NCAA Division III

Division III soccer local conference previews

Photo: Courtesy of Messiah Athletics

NCAA Division III soccer gets underway this weekend with many local teams hoping to start their 2013 season on the right foot. For some, last season’s success is worth repeating, while for others they will want to turn a new page this season. Below lets take a look at four local men’s soccer Division III conferences – Centennial, Commonwealth, Freedom, and Landmark. As a side note, the Commonwealth and Freedom Conferences are two separate conferences under the Mid Atlantic Conference umbrella.

Centennial Conference

Preseason Rankings
1. Swarthmore (4)
2. Haverford (5)
3. Dickinson (1)
4. Johns Hopkins
5. Franklin & Marshall
6. Muhlenberg
7. Washington College
8. Gettysburg
9. McDaniel
10. Ursinus

While only receiving four of the ten first-place votes, No. 15 ranked Swarthmore College was voted the Centennial Conference preseason favorite. Last year, Swarthmore lost to Haverford in the Conference Championship final, and fell to Amherst in NCAA Sweet 16 action.

With a young talented core, Haverford will look to carry the momentum from their first-ever Centennial Conference title win in their quest for a second-straight conference championship. Between Swarthmore, Dickinson, and the rest of the conference, it won’t be a guaranteed. The conference is packed with many quality teams that could beat their opponent on any given day and each team will have to play every game to their full potential if they want to be crowned conference champions this season.

Prediction: Haverford over Gettysburg. On paper, it isn’t the most ideal final match-up, but the conference standings will shift mid-season.

Commonwealth Conference

Preseason Rankings
1. Messiah (10)
2. Lebanon Valley
3. Elizabethtown
4. Alvernia
5. Arcadia
6. Stevenson
7. Widener
8. Albright
9. Lycoming
10. Hood

Defending champions Messiah College leads the Commonwealth Conference preseason poll and is also No.1 in the NSCAA Coaches Poll. With a majority of their offensive threat including reigning Player of the Year Jeremy Payne, Messiah looks for their 10th national title in 14 years.

Head coach and 2012 NSCCAA Coach of the Year Brad McCarthy said of Messiah’s focus in the upcoming season, “The fact that we are coming off a national championship year I don’t think changes anything. We pay attention to the small details. We don’t talk about winning championships. We don’t talk about playoffs.”

McCarthy’s comments are grounded in experience. In the 2011 NCAA second-round, Messiah failed to effectively connect the fine details and was upset by Neumann University 1-0 in overtime.

Messiah is the favorite to win the Commonwealth Conference, but, like the Centennial Conference, it is filled with many talented teams. Interestingly enough, the top-five teams in this year’s pre-season poll are the five teams who made last year’s conference playoffs.

For Lebanon Valley, Commonwealth Conference Rookie of the Year Cam Alexander returns and looks to build on a freshmen campaign that included 14 goals and three assists.

Elizabethtown College, who will be moving to the Landmark Conference in 2014, will look to go out on top as they enter their final fall season in the MAC Commonwealth. Last year, Etown lost to LVC in the semifinals. With the competitiveness of the Commonwealth, the Blue Jays are seen as a pre-season threat and could finish in the top of the conference or could fail to make the playoffs.

One thing is for sure though, games featuring Etown and LVC and Etown and Messiah are great rivalry matches that will be missed after this season ends.

Stevenson and Widener, who are ranked sixth and seventh respectively, should play some competitive soccer this year. All ten teams begin their respective seasons either on Friday or Saturday.

Prediction: Messiah wins their seventh straight title over arch-rivals Elizabethtown. If this turns out to be the case, it would be Etown’s first Commonwealth Championship final appearance since 2010.

Freedom Conference

Preseason rankings
1. Misericordia (3)
2. Manhattanville (1)
T3. King’s (3)
T3. Eastern (1)
5. DeSales
6. Farliegh Dickinson-Florham
7. Wilkes
8. Delaware Valley

Moving on to the other side of the MAC, the Freedom Conference is even more log-jammed than the Commonwealth. While Messiah was the clear Commonwealth favorite, the voting for the top-four Freedom Conference teams was much closer.

No. 1 Misericordia is coming off their second-straight Freedom title and fourth in five years. On their way to winning the 2012 championship, they defeated King’s 2-0 and FDU-Florham 3-1.

A third-straight conference title will involve Misericordia defeating some quality conference opponents. As seen in the pre-season poll, the top four teams all received at least one first-place vote and Manhattanville, King’s, and Eastern each have a good chance of finishing atop the conference this season. Interestingly enough, Manhattanville was the No. 1 seed entering the conference tournament.

Look for a tight, competitive table throughout this year’s season that could go down to the final regular season conference game to determine who makes the conference tournament.

Prediction: Eastern defeats No. 1 ranked Misericordia.

