When your season is only five games long, there’s absolutely no room for error.
This is a fact that is quite apparent to members of the Summit League men’s soccer conference.
With only six teams in the conference and one automatic bid to the NCAA National Tournament up for grabs, no teams can afford to slip up at any point in the season. One single loss could be the difference between making the conference tournament or staying at home.
For the past three seasons, there’s really only been two teams at the top of the pack in Summit League soccer: Omaha and Denver. This season, things could be different.
Omaha and Denver have a combined two wins between them this season and sit fourth and fifth respectively in the Summit League standings. At the top of the table, surprisingly, sits the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles, who have a record of 7-1.
The Golden Eagles are off to their best start in Division I history and have currently won five games in a row. Part of this success is due to a Summit League-leading seven goals from junior forward Dante Brigida. Brigida’s tally is also enough to make him the nation’s sixth highest goal-scorer.
Oral Roberts was picked to finish fourth in the preseason conference poll, but if their form continues, expect them to continue to challenge for the No. 1 spot this season.
While the two preseason favorites, Denver and Omaha, may not have the best of records this season, they should by no means be overlooked. Strength of schedule has factored in heavily for both teams.
Of the seven games that the Pioneers have played this season, five of those have been against teams ranked in the top 25 in the nation. For Omaha, it’s a similar story. The Mavericks have been challenged early on against traditional powerhouses such as Cal, St. Mary’s, Michigan and Creighton.
For Denver and Omaha, the hope will still remain to finish in the top two of the conference, but other teams may be smelling blood in the water.
The rest of the pack that is chasing behind consists of Eastern Illinois, Purdue Fort Wayne and Western Illinois.
Western Illinois was picked fourth in the preseason poll, and it looks likely they’ll finish lower than that. While the Summit League can be largely unpredictable, the Leathernecks are off to a winless 0-8 start and seem unlikely to improve much from there.
As for Eastern Illinois and Purdue Fort Wayne, both are off to slightly more respectable starts as they sit at 3-4 and 3-5, respectively. This season could be a particularly special one for Purdue Fort Wayne, as this will be the Mastodons’ final season in the Summit League. The added incentive of this season being a farewell tour could provide the team an extra boost in Summit League play.
With all six of these teams hoping to be on the road to Denver to play in the Summit League tournament, things are set for this to be an exciting conference season. Omaha will kick off their Summit League season on Oct. 5 as they take on Western Illinois at home. The game can be watched on Omavs.com or listened to on Mavradio.fm.