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Saturday, May 15, 2021

The wins rise, but the ranking falls

By Eliana Ala’ilima-Daley

 

After spending the first five weeks of the 2017 season atop the Division II national standings, the women’s soccer team’s run as the  No. 1 ranked team in the country ended when they dropped to No. 3 in the United Soccer Coaches D-II national poll.

The Vikings are the defending national champions, have a perfect 11-0-0 record on the season and have acquired 36-straight wins.

Western was ranked No. 1 in the nation following a historic 2016 campaign that resulted in a national championship and 24 straight wins, breaking the all-time Great Northwest Athletic Conference win streak record.

Freshmen Grace Eversaul and Darby Doyle Contest for the ball. // Photo by Katie Webber

The Vikings held the No. 1 ranking while continuing to hold a perfect season record, until week five of the polls when Western dropped to No. 3. The Vikings are currently ranked behind the University of Central Missouri (12-0-0), and Kutztown University (11-0-0).

Senior team captain and 2016 Division II National Player of the Year Sierra Shugarts said she was initially sad when she saw the polls, but that it gives the team an added chip on their shoulder.

“Obviously, it’s more motivation,” Shugarts said. “We know how good we are, but I think it fuels our fire. We’ve never been a team where we get down about those things.”

The team is still ranked No. 1 in the West Region.

“Winning 35-straight is amazing,” Western sports information director Jeff Evans said. “There’s only a handful of teams at any level that have done what they’re doing. It’s a historical run. They’re an awesome group, and anyone who watches them play knows they’re determined.”

The voting for the national polls is done by a panel of coaches who look at the results of each of the eight regions weekly.

They then put those results into a point system to determine which teams are worthy of the national rankings. Points are determined by categories like record, toughness of schedule and number of games played.

Students within the Western athletics department have also taken notice of the team’s recent drop. Junior volleyball player Joslyn Bopray said she first saw the news of the women’s soccer team’s new ranking on social media.

“I would feel robbed,” Bopray said. “I would be wondering why they think another team is better than us when we’ve already proved ourselves.”

Evans said while it was a shocking drop for the Vikings, you have to give credit where credit is due.

“Central Missouri is 12-0 and they have not allowed a goal all season,” Evans said. “So I think anywhere in those top five is great, but it’s interesting that a team who hasn’t lost since the end of the 2015 season moves down in the polls.”

While the drop did come unexpectedly, the Vikings are trying to not pay attention to the rankings. Shugarts said at the end of the day, they’re just focused on bettering themselves everyday, while continuing to keep a championship mindset.

“Even though it’s the middle of the season, we still have girls come out early running, doing fitness, getting extra touches,” Shugarts said. “Every game we just try to play like a championship team, and that’s made us successful.”

The Vikings are only about halfway through their GNAC schedule. Polls aside, the Vikings’ true ranking will be revealed once postseason play opens up with the GNAC tournament beginning Nov. 2.

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