Landmark Conference Preview

Preseason Rankings
1. Scranton (6)
2. Catholic (1)
3. Susquehanna (1)
4. Drew
6. Juniata
7. Goucher
8. Moravian

Coming off a 2012 season that included a Elite Eight Appearance and a 17-3-2 record, preseason favorites Scranton are ready for a similar season. Last year they surprised many, but this year it is no surprise they are atop the preseason rankings and ranked 10th in the NSCAA Poll.

Scranton will need to bring their “A” game this season as Catholic, Susquehanna, and Drew have championship aspirations of their own. Third-ranked Susquehanna join Scranton in the NSCAA poll coming in at 16th. Surprisingly, Catholic is ranked above Susquehanna in the conference poll without receiving one vote top-25 vote in the NSCAA poll. Maybe fellow Landmark coaches know something the national voting panel doesn’t.

Just as with the Freedom Conference, there is no clear favorite to be crowned conference champions. It wouldn’t be a shock if Scranton wins this season, but at the same time, Catholic or Susquehanna could win as well. I think it will be a three team race between Scranton, Catholic, and Susquehanna for the No. 1 seed for the conference title, and who wins the conference championship.

Prediction: Susquehanna defeats Catholic with Scranton losing to Catholic in the semi-finals.

What are your thoughts? Who are you predicting to win the Centennial, Commonwealth, Freedom, and Landmark Conference Championships. I welcome your comments below.



  1. Phil, great summary. Incredible that you have such a detailed overview! My son plays Div 3 in Northern NY State so don’t know too much about the local teams but hope he’ll meet some of them later in November in the play-offs!
    The rankings mean nothing; have seen too many teams under or over perform over the years! Will be interesting to see who will still be ranked and at what place at the end of October.
    Be useful if you add the ranking page to your reports:
    and possibly the various Conferences’ websites

    • Phil Naegely says:

      Guido- Thank you. In the future when I talk about each conference, I will link to their pages.
      When it comes to rankings, yes they really mean nothing until mid-October/early November, but still things happen.
      What college does your son attend? I could see if they are playing any of the local schools.

      • Hobart. They have a great team and should get into the top 25 (they beat Colgate in the Spring…). They are not playing any of the local teams; only if they make it into the play-offs. Was surprised to see that Swarthmore is playing Nazareth (near Rochester) in September!

  2. Phil will you be covering the CSAC as well?

    • Phil Naegely says:

      I was thinking about adding the CAC (Colonial Athletic Conference) and the CSAC as well in the future.

      Is there a certain team you would like to see mentioned?

  3. Well done Phil!

  4. missing team says:

    hey you forgot a team in the freedom as del val is left out and I do believe they will finish last in their league without a win

  5. Thank you, Phil!

    As a Messiah College grad and DIII soccer fan, it was refreshing to read about these conferences. If any of you get a chance to watch a Messiah College home game, it’s worth the experience. High level of play and they often draw a 1,500 to 2,000 person crowd for their night games.

    Besides E-town, their growing rivalry with non-league York College has generated a lot of great match-ups in recent years. Though MC has taken many Championships, York has given them a real test in recent years. I think York beat them 3 times in the last 5 years, actually.

    • Phil Naegely says:

      When did you gradate from messiah? I’m glad you appreciate this type of article. I would agree that the atmosphere at MC soccer games is great. For tonight’s opening games, there were at least 500-600 people.

      Last yr alone, Messiah Men’s Soccer beat york twice. One in OT and one in PKs.

      • Phil, I graduated in 1994 and a friend of Patrick Wolfkill, who calls the games via radio with Todd Suessmuth.

        Those college days feels like yesterday in some ways and light years away in others.

        I think the box score reported 1,275 in attendance today, but who knows how they track it. So many come and go, plus sit on the hill instead of the bleachers. Night games always seem to draw better. I see they are now selling “Season Seats” for $50 (good for the whole season).

        Regarding York, they really have become a tough opponent, as evidenced by the OT and PK results last year.

        Study hard and keep up the good work covering DIII!

    • Phil Naegely says:

      Mark- In addition to writing about sports, I run the live stream camera for Messiah athletics, which is connected to patrick and todd.
      Those two are a whoot! Yes there were alot of people at Friday’s matches on both the hill and in the stands.
      I know the bleachers can hold 3,500 so they can estimate from there etc.
      Yes, the seats are a great “fundraising” opportunity for Falcon Athletic Network (F.A.N.) .
      Agree with you on York.
      I will do my best studying hard etc this semester.
      You should come down for a game sometime, and if you cant make it, should sign up for the live stream option.

  6. Phil
    I am one of the color analysts for the Dickinson’s Men’s soccer team. If you ever want added insight on the team or any Centennial conference team feel free to shoot me an email.

    • Phil Naegely says:

      Joel that is great to know. I’m just seeing this now. There will be another post tomorrow updating the last week of play.


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