Weekend sports primer: Marquee matchups for the weekend ahead

Jon Lewis | Senior Sports Editor

Because Washington University has historically had one of the most successful athletic programs in Division III, it is generally not difficult for the Bears to schedule top opposition. It is not often, however, that three separate Wash. U. teams face highly ranked competitors on the same weekend this early in season. However, that is exactly what is happening this weekend, with football versing a six-time national champion and women’s soccer and volleyball both traveling for heavyweight bouts against fellow top-10 ranked teams. Here’s what to look out for when the Bears are in action in the coming days.

Football

Who are they playing?

When the football team’s schedule was released, eyes immediately fell on the Bears’ week three matchup: at home against No. 3 University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Since then, Whitewater has dropped off the national rankings after losing its first two games, but the Warhawks remain a prestigious program, boasting six national titles and 11 conference crowns in the highly competitive Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference since 2005. To put how consistently good Whitewater has been in context, its current 0-2 start is the program’s first in 18 years. Despite a rough start, the Warhawks are still getting votes in the national Top-25 poll and will be looking to get their season back on track at Francis Field this Saturday.

Sophomore Johnny Davidson runs the ball during a Bears’ game against Chicago last weekend. This weekend, the Bears will face UW-Whitewater, once ranked No, 3  in the country.Grace Bruton | Student Life

Sophomore Johnny Davidson runs the ball during a Bears’ game against Chicago last weekend. This weekend, the Bears will face UW-Whitewater, once ranked No, 3 in the country.

Players to watch

The key position for the Bears this Saturday will be quarterback, where head coach Larry Kindbom’s go-to option remains unclear. Junior Ryan Arthur started last week’s game against the University of Chicago, throwing for 99 yards and a touchdown but was pulled from the game after he threw his third interception. Arthur’s replacement, sophomore Johnny Davidson, threw for a score and ran the ball into the end zone twice himself but also threw two picks of his own. The key storyline for Wash. U. on offense will be which quarterback Kindbom decides will be able to break down Whitewater’s defense and whether or not that player stays in the whole game.

Volleyball

Who are they playing?

After last week’s 3-1 showing in Oshkosh, Wis., the volleyball team continues its routine of road games this week, traveling to Springfield, Ohio to take part in the Wittenberg Fall Classic. The first day the Bears will face off against Ohio Northern and Heidelberg. Ohio Northern has started its season off well, and a 6-2 record has them flirting with the national Top-25. However, the real test for Wash. U. will come on the second day against the hosts, Wittenberg University. Since the season’s start, the Tigers have soared up the rankings and currently occupy the number three spot which belonged to the Bears in the preseason polls. Wash. U. has only played one ranked team this season—No. 15 Hope College, who they shut out—and Wittenberg will represent the biggest early season challenge for a team with national championship ambitions.

Junior Ifeoma Ufondu goes up for the spike in the Bears’ 3-0 win against Hope College last weekend. The Bears will attend the Wittenberg Fall Classic this week, where they will face three teams, including No. 3 Wittenberg Saturday afternoon. Skyler Kessler | Student Life

Junior Ifeoma Ufondu goes up for the spike in the Bears’ 3-0 win against Hope College last weekend. The Bears will attend the Wittenberg Fall Classic this week, where they will face three teams, including No. 3 Wittenberg Saturday afternoon.

Players to watch

Wash. U.’s front three, composed of juniors Ifeoma Ufondu, Julianne Malek and Lauren Martin, has been key to the team’s success this season. The Bears have been running away with matches when the offense is in system and attacking with a high kill percentage, boasting percentages above .400 in two out of their three wins last weekend. When the Bears commit errors—like the 34 they committed in an upset loss to Illinois Wesleyan last week—they tend to struggle. Also, key to the Bears’ chances against Wittenberg will be the setting of sophomores Chloe Stile and Zoe Baxter. Baxter, along with Malek, has been selected to the all-tournament team in both of Wash. U.’s competitions this year, while Stile is a key cog to the offense and tallied all 40 of her team’s assists in her last match, a 3-1 win over St. Norbert University.

Women’s Soccer

Who are they playing?

The reigning national champions are looking the part this season. In four games so far this year, the Bears have scored 14 goals and conceded just two, posting a perfect record. This weekend, Wash. U. will travel to Whitewater, Wis., to compete in an invitational tournament that will likely culminate in a matchup with the hosts, the No. 8 University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Assuming both the Bears and Warhawks win their first round matchups, against Illinois Wesleyan and Wittenberg University, respectively, Wash. U. will be facing its highest-ranked opposition of the season. Whitewater is also yet to lose this year, with its one draw coming in a 2-2 stalemate away at Loras College. The Warhawks, like the visiting champs, boast a stingy defense; the two goals they conceded against Loras were the only goals they have allowed this year.

The women’s soccer team celebrates scoring a goal during their 5-0 rout of Millikin last weekend. The Bears, who are reigning NCAA Division III champions, will look for victory in an invitational tournament this weekend at UW-Whitewater.Brennan Noailles | Student Life

The women’s soccer team celebrates scoring a goal during their 5-0 rout of Millikin last weekend. The Bears, who are reigning NCAA Division III champions, will look for victory in an invitational tournament this weekend at UW-Whitewater.

Players to watch

After a breakout debut season as a freshman last year, Taylor Cohen has been the focal point of the Bears’ offense so far this season. After a brace in Wash. U.’s 5-0 drubbing of Milliken last Sunday, Cohen sits at six goals for the season, the most in the UAA. After her selection as a preseason All-American junior, Maggie Crist has been a key cog in the midfield for the Bears, getting forward from her traditional role as a shield for the back four to bag two goals so far. Junior Darcy Cunningham has played the role of provider so far, with four assists on the season. At the back, head coach Jim Conlon has gone with goalkeeper by committee, with freshman Emma Greenfield and sophomores Katy Hutson and Olivia Emanuel splitting time in net. With the Bears firing on all cylinders so far, the promise of a top-10 clash with another undefeated team will likely be the biggest early challenge in their quest for a second national title.

Men’s Soccer

Who are they playing?

Unlike its female counterparts, the men’s soccer team will not be playing against any top-ranked opposition this weekend. Instead, the Bears will be playing the last match of their three game home stand, hosting Illinois Wesleyan on Sunday afternoon. The Titans have gotten their season off to a slow start, losing twice and drawing once in their first three games. Illinois Wesleyan picked up its first win of the season with a 3-1 win over the University of Dubuque last weekend, with those three goals making up the bulk of its five tallies this season. As an interesting side note, the Titans’ next match after they play Wash. U. will be at the home of the Bears’ closest neighbor Fontbonne University on Wednesday evening.

Junior Ryan Sproule fights for the ball aganist a Brandeis defender in a game last year. This weekend, men’s soccer will continue a three-game homestand, playing Illinois Wesleyan.James Byrad | Student Life

Junior Ryan Sproule fights for the ball aganist a Brandeis defender in a game last year. This weekend, men’s soccer will continue a three-game homestand, playing Illinois Wesleyan.

Players to watch

Much of the Bears’ offense so far has run through junior Ryan Sproule. The big center forward has bagged four goals so far this season, getting on the end of crosses and generally pestering opposing defenses. The most consistent pieces in midfield for Wash. U. have been sophomore Makio Yamamoto and junior Kyle Perez, both of whom have started every game in the middle of the park. On the back line, the Bears have leaned on seniors, with Andrew Zingone and Chris Rieger starting every match in the defensive unit and Colin McCune in net. The rear guard has largely held firm in the early season, only allowing one goal through its first three contests.