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Holy Cross women’s basketball rallies to beat Governors State

Wednesday night, the Holy Cross women’s basketball team came into their game against Governors State looking to end both a three-game losing streak and a two-game conference losing streak. Courtesy of a late rally, the Saints managed to pull off the feat, winning 65-57.

In the 10 previous meetings, the two teams have split the series, with the Saints winning three of the last five.

The game began with Governors State winning the opening tip and making a jump shot on their first possession. A Holy Cross turnover allowed Governors State to open up a quick 4-0 lead.

The Saints rallied, with freshman Carly Spradling, forcing a block and rebounding, which turned into points at the other end.

The Saints scored 10 straight and jumped out to a 10-4 lead. After the two teams traded baskets, Saints led at the end of the quarter, 13-8

Governors State opened the second quarter making consecutive three-pointers, thanks to their offensive rebounding allowing them second chance opportunities. Freshman guard Audrey Tallent sank a jump shot, putting the Saints back up, 15-14 with 7:37 left in the second.

Governors State rallied to retake the lead. However, sophomore guard Anna Tallent’s three-ball knotted the score once more.

The two teams traded baskets, but Governor State scored three points in the last 14 seconds putting the Saints down 29-26 at the half.

To start the third quarter, the Jaguars built up a seven-point lead. Saints sophomore forward Grace Adams put forth a big individual effort to close the deficit. First, she cut the lead to five with a trip to the foul line. Then, Adams made a steal that turned into Holy Cross points the other way. The sophomore punctuated the run with a jump shot to bring the Saints within one.

The Jaguars responded with a 13-4 run, taking a 48-38 lead with 50 seconds left in the third. Clutch three-point shots from senior guard Jayda Miller and junior Neva Longhofer made it a 50-44 game heading into the fourth quarter.

Trailing by six with 7:33 left in the fourth quarter, two poor Jaguar fouls allowed sophmore Jordyn Smith and Spalding to get the Saints within two.

A Miller jump shot tied the game and forced the visitors to call a timeout. The timeout did little to help, however, as the Jaguars fizzled out down the stretch. Governors State scored just five points in the last five minutes. The Saints, meanwhile, scored 13 to win 65-57.

The win broke the Saints’ three-game losing streak and provided them with their first conference win. The win propelled the Saints from the conference basement and into eighth, where they trail Judson by half a game. The Saints are now two games behind first-place Saint Francis.

By beating Governors State, the Saints have closed their first home stand 2-4 (1-2). The Saints now head on the road for three games, including two conference clashes. The Saints return to McKenna Arena on Dec. 6, when they face the Saint Mary’s Belles at 6 p.m.

Contact Tom Zwiller at tzwiller@hcc-nd.edu.

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ZeLO makes conference title and bowl game picks

I will come right out and say it: This week of college football is boring. Of the top-25 teams playing on Saturday, the average point spread is 14.7. That feels like Vegas telling you that you can turn your TV off and go for a walk.

Do not get me wrong, there are good games. No. 7 USC takes on No. 16 UCLA in a game that could eliminate USC from its playoff chase. No. 4 TCU is only a 2.5 favorite on the road against Baylor. And since when has a ranked, 21-point favorite Notre Dame not felt like a trap game?

But bar No. 6 LSU dropping the ball against 14.5 underdog UAB, this weekend feels short on drama. So instead of breaking down individual games I dub important, I would rather look ahead and predict conference championship weekend, the CFP and the NY6. If you want to know whom ZeLO thinks will win the Notre Dame BC game, you will have to check out the graphic made by our wonderful graphics department (spoiler: it’s Notre Dame).

Conference Championship Weekend

The Locks

The SEC and ACC have already been decided, with LSU and Georgia squaring off for the SEC while UNC and Clemson head to Charlotte. Not surprising to anyone, Georgia is ZeLO’s heavy favorite to make the title game, with the Bulldogs having a 70% chance of taking the crown. That snarling Bulldogs defense should be able to give LSU’s offense fits, especially after Arkansas slowed the Tigers significantly last week.

Meanwhile, the ACC should be a much more watchable game. Though the Tigers have been a favorite to win the crown all season, ZeLO has it as a close one. The Tigers still win; however, UNC’s atrocious defense (ranked 121st) will make DJ and the gang look better than they are.

Up for Grabs

The Big 12, Big 10, and Pac-12 are all still up for grabs. Here are the most likely pairings for each championship game:

ZeLO has TCU playing a rematch game against No. 15 Kansas State. The last time these two teams faced down, TCU needed to overcome an 18-point deficit, which they did with ease, winning 38-28.

Right now, ZeLO has TCU as the favorite, with a 22.4% chance of ending the season as an unbeaten regular season champ and conference champion. The Wildcats would love to ruin their chances.

