Late October. The air is crisper, the leaves begin changing color and the fall sports season begins to take shape.
By late October, we sportswriters either look like geniuses or idiots. Some of our predictions from the beginning of the year (freshman forward Audrey Barry will be a breakout star, men’s soccer will have a good year) have come strikingly true. Some of our other predictions (women’s volleyball will compete for a conference championship, the College’s offensive line will struggle) have us thinking about writing for a different section of the paper.
So here, as the end of the fall season and the playoffs approach, are the major questions facing the William and Mary fall teams:
Football: Which is the real William and Mary this season? Is it the team that barely escaped Old Dominion with a win? Or is it the squad that manhandled Villanova at home three weeks ago? Coming into the fall, we thought the College’s defense would carry them early on while the offense would develop later in the year. But it was the offense and the passing attack, led by senior quarterback Mike Callahan before he got injured, which carried the defense through the first part of the season. The question now is whether junior quarterback Mike Paulus can learn the offense quick enough to compete against an end-of-the-year schedule that includes three ranked teams.
Men’s Soccer: How far can this team go? Impressive out-of-conference wins against West Virginia and Wake Forest, as well as the CAA’s impressive conference RPI, have the Tribe in contention for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. However, an injury to sophomore midfielder Caleb Thomas leaves the College with a huge hole in the center. The Tribe needs senior midfielder Nat Baako to get back on track after a stretch of sub-par matches, while continuing to receive breakout years from junior midfielder Ben Anderson and senior forward Jimmy Carroll. If they do, this team has the makeup to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
Women’s Soccer: Will a favorable schedule be enough to overcome a lack of offensive production? The College has three home matches to end the season, two of them coming against 2-6 Old Dominion and 1-5-2 VCU. But will the Tribe, which has only scored two or more goals in five matches this season, score enough to move up from its current sixth-place standing in conference? Head Coach John Daly has received standout performances from sophomore midfielders Mallory Schaffer and Cortlyn Bristol this season. Now it’s time for players like sophomore forward Erin Liberatore and senior forwardDanielle Axenfeld to step up if the Tribe hopes to make the playoffs.
Volleyball: Is there enough time left in the season? The Tribe sits in seventh place in the conference, well out of the top four spots to qualify for the postseason with seven matches to play. Can the College, which has lost five of its last six matches, go on a miracle run, or is it time to start working the underclassmen into the rotation? It’s a hard decision, especially with three seniors in Ginny Bray, Cassie Crumal and Erin Skipper who have given so much to the program.
Field Hockey: Can the College find something to build on for next season? The Tribe program has decreased in wins since 2006, and would need to win all three of its final games to equal last season’s total. With three home matches against some of the top teams in the CAA, the College has a chance to end the year on a high note. The question is, can they take advantage of it?