Welcome to conference championship week.
There’s 10 conferences and 10 conference tournaments. Nine of them get started next weekend, with the ACC holding their championship on Saturday. The Patriot League got their conference tournament started on Tuesday. We’ve also previewed the Big Ten, MAAC, America East, CAA, and NEC Tournaments.
Four teams makes the conference tournament at a predetermined site (this year it’s High Point). Nothing special with the format of this tourney.
Below is the conference tournament bracket, followed by short previews of the teams.
No. 1: High Point Panthers
Name a team that has two better wins than High Point’s of Duke and Virginia. It’s pretty tough. But despite some of their early season success, the Panthers suffered two brutal losses to St. John’s and Jacksonville that killed any chance of getting an at-large bid. They need to win the conference tournament in order to get into the NCAA Tournament.
- OFFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH: Without a doubt, Asher Nolting has been the best player to ever come out of High Point and he’s only a sophomore. He’s got 83 points on the season and sure looks like an All-American. He was big in their wins over Duke and Virginia earlier in the season.
- DEFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH: While Nolting sure looks like a future pro draft pick, senior goalie Tim Troutner Jr. definitely is a pro draft pick by both the MLL and PLL. Despite an 11.33 goals against average, Troutner has helped the Panthers steal some big wins throughout his career and the season and knows how to play in big-time environments.
- HIGH POINT WINS IF: They can avoid playing down to their opponents. Their last three games were one-goal wins to Mercer, Bellarmine, and Richmond. The first two are a little eyebrow raising but not surprising given their loss to Jacksonville. Jon Torpey’s squad just needs to go out and dominate their opponents.
No. 2: Air Force Falcons
A little bit of a surprise to see Air Force as the No. 2 seed in the SoCon Tournament, but not a big one. After last year’s debacle of a season marred with offseason troubles, the Falcons hit the reset button and once again look to take the SoCon title as the western most team in the conference.
- OFFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH: Junior attackman Trey Lervick leads the Falcons on offense with 34 goals and 17 assists. But despite his success throughout most of the year, he was limited to just two points (1 G, 1 A) total in games against High Point and Richmond. He will need to play better than that if Air Force wants to win.
- DEFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH: Upperclassmen carry the show for Air Force, who also have the nation’s best scoring defense at 8.07 goals against per game. A big reason for that besides goalie Braden Host is senior defenseman Brandon Jones who averages just over two caused turnovers a game and 29 on the year.
- AIR FORCE WINS IF: Defense does help them win a SoCon Championship. You hear it a ton in sports and it does help teams win. But the defense needs to keep shutting off Richmond and potentially High Point. They weren’t successful against the Panthers in their regular season meeting.
No. 3: Richmond Spiders
Last year’s conference tournament champions look to repeat like the aforementioned Falcons did in 2016 and 2017. They’ve played against some very difficult opponents, highlighted with an early season win over Notre Dame. The Spiders are battle-tested, but have slipped against some of their conference opponents and Mount St. Mary’s in overtime.
- OFFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH: The Spiders have brought in some talented players in their short-program. They’ve mainly been on defense, but Richmond has a couple of studs on offense. Senior Teddy Hatfield is the quarterback of the offense with 31 goals and 30 assists. The main benefactor of the assists are sophomore Ryan Lanchbury and his 45 goals.
- DEFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH: As I mentioned, Richmond has produced some good players on defense. This year’s group will have a majority of their members back for next season, spearheaded by sophomore defenseman Jason Reynolds. While Sean Menges has the versatility of playing at LSM and close defense, Reynolds has become one of the better young defensemen in the conference with 18 caused turnovers.
- RICHMOND WINS IF: They figure out who their starting goalie will be. Jack Rusbuldt and Blake Goodman has recently split starts with each other. Despite Rusbuldt having better numbers than Goodman, the junior does have SoCon and NCAA Tournament experience from a season ago.
No. 4: Jacksonville Dolphins
The fourth team in the conference tournament is Jacksonville. Some people expected the Dolphins to compete for a conference title, but haven’t really lived up to some expectations. Now they are still competing for a conference title with their marquee win coming against High Point in late March.
- OFFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH: The Dolphins get a good chunk of their scoring from the midfield. Their three top scorers, who all have over 40 goals, play up top led by sophomore Jack Dolan and his team-high 52 points. Evan Tyler is the team’s top goal scorer with 36 tallies on the year.
- DEFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH: Dixon Smith was an All-Freshman selection a year ago. This year, the Dolphins might have another in Jordan Young who has a team-best 26 caused turnovers. The highlight of his season came in the High Point game where he had four caused turnovers.
- JACKSONVILLE WINS IF: Chaos ensues with their close defense unit. But also if Hunter Sells can get a lot in goal this weekend and if the attack unit can produce some valuable points.
Offensive Player of the Year: Asher Nolting, A, High Point
Defensive Player of the Year: Brandon Jones, D, Air Force
Freshman of the Year: Riley Seay, M, Bellarmine
Coach of the Year: Jon Torpey, High Point
Attack: Asher Nolting, High Point
Attack: Teddy Hatfield, Richmond
Attack: Ryan Lanchbury, Richmond
Midfield: William Holcomb, Furman
Midfield: Jack Dolan, Jacksonville
Midfield: Mitch Savoca, Richmond
Defense: Brandon Jones, Air Force
Defense: Jordan Young, Jacksonville
Defense: Jason Reynolds, Richmond
Defense: Kyle Walsh, VMI
Goaltender: Tim Troutner Jr., High Point
FOGO: Trent Harper, Air Force
SSDM: Roland Wheeler IV, Air Force
LSM: Sean Menges, Richmond, Jr.
Attack: Trey Lervick, Air Force
Attack: Chris Young, High Point
Attack: Eric Applegate, Jacksonville
Midfield: Jack Flynn, Air Force
Midfield: Riley Seay, Bellarmine
Midfield: Evan Tyler, Jacksonville
Defense: Quentin Carlile, Air Force
Defense: Josh Wehn, Bellarmine
Defense: Dixon Smith, Jacksonville
Goaltender: Alec Van de Bovenkamp, Furman
FOGO: Ashton Wood, Mercer
SSDM: Zack Deaken, Jacksonville
LSM: Michael O’Brien, Mercer
Quentin Carlile, D, Air Force
Riley Seay, M, Bellarmine
Hunter Vines, M, High Point
Jordan Young, D, Jacksonville
Sean Goldsmith, A, Mercer
Ashton Wood, FOGO, Mercer