The Big 10 will be the winner of Ohio State vs. Michigan and whoever wins the royal rumble that is the West. Four teams (Purdue, Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota) are 4-3. Of those four, Purdue has the easiest strength of schedule and the best odds of winning out. Just who is Purdue playing, though? The Buckeyes are slightly favored over Michigan. This game may be skippable…

As for the Pac-12, ZeLO currently has Oregon facing off against UCLA. It is odd, but ZeLO has Oregon and UCLA winning out. Seeing as Oregon faces Utah this weekend and UCLA plays USC, those two teams should be heavily favored to make it to the conference championship.

I will add that that is an improbable scenario, but it is ZeLO’s. ZeLO has been high on UCLA and Oregon all season long, so it does not feel like a surprise that ZeLO would have these two competing for the title. If you do not like that scenario, I will do you one better. UCLA wins the crown. It is not my prediction; a spreadsheet made it. So, that leaves us with Georgia, TCU, Clemson, Ohio State and UCLA (yes, I know) as the conference champions.

Based on current CFP rankings and the ZeLO Prestige Rankings, the likeliest order would be Georgia, Ohio State, TCU and then Clemson, though there is a chance that the committee ousts Clemson for Tennessee.

Considering Tennessee is ZeLO’s fourth net-ranked team, this would be the more innovative move, though it would likely mean that TCU is bumped to fourth to avoid a repeat matchup.

NY6
Capital One Orange Bowl

Two teams claim to play in Death Valley, and both have Tiger mascots. That is right, ACC champion Clemson takes on SEC runner-up LSU, with Brian Kelly getting a rematch against Dabo Swinney.

Clemson has had an offensive down year and genuinely struggles on offense, ranking 42nd. LSU is by no means an offensive juggernaut, but their defense should be able to frustrate DJ Uiagalelei more than Clemson can Jayden Daniels.

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic

Given Alabama’s high ranking but impossibility of making the CFP, the Cotton Bowl would be an excellent finish for the Tide. It might not be the season they wanted, but overall, it’s a good one.

The Group of 5 team is a harder prediction. Based on the committees’ current rankings, I am inclined to put UCF here. They rank 19th in ZeLO’s net rankings and are the second-highest Prestige Ranking Group of 5 team.

ZeLO has Coastal Carolina as a slightly better Prestige team, but that is forecasting the season’s end. For now, it is the Knights.

Now, UCF can finally try to prove they legitimately won a championship, like they did in 2017 (ZeLO thinks they won’t).

Rose Bowl Game Presented by Capital One

Because ZeLO is so high on UCLA, ZeLO has them as a strong contender to make the Rose Bowl. Fitting, as UCLA plans on becoming a part of the Big 10 soon. Why not give them a sample of their new competition in Michigan?

ZeLO thinks the Bruins might regret the switch.

Allstate Sugar Bowl

The most likely teams for the Sugar Bowl are Oklahoma State and Ole Miss, as both are strong teams who failed to make their conference championship.

CFP
Fiesta Bowl

Although TCU made the CFP, ZeLO has Georgia in another class of team. There are currently five teams for whom ZeLO has above 100 net points. TCU is on the outside looking in, sitting in sixth. As a result, the defending champion Bulldogs continue their defense.

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl

The Buckeyes are ZeLO’s No. 1 team and have been all season. Although Tennessee sits 4th in the net rankings, Ohio State makes it to the title game to face off against the Bulldogs.

CFP National Championship

Though ZeLO loves the Buckeyes, Georgia is simply an elite team. Georgia is currently the third-ranked team by net, boasting the sixth-best and seventh-ranked offense.

The only problem? Ohio State boasts the third-ranked offense and fifth-ranked defense. The Buckeyes pick up their ninth national championship and first under Ryan Day.

Contact Tom Zwiller at tzwiller@nd-hcc.edu.

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Saints fall to Cougars, add to losing streak

The Holy Cross Men’s Basketball continued their conference home stand on Saturday when they took on the Saint Xavier University Cougars.

Sophomore guard Nash Hostetler opened up the game by sinking a three-pointer, a sign of the strong Saints shooting performance to come. In the first half, the Saints would go on to shoot 70% from beyond the arc. Hostetler himself went 4-4 from range, helping the Saints make seven out of 10.

Saint Xavier was able to nullify this shooting performance by the Saints, converting seven of their 11 three-point tries in the first. The shooting effort felt like two heavy-weight fighters trading blows. With 5:04 remaining in the first half and the Saints down two, Hostetler sank a three to take a 29-28. After the Saints were unable to score on a Xavier turnover, Xavier’s Maki Mohr reclaimed the lead with a three-ball of his own.

