By Andrew Cahill
Exciting playoff races do not only come down to the final week of the season in Major League Baseball.
The Union Dutchmen soccer team has only two games remaining in its 2011 regular season. Despite being the 18th ranked Division III soccer team in the nation, Union must win both matches in order to have any chance of securing a Liberty League postseason berth.
Their situation was not helped this past Saturday when 12th ranked Hobart visited College Park Field and handed the Dutchmen a heartbreaking l-0 loss, their first defeat all season on their home pitch. It was a tightly contested and highly emotional contest, as Union nearly tied the Statesmen with numerous chances in the final minutes.
Ultimately, despite the setback, the Dutchmen have a prime opportunity for a chance to leap into the top four of the Liberty League table.
Only the top four teams compete in the postseason Liberty League Championship tournament for a shot at an automatic NCAA Division III Tournament bid.
Currently, as this paper went to press, Union sits just outside the Liberty League top four, in fifth place. Atop the Liberty League is the nation’s top ranked Division III team, undefeated St. Lawrence, followed by RIT, Hobart and RPI. The top three spots have already been clinched, which leaves the Dutchmen hoping to secure the final spot over RPI, Vassar and Skidmore.
There is plenty of good news for Union, however, in their quest for the fourth and final spot. RPI has already played its entire Liberty League conference schedule and is cemented with nine points in the standings, which means the Engineers are left in the unenviable position of watching and waiting.
Union, Skidmore and Vassar are each tied with seven points in the standings. One win by either the Dutchmen, Skidmore, or Vassar will knock RPI out of the postseason, as each Liberty League win counts as three points in the standings.
Simply put, Union holds their own destiny, as they play both Vassar and Skidmore in the final week of the season, the two teams that they are tied with in the league standings.
The Dutchmen must grind out two victories on their friendly home confines of College Park Field, where they have suffered defeat only once this season. The matchup against Vassar will have already occurred as of press-time, but Saturday’s Homecoming Weekend matinee will begin at 2 p.m. against Skidmore in what could determine the ultimate fate of the Dutchmen. Without two wins, as you will see below, the situation could become quite complicated.
Here’s the breakdown of potential scenarios:
Two wins by Union: IN the Liberty League Playoffs; RPI, Vassar, Skidmore eliminated.
Two ties by Union: EITHER four-way tie with RPI, Vassar and Skidmore if Vassar were to tie Bard on Saturday, Oct. 29 OR OUT if Vassar defeats Bard. If there were a four-way tie, the League would likely decide fourth place by way of head-to-head matchup records and/or goal differential.
Lose to Vassar, Tie Skidmore: The season would be over, as Vassar would have two-point standings advantage for fourth place, no matter if Vassar won or lost against Bard on Oct. 29.
Lose to Vassar, Beat Skidmore: Dependent upon Vassar result at Bard. If Vassar W, Union OUT. If Vassar L, then Union may be OUT as well due to head-to-head matchup.
Win against Vassar, Tie Skidmore: IN, no matter Vassar’s result versus Bard.
Tie against Vassar, Lose to Skidmore: Union would be OUT of the postseason, with Vassar or Skidmore taking the fourth spot.
Two Losses: OUT. The Dutchmen’s season would likely be over. Despite being ranked, an at-large NCAA Tournament bid would be tough to grab.