Cal still the story, C. Nortey draws attention in week 7



Marquette's C. Nortey
Marquette’s C. Nortey

California were the story of the first weekend of the college season when they knocked off 2012 College Cup participants Georgetown and Maryland in back-to-back games. In the weeks since, the Golden Bears have proved their opening weekend was anything but a fluke. Through seven weeks of play, Cal remains unbeaten with a pair of draws against Penn State and Washington and is at the top of the coaches poll they didn’t even crack in preseason and is No. 1 in the RPI with a 9-0-2 mark.

Cal proved their mettle yet again on Sunday with a gutsy 3-2 overtime road win over Pac-12 rival UCLA, their second win of the week after a 2-1 victory on Thursday night over San Diego State in San Diego. Captain Steve Birnbaum, a fifth-year senior who belongs on a short list of likely Hermann Trophy finalists, has led the way both offensively with seven goals and defensively anchoring a back line that’s only conceded nine times this season against a high level of competition. Though they are one of four remaining teams unbeaten in Division 1 – Notre Dame, Washington and Dayton are the others – California is a clear early favorite to end the season in Chester, Pa. playing for a College Cup.

Notre Dame is a close second since they’ve managed to keep their unbeaten record in tact playing in the ACC. Senior captain Harrison Shipp struck in the 90th minute in their Friday night road match-up with Virginia Tech to push their record to 7-0-4 ahead of a non-conference match with Northwestern tonight. Like Birnbaum has been for Cal, Shipp has come up big for the Irish in seemingly every game with half of his six goals winners while also contributing five assists.

Though playing in the shadow of Cal’s headline-grabbing season so far, Washington has put together a fine resume with an 8-0-3 record after Monday night’s 1-0 victory over Oregon State. The Dawgs are second in the RPI behind Cal and even with their starting goalkeeper Spencer Richey out for the season have conceded just six goals, the second fewest in all of Division 1.

Furman and Army have taken over the top spot in goals against average at .42 after both teams continued impressive runs in week 7. Since conceding four goals in their opening weekend, the Paladins have had eight clean sheets and conceded just one goal to Appalachian State in a 1-1 draw on Sept. 29. Army has been in a similar run of form, conceding in only two games this season while collecting nine clean sheets and amassing a 9-1-1 record and 4-0 Patriot League mark. If you live in the Philadelphia area, you’ll want to buy tickets for the Nov. 9 Army-Navy Cup at PPL Park; with Navy sporting a 6-3-2 record, the game promises to be a good one.

In other week 7 action, Indiana continued what has been a nightmare season for the defending champs so far with a 4-3 loss to Wisconsin. While the preseason No. 1 Hoosiers aren’t losing or dropping points in overtime like they were earlier in the year (their overtime record still sits at 0-4-1) they’ve dropped three straight to Notre Dame, Penn State and Wisconsin and are 4-7-1 on the season. Their schedule doesn’t get any softer with a visit from Louisville tonight and games still remaining against VCU, Michigan, Michigan State and Northwestern.

Marquette has seen their fortunes go in the opposite direction. They picked up a pair of wins over Butler and Creighton in week 7 to push their record to 8-3-1 and again insert themselves in the national picture. Their star forward C. Nortey’s run of form of late is a big reason for their climb. The sophomore from Ghana scored the winners in both of their week 7 victories and now has 7 goals and 2 assists on the year. Old Dominion also had an impressive week with a road win over Charlotte followed by a 3-2 victory over UAB in overtime. The Monarchs are 6-3-1 on the year playing a tough schedule with the likes of Creighton, Maryland and Tulsa among others.

Reigning player of the year Patrick Mullins added three goals to his senior year tally this week with a highlight-reel turn and strike to equalize against Notre Dame and a pair of PKs on questionable calls and an assist in a wild one in Charlottesville Friday night. The last ACC meeting between perennial powers Maryland and Virginia started off with a flurry of goals – six in the first 26 minutes – but transformed into a defensive struggle through the second half and into two overtimes. In other ACC play, North Carolina finally pulled out a conference result that wasn’t a tie but it was an overtime loss to Clemson followed by a 2-1 win over Boston College that still has them far off in the conference standings at 1-1-5.

C. Nortey has received a bulk of the accolades for his week 7 performance, but some other performances worth highlighting include the brace scored by freshman midfielder Adam Najem that helped Akron get back on track with a 2-1 win over Cleveland State, the hat trick netted by Iona midfielder Ignacio Maganto and the hat trick SMU forward Leobardo Vazquez scored against Cincinatti in a 3-1 conference win. Cal State Northridge forward Sagi Lev-Air scored three goals on the week with a goal against UC Santa Barbara and a brace and assist against Cal Poly to take over the national scoring lead with 11 goals and 26 points through 13 matches.

Furman’s goalkeeper Sven Lissek continued his strong run of form for the stingy Furman Palladins with a pair of clean sheets in week 7. Army’s goalkeeper Winston Boldt, who has almost identical numbers to Lissek, also registered a pair of clean sheets while registering five saves in both 1-0 wins for the Black Knights.

As highlights go, Milwaukee’s Luke Goodnetter scored a goal off an impressive volley that was likely the goal of the week in the college game. You can see highlights of the goal at around the :17 mark of this video.

Looking ahead to week 8, there’s a slew of intriguing match-ups. Notre Dame plays Northwestern and Wake Forest faces Akron tonight, UConn visits Louisville (NSCAA TV), Wake Forest plays Maryland and UAB takes on Tulsa on Saturday and Stanford travels to Cal on Sunday (Pac-12 Network) while Penn State does battle with Michigan State.

Akron streak halted, offenses explode in week 6
Dayton’s unbeaten run ends, Furman streak continues in week 8

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