Moments later, Hostetler fought for a defensive rebound, and then hit his fourth and final three of the half. Just 16 seconds later, Drew Bishop reclaimed the lead with another Xavier three. That lead lasted for all of 17 seconds until senior guard Beau Ludwick put the Saints back up 38-37. The half closed with a clutch buzzer-beater three by TJ Babikir, putting the Saints down 40-38.

After the half, Babikir picked up right where he left off, with a three. That shot sparked a 10-2 Cougar run in the first five minutes of the second half.

Though the Saints would cut Saint Xavier’s lead down four midways through the half courtesy of a pair of free throws from senior guard Ryan Cartaino, Xavier would maintain control of the game until the final buzzer, winning 76-67.

Holy Cross now falls to 1-4 on the year and 0-2 in conference play. The Saints, now on a four-game losing streak, falling by at least seven points in each game, are scrambling for answers.

Conversely, Saint Xavier extended their winning streak to four games, and after losing their first two games of the season are 4-2, with a 2-0 conference record.

Saint Xavier now has a four-game winning streak against the Saints. The last time the Saints defeated the Cougars was at home Feb. 15, 2020. Holy Cross is 3-18 all-time against the Cougars.

Four Factors View

Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%)

Though the Saints started out with a dominant three-point shooting performance in the first half, they cooled off quickly in the second, going just 2-10. That brought the Saints to a 9/20 (45%) outing, compared to Xavier’s 13-23 (56.5%) performance.

Both teams shot incredibly well in the first half with the Saints boasting a .638 eFG%, and Xavier a .672%. However, the second half saw the Saints dip to .375%, while Xavier improved to .692%.

Turnover Percentage (TOV%)

The Saints had 12 turnovers and a TOV% of .166 while Xavier had 8 and a TOV% of .126. The Saints were able to compensate for their turnovers by scoring 15 points off their turnovers forced. Xavier only scored 14.

Offensive and Defensive Rebound Percentage (ORB% and DRB%)

Holy Cross dominated the glass at their end, boasting a .917 DRB%, only allowing Xavier 2 offensive rebounds. As a result, Xavier scored 0 second-chance points. The Saints also had a strong ORB% of .235 (compared to Xavier’s .083) and were able to score second-chance points.

Free Throw Factor

Holy Cross was able to get to the line 17 times and made 12 (an FT% of .226) while allowing Xavier just one trip to the line (.018).

The Saints will conclude their first stretch of home games on Nov. 16, when they host Governors State University at McKenna Arena.

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Zwiller: ZeLO’s CFP Rankings and Week 11 Picks

After a weekend of significant upsets (yes, I am counting No. 3 Georgia defeating No. 1 Tennessee as an “upset,” even though Georgia was a 10-point favorite), the playoff picture got much clearer.

Alabama, it would seem, is officially out of the playoff race as they no longer control the SEC West and are a two-loss team.

Clemson and Tennessee are now one-loss teams who do not control their destiny. Clemson needs to win out and clinch their conference to have a shot. Even then, they would likely still need help.

Tennessee is in a much more enviable position. While they are not likely to be conference champs, they should finish as a one-loss team whose only loss is to the No. 1 SEC Champions.

Meanwhile, TCU and Oregon now seemingly do control their destiny. By putting TCU fourth, the committee has said that as long as TCU emerges as an undefeated conference champ (not at all a tall task), they will make the playoff.

And though Oregon is a one-loss team, their loss comes against Georgia at the beginning of the season. Should they win the PAC-12 title, there is no reason the No. 6 Ducks should not leapfrog Tennessee.

So, this week, I want to pick games that should impact the following weekend’s CFP rankings.

But first, ZeLO and FPI went 39-21 (.650) last weekend. Because it was a somewhat crazy week, the much more conservative ZeLO won the Brier Point tiebreaker (316.24-313.09), so, very little difference between the two models.

Now, onto the picks!

No. 25 Washington @ No. 6 Oregon

By putting Oregon in 6th behind the one-loss Volunteers, the Committee has shown they value Tennessee’s loss to Georgia much more than Oregon’s one loss. However, by putting Oregon at No. 6, I think the committee suggests that a one-loss Pac-12 Oregon squad could and should make the CFP.

Oregon has a 60.8% chance of winning this week, so the team should continue its CFP run. I could see the Huskies offense giving the Ducks some fits, so this will be a good game.

No. 4 TCU @ No. 18 Texas

This is arguably the most challenging game remaining for TCU in a schedule that is already challenging. ZeLO currently ranks TCU’s remaining strength of schedule seventh. Texas, Baylor, and Iowa State are all legitimate threats to TCU’s CFP ambitions.

Though Texas is a seven-point favorite, ZeLO currently gives TCU a 63.1% chance of beating the Longhorns.

