14 seconds left. Gasior won the ensuing face-off and the Bulldogs would run out the clocks en route to their 10th win on the year. What might be most impressive about this run by Tennessee Wesleyan is that they’re doing it with only 17 players on their roster.
#2 Indiana Tech (17) – #10 Lawrence Tech (7)
After finding their way into the Top 10, Lawrence Tech was looking to show that they belonged by potentially upsetting the No.2 team, Indiana Tech. However, this game was over just about as soon as it started. Louis Czech would score 2 of his 4 goals in the first five minutes to give the Warriors an early lead. Indiana Tech would extend their first quarter lead to 6-2 thanks to 2 goals from Emmett Coleman.
In the second quarter, LTU struggled to clear the ball, going 5-10, leading to some extra possessions for the Warriors which they would capitalize on to extend the lead to 9-4 at the half. A 5-0 third quarter would seal the deal for the Warriors and would eventually lead to a 17-7 victory. With a little more consistency from their faceoff unit and goalie, Indiana Tech might have a shot at winning it all.
Lourdes (14) V CUAA (11)
Indiana Tech sits atop of the WHAC, but the rest of the conference is jockeying for their position in the conference tournament. These two teams were battling for a prime spot. Concordia jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, and looked to be in the control of the game early, leading 5-3 after the first quarter. The Gray Wolves would battle back in the second, thanks in large part to LSM Ezequel Ceant, who would control the faceoffs. Back-to-back goals by Caden Louthan in the final two minutes of the half would have the game tied going into the break.
The teams would continue to battle in the second half until Lourdes caught fire for a 6 goal run that spanned deep into the fourth quarter. Midfielder Ryan Isles attempted to start a comeback adding two goals late for the Cardinals, but it was too late. The major difference in this game was Concordia living in the penalty box and Lourdes capitalizing on 3-7 opportunities.
#1 St. Ambrose (17) V #8 Ottawa (7)
St. Ambrose won their 9th straight game this weekend after defeating the Ottawa Braves 17-7. The Braves would open scoring with a goal from Luke Spells. St. Ambrose would go on a 5-0 run from that point and looked to control the game early. A pair of goals by Dakota Lepker and another Man-Up goal from Vincent DeMarco would make it a 1 goal a game after the first 15 minutes.
Likely 1st-Team All-American, Michael Shakerin, would start to take over for the Fighting Bees and score 2 goals in the second quarter and would extend the lead to 10-5 at the half. Ottawa would score two early at the start of the second half, giving the appearance of a comeback, but the St. Ambrose squad would lock in and go on a 7 goal run to finish the game.
NAIA Players of the Week:
Offense: Michael Shakerin – Jr. – Attack – St. Ambrose – 7 goals and 7 assists in 3 games
Defense: Austin Hall – So. – Goalie -Tennessee Wesleyan – 26 saves in 2 games