While I do think that TCU can win the Big 12, I do think this may be where their unbeaten streak ends. Texas at home is a tough challenge (ask the Tide). TCU’s habit of needing to comeback may catch up with them.

No. 22 UCF @ No. 17 Tulane

This might be the most crucial game I will talk about this week. Why?

UCF and Tulane are the strongest AAC teams and the likeliest to win their conference. Tulane is currently undefeated in conference play, while UCF is just a one-loss team.

If UCF wins, they should make their conference championship (the AAC takes the two highest teams for its championship game) as they boast a win over 7-2 Cincinnati. Tulane would then play what amounts to an elimination game against Cincinnati in their season finale.

If Tulane wins, they become a lock to make their conference championship, even if they lose to Cincinnati. Both scenarios are equally likely, with ZeLO giving the Green Wave just a 52.7% chance to win.

No. 9 Alabama @ No. 11 Ole Miss

In contrast to UCF and Tulane, this might be the least important game of the week. That feels weird to say. But in all likelihood, the two-loss Tide have already been eliminated from the CFP.

Ole Miss might have a chance to win the SEC West (and the glorious prize of being dismantled by Georgia on national television for 60 minutes). But it is a longshot, as LSU has a head-to-head advantage over the Rebels. Alabama should win this game, with ZeLO giving the Tide a 55% chance of victory. But Ole Miss could make this interesting, utilizing a high-powered offense and a home-field advantage to give Alabama trouble. Alabama is tied for most penalties per game in the country. Last week, Death Valley helped contribute to that stat, as the Tide took nine penalties for 92 yards.

Louisville @ No. 10 Clemson

Thanks in large part to Notre Dame, ZeLO majorly downgraded the Tigers. Though ZeLO still has Clemson as its favorite to win the Atlantic and the ACC, Clemson took a significant step back in ZeLO’s CFP rankings, falling to 14th.

As a result, Clemson has just a 51.7% chance to beat Louisville and keep its playoff hopes alive. A two-loss team has never made the CFP. And the Committee is not going to start with this iteration of Clemson.

Even if Clemson does defeat against Louisville, they feel like a stretch to make it to the CFP. But a solid bounce-back showing could be just what the Tigers need.

No. 15 North Carolina @ Wake Forest

At the start of the season, I wrote that I was skeptical of ZeLO0s faith in UNC. ZeLO has UNC as a divisional dark horse behind both Pitt and Miami. Pitt took a step back this season, and the entire college football world discovered that the U is not back.

So, UNC is looking to win ten games, the division, and maybe even the conference. Right now, the Tar Heels have an excellent chance to win 10 games and reach the conference championship against a weaker-than-normal Clemson.

However, ZeLO thinks Wake will dash Carolina’s hopes of making the CFP. These two teams are dead even on a neutral site, so the Wake home-field advantage is the difference maker here. It is slight, but Wake’s 55% chance to win might end Carolina’s CFP ambitions before Clemson does.

Look for Wake to take advantage of a porous Carolina defense that would struggle to stop a middle school flag football squad.

No. 20 Notre Dame @ Navy

By dominating Clemson in all three facets of their matchup, Notre Dame has launched itself back into the top 25 rankings. In all honesty, if ND wins and winds up 9-3, you can argue that the season was incredibly successful, despite the bumpy start.

ZeLO has the Irish going 2-1 down the stretch, and this game against Navy is a winnable one for Notre Dame (62.9%). Though it would not shock me if Notre Dame went 2-2 in its last four, losing to Navy and BC but beating Clemson and USC. Because why not?

The views expressed in this Sports Authority are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Tom Zwiller at tzwiller@nd-hcc.edu.

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Saints drop semifinals match in overtime

The last time the Holy Cross College men’s soccer team faced the Olivet Nazarene Tigers, the two teams played a fiercely competitive game that ended in a 2-2 draw.

So, it was fitting that when the two teams rematched in the Chicagoland College Athletic Conference Semifinals, they would need overtime to decide a winner.

The game was almost perfectly even in the first half, with the Tigers taking six shots to the Saints’ five. The Saints had a bit of momentum early, taking three of the game’s first five shots, though two offsides calls would stymie their attack on a few promising plays.

The Tigers were able to generate a flurry of opportunities in the 23rd and 33rd minutes. But, the Saints defense rose to the occasion and blocked two shots and forced a third high. The Tigers earned two first-half goal kicks, but the Saints played an unyielding defense.

The teams would trade shot attempts to start the second half, but Olivet eventually got rolling on defense, denying the Saints a single attempt after a shot from junior defender Victor Sellu went wide right in the 55th minute.

Olivet did much better in their attacking zone, taking 11 shots, with Holy Cross sophomore goalkeeper Claudio Fuentealba making the two saves that came his way. After 90 minutes, the game needed overtime to decide the winner.

Once again, the Saints opened with the first shot attempt of the period, this time by sophomore forward Kevin Vidana which was blocked. Olivet, on the other hand, was able to find the game’s first goal in the 94th minute. Tigers attacker Justin Eisenmann, who had had two quality chances earlier in the game, buried his third try off a pass from Max Jasper.

Though the Saints would rally and force one more effort (a header by Sellu that went wide of the net), they would head into the second overtime frame trailing 0-1.

In the 101st minute of play, senior midfielder Axel Valenzuela put up the first shot of the period for the Saints, but it was saved by Mike Giannotta. The Saints would take two more shots, one by Sellu that was high and one by senior midfielder Elmin Ejup that Giannotta again saved.

As the in-stadium announcer began the 10-second countdown, senior midfielder Jeffrey Harper tried a last-ditch corner kick, but it was repelled and then cleared by the Tiger defense, securing their 1-0 victory.

With the win, the Olivet Tigers will advance to face the No. 2 seed Cardinal Stritch Wolves, who survived their own overtime thriller against the Roosevelt Lakers. The Tigers will host the CCAC Championship on Friday.

The Saints now fall 3-12-3 against the Tigers and finish their season with a 10-5-4 overall record and a 7-1-4 record in CCAC play.

Contact Tom Zwiller at tzwiller@hcc-nd.edu.

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Saints throttle Eagles for home playoff win

Holy Cross College began its post-season run, facing Judson University in the first round of the CCAC Tournament.

The fourth-seeded Saints played host to the fifth-seeded Eagles, the first time that the Saints have played an opening-round playoff game at home. 

Aggressive style gives Holy Cross early lead

The Saints came out aggressive and were rewarded with an early free kick just outside the box. Elmin Ejup took the shot, crossing the ball from the right side of the field to the left side of the net, putting it past Judson keeper Mateo Ojetso.

According to head coach Omar Gallo, that sequence of events was all according to plan.

“Going into the game, we knew we wanted to put them under pressure immediately, to transition in certain parts of the field. Actually, going into the game, the game plan was if we get a free kick there is a certain free kick we wanted to do,” Gallo said. “Give the guys credit, the discipline, the execution. They followed through in what we wanted to do.”

Although the game settled down after the early goal, the Saints kept their up-tempo play, possessing the ball in the Judson third of the field and generating scoring opportunities. Judson eventually settled down and created chances via five first-half corner kicks.

As the first half began to wind down, Juan Perez forced a turnover and drove the ball down the right side, drawing a double team and freeing up Erick Zelaya, who caught Perez’s pass. Zelaya broke free of the defense and shot the ball, keeping it down low and to the right. It made it just past a diving Ojetso to put the Saints up 2-0.

Though the Saints felt confident after the first half, Gallo said that his squad stayed focused and maintained the composure they had started the game with.

“These guys at halftime though they had the lead, they were in [the locker room] saying it is 0-0, we must maintain our composure,” he said.

Saints add insurance, clinch shutout

In the 64th minute, Jeffrey Harper crossed the ball to Perez, who was waiting down low. Perez saw the Ejup open at the top of the box.  Perez got Ejup the ball, who drilled it past Ojesto.

Facing a 3-0 deficit, Judson would rally and have a few solid attempts late, but the Holy Cross defense remained solid, and Holy Cross goalie Claudio Fuentealba would deflect the only shot that wound up on net.

Thanks to a strong offensive showing by the Saints and arguably a better defensive effort, Holy Cross eliminated the Eagles from the CCAC Conference Tournament. Gallo credited his defense.

“The guys executed [the game plan] to perfection,” he said.

This likely ends the Eagle’s NAIA tournament ambitions, as the CCAC gives out two NAIA tournament bids, one to the regular season champion and one to the conference tournament champion. Judson is unlikely to receive one of the NAIA at-large bids.

The Saints, however, continue to the second round of the CCAC tournament. They will face the Olivet Nazarene Tigers, the regular season champions. The Saints tied the Tigers in their final regular season game 2-2.

Olivet is coming off an 8-2 victory against eighth-seed Saint Xavier. And though the Saints had their own emphatic victory, Gallo said that the team would continue to approach the game the way they had approached all the others before it.

“What is important right now is rest, recovery, stay disciplined this weekend…really important will be to sit back, relax a little bit, embrace the moment, enjoy the moment, and [then] back to work on Sunday,” he said.

The CCAC has not announced the game time for the semifinal. When the game is played, the Saints will travel on the road to face the Tigers in their home stadium in Bourbonnais, Illinois.

Contact Tom at tzwiller@hcc-nd.edu.

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Saints battle but fall 72-79 to Goshen

After getting a win against East-West University at home and then a loss on the road against Bethel, the Holy Cross men’s basketball team did something on Friday they would not do for the rest of the season: play a neutral site game.

As a part of the Crossroads/Chicagoland Challenge, the men’s team took on the Goshen Maple Leafs, with the game taking place at the Indiana University South Bend facility.

The game began with Goshen jumping to a 7-1 lead in the first three minutes before freshman forward Tommy Snyder and guard Phil Robles II cut it to 9-5.

As the first half approached the 10-minute mark, Goshen turned an 18-18 tie into a 24-18 lead off of back-to-back three-pointers from Goshen’s Clayton MacLagan. After a foul from senior guard Ryan Cartaino gave Goshen two shots at the line, Goshen led 26-18.

With five minutes left in the first half, senior forward Mick Sullivan was able to give the Saints their first lead of the half, 31-30; though Goshen would quickly take it back, and the game would head to the half 39-33.

When the second half began, the two squads continued to trade scores until senior forward Jalen Martin hit a pair of free throws to cut the lead to four. Then Snyder would make it a two-point game, laying the ball in.

Snyder got on a roll, making his next two shots to keep the Saints within one until sophomore guard Nash Hostetler would tie the game at 46.

Ultimately, the game would see five lead changes and eight ties with the Saints. The Saints built a two-point lead with 10:25 left in the second half. After Holy Cross briefly gained the upper hand, Goshen took it back with 9:36 to go and despite a few Saints ties, the Maple Leafs would hold onto the lead for the rest of the game.

The 72-79 loss drops the Saints to 1-2 on the season and snaps a two-game win streak against Goshen. The Saints are now 2-5 when playing the Maple Leafs.

The win provided Goshen head coach Kyle Capps with his first win as the school’s head coach after serving as an assistant coach for the past two seasons.

Turnover troubles:

The teams played an even game, and while Goshen outshot the Saints from range (Goshen made 7 of 24, the Saints just 2 of 10), the Saints were able to outrebound Goshen 40-27.

The difference maker? The Saints had the ball stolen from them eight different times while only making two steals themselves. Factor in the blocks both teams had (4-1), and Goshen was able to win the turnover battle by a margin of 9 (12-3).

Goshen scored 17 points off turnovers. The Saints scored just 10. Those seven points were the difference maker.

The Saints will begin CCAC Conference play when they host IUSB on November 9th at 7:30 p.m. IUSB began the season ranked 19th in the NAIA Coaches preseason poll and currently remain in the top 20.

The Trojans are currently 2-2 on the year, having lost to Bethel by a score of 78-98.

Holy Cross is 11-16 against the Trojans, dating back to 2009. The Saints are currently 0-5 in their last five games, with their last win coming at home in November of 2019.

Contact Tom Zwiller at tzwiller@hcc-nd.edu

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Holy Cross women end season in CCAC quarterfinals

The Holy Cross College women’s soccer team recently played the Olivet women’s team in their opening round of the CCAC tournament.

The last time the two squads played, Olivet was able to defeat the Saints 0-3. Armed with a new strategy, the Saints hoped to shut down the Olivet offense, forcing turnovers to generate scoring chances.

Unfortunately for the Saints, things did not go according to plan.

Olivet was able to shoot early and often, taking 10 shots in the first half alone. The Saints were only able to shoot once, with senior midfielder Olivia Shaw taking the shot in the 26th minute.

Holy Cross sophomore goalie Taylor Primack faced four shots on goal in the first half, and she turned away all but one, which came in the 38th minute (scored by Olivet’s Annabel Murley). That 1-0 margin was the halftime score.

The Saints opened up the half with some early shots, but both missed the net. Olivet’s first shot of the half found twine, with Alaina Bahr assisting Olivia Lorenc for the score.

The Saints generated more offense in the second half than they did in the first, taking nine of their ten total shots.

However, Olivet’s goalie, Tessa Kowalski, shut out the Saints, and the Tigers would win 2-0.

Saints battled adversity to reach tournament

The Saints failed to earn either of the conference’s two automatic bids to the NAIA tournament and are unlikely to qualify for an at-large bid.

Instead, the Saints will finish their season with a 6-6-7 record overall and a 5-5-3 record in conference play.

The Saints had two notable bright spots this year, making history in two different ways. The team went 1-0-3 in an unbeaten non-conference regular season, which was a program first.

The Saints also saw senior midfielder Lauren Cernak break both the goal and assists records for the program. By setting those two records, Cernak earned 100 career points and became the career points leader for the program.

Though the season ended earlier than the team had hoped, the women’s season was able to battle through difficult injury problems, rallying late in the season to make the conference tournament.

Contact Tom at tzwiller@hcc-nd.edu.

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Saints battle, drop tight game to Pilots

After the Holy Cross women’s basketball team earned their first win against Huntington University, 64-61, the Saints lost 68-99 to Grace College. 

Grace had a much better time moving the ball, and they had 28 assists to Holy Cross’s 13 and scored 25 points on the fast break (Holy Cross only had three). Grace also offensively dominated the Saints in the paint, scoring 64 points down low. 

So, with a blowout loss leaving a sour taste in the Saint’s mouth, the squad turned its attention to its home opener against hometown rival Bethel. Head coach Tom Robbins said that the combination of playing a rival and the blowout loss motivated the team. 

“We did not play the kind of basketball that we wanted to play against Grace, so two days later, it is a chance to redeem yourself. That is the mentality we want our players to have,” he said.

Saints start fast

The Pilots have owned the series in the last five meetings, boasting a four-game winning streak, with the Saints not having won since 2017. Holy Cross got off to a fast start and stayed with the Pilots all game, but they couldn’t quite get over the hump, falling 76-70. 

The Saints came out aggressively in the first quarter, going 10 of 20 from two-point range to take a 20-14 lead over the Pilots at the end of the first quarter. A strong Bethel shooting performance from behind the arc got the Pilots back into the game, but the Saints led 32-31 at the half. 

Robbins said the team was unsatisfied with how they let Bethel play toward the end of the half. 

“We were up ten at one point,” he said. “And we felt like we let them come back in that game to finish out the second quarter. What we wanted to do was reestablish ourselves from what we had done earlier in the game.”

Bethel squeaks by in back-and-forth second half

The Saints reestablished themselves by taking a 48-43 lead with just under two minutes to go in the 3rd quarter. However, Bethel hit some key shots, including a three to tie the game at 48 apiece. Ultimately, it was a one-point game at the break. 

Coming into the fourth quarter Holy Cross took a 53-50 lead thanks to a jump shot from sophomore forward Grace Adams. Unfortunately for the Saints, the Pilots got hot from behind the arc, hitting three unanswered shots from downtown as Bethel went on an 11-point run. 

As the game crossed the five-minute mark, sophomore guard Jordyn Smith got hot, hitting a jump shot and a clutch three to tie the game at 63 with just four minutes to go. Senior guard Jayda Miller was then able to hit another three a minute later to give the Saints a 66-63 lead. 

However, Bethel’s Ellia Foster went on a run of her own and scored the game’s next seven points, and with 33 seconds left, gave the Pilots a four-point lead. 

Though the Saints cut the lead to 71-68, Bethel did just enough to hold onto the win.

Rebounding and 3-point defense woes doom Saints 

The Saints were outrebounded by a margin of 47-28, which allowed the Pilots to score 22 second-chance points. Holy Cross only scored five off of rebounds. 

It is a trend that, if it continues, could prove a significant difficulty for the Saints.

The Saints allowed Bethel to shoot 10 of 17 from deep, including four shots in the fourth quarter. That means the Saints allowed Bethel to shoot 58.8% beyond the arc, canceling out the 27 points that the Saints got off turnovers. Robbins emphasized that the girls have some work to do on guarding the perimeter. 

“I told the girls just because you are standing in front of them does not mean you are guarding them,” he said. “You have to get your hand over the ball. You have to make them take the ball out of their shooting pocket. If they are standing there with the ball in their shooting pocket, they are comfortable, and they have to be uncomfortable.”

The Saints next turn their attention to the Goshen College Maple Leafs when they play again in McKenna Arena, on Nov. 5, at 1 p.m. 

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Sports

Zwiller: ZeLO’s CFP rankings and Week 10 picks

If you are a diehard college football fan like I am, then the CFP Rankings announcement show is appointment television. So, like many of you, I tuned into ESPN at 7 p.m. and saw the top 25 announced.

And the results were somewhat controversial. Having Georgia in third place while Tennessee took first was undoubtedly a strong take. And TCU sitting in seventh despite being undefeated, behind one-loss Alabama, while not surprising, certainly feels disrespectful.

Prestige rankings devalue Vols

So I turned to ZeLO to look at the prestige rankings, a metric I devised to take the ZeLO rankings along with some external factors to project the CFP.

Last week, when I wrote about the prestige rankings, I gave out ZeLO’s ten teams most likely to make the CFP (Ohio State, Georgia, Clemson, TCU, Oregon, Tennessee, Michigan, Alabama, Oklahoma State, Penn State and USC).

This week when I looked at the Prestige Top-10, the only significant change was that Penn State fell to 19th, with Illinois moving into ninth. 

While I like that ZeLO is a consistent and predictable model, ZeLO had the No. 1 team in the country (Tennessee) behind TCU and Oregon.

That is a problem, as the Volunteers now possess one of the best routes to the CFP. They need only beat the No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs this weekend and then either beat the Tide or keep it close, ensuring they are a one-loss team whose loss is a split to the SEC Champion.

What? I said it was the best route, not the easiest.

The problem was genuinely concerning. I wanted the Prestige rankings to predict how the CFP would rank teams accurately. Not having the No. 1 team in the top 5 is a significant miss.

The solution was fairly straightforward, however. Part of the Prestige rankings was considering the future projections ZeLO has made, so projected win-loss records, remaining SOS and conference champions.

ZeLO has Tennessee losing to Georgia, making them a one-loss team that does not make their conference championship, which explains why they are on the outside looking in. Everyone ahead of the Volunteers is projected to win their conference championship, by ZeLO, at least.

So, I removed the future projections component of the prestige rankings, and here is what ZeLO gave me.

ZeLO’s CFP Rankings

In a not-at-all-shocking twist, had Ohio State (95.46) in first, and nothing I did would change that.

Tennessee did move up to second, while Georgia fell into third, so the committee got one of its hottest takes correct (despite my vehement disagreement).

Clemson’s ranking fourth did not at all surprise me. What did surprise me was Clemson (87.45) having a nearly identical rating compared to Georgia (87.85), which I suppose says a lot about the two teams’ dominance over some (respectfully) meh teams.

That will change for both this weekend as Georgia plays Tennessee and Clemson faces an Irish team hellbent on repeating their 2020 upset victory.  

In fifth and sixth are Michigan (86.88) and Alabama (86.51). The difference between these two schools is their record, though Michigan’s SOS prevents it from making the top 4 over Clemson.

The rest of the Top 10 is where ZeLO starts to disagree with the CFP rankings. In seventh lies USC (85.22). Oregon (84.93) sits eighth, TCU (84.03) ranks ninth and UCLA (82.81) rounds out the top ten.

Considering ZeLO had the right teams, just jumbling the order makes me feel pretty good about the model’s job predicting the rankings.

That ZeLO swapped out LSU (10th by the CFP) for UCLA (12th) seems logical. At best, putting LSU in 10th feels like giving the Alabama-LSU game some additional stakes.

It also has the bonus of giving Alabama a resume booster, so when the committee tries to sneak a 2-loss Crimson Tide team in at four at the end of the season, they can point to this matchup.

I kid (sort of).

Last week ZeLO had one of its best weeks of the season, going 37-11 (77.1%) and beating FPI, who went 34-14 (70.8%). FPI still has a 14-game lead, but ZeLO has a 3-game lead since Week 4. 

I will get to another analysis piece on why I think ZeLO has outperformed FPI, but because of the CFP, I had to delay it another week.

Now, onto the picks.

No. 6 Alabama @ No. 15 LSU

This is the most critical Alabama-LSU game since the 2019 meeting between the two squads when No. 2 LSU traveled to Tuscaloosa to take on the No. 3 Tide. That game acted as an elimination game, with both squads being undefeated and tied for first place in the division.

LSU would go on to win the game, denying Alabama a chance to win the SEC championship, ultimately preventing them from making the CFP.

This time, the stakes are different. LSU is most likely out of the CFP as they have two losses (Florida State and Tennessee), but the Tigers can play spoiler to the Tide. The Tide does have a chance to make it to the Playoff, although they would need to win out, winning the SEC. LSU could deny them that chance and make it to the SEC title game themselves.

ZeLO thinks the Tide will win the game and keep their playoff ambitions alive, giving Alamaba a 59.3% chance of winning. 

No. 2 Tennessee @ No. 1 Georgia

It is hard to think that a top-3 matchup between two divisional foes is less important than Alabama and LSU but hear me out. The loser of this game will, in all likelihood, finish the season as a one-loss team to the potential conference champion. A team with that resume could still easily make the CFP.

ZeLO currently favors Georgia to win the game and the conference, but Tennessee fans should still be optimistic about the game and the season. As we learned on Tuesday, a win against Alabama is something this Committee highly values. A one-loss Volunteers’ squad should still make the CFP.

No. 5 Clemson @ Notre Dame

This result shocked me when I first saw it, but ZeLO is giving the Irish a 39.1% chance of knocking off Clemson. That might not sound like a lot, but those odds have dramatically improved since Notre Dame dropped their game against Stanford.

Two reasons drive the change. One, Notre Dame has looked competent again, handling their business against UNLV and then making Syracuse look like UNLV the following week. Those numbers have helped the Irish move up ZeLO’s power rankings.

The second reason is that Clemson has looked, well, mortal. They have narrow wins against Syracuse, Florida State and Wake Forest. Those results have not helped Clemson’s stats, and in the eyes of ZeLO, Clemson is not the same team they were projected to be. The Tigers may look great on paper, but they may be a paper-tiger.

This might still be a Clemson win, but it should be close.