Div. III rankings based on region, guesswork

On Tuesday, October 11, the Eastern men’s soccer team moved into the NCAA Division III top ten rankings for the first time in school history. Meanwhile, the women’s volleyball team received national recognition on Oct. 18 with a top 25 ranking in the Division III poll, at 21st.

With the men’s soccer team at zero losses for the season and the volleyball team at only three losses (as of October 23), you might wonder why they aren’t ranked any higher, especially when many of the teams above them have already been defeated.

This is a legitimate question with a rather simple answer. First of all, you won’t find any Eastern athletics on ESPN. The invisible powers behind the division three rankings have to work with printed sources and word of mouth when making their picks.

“It is a little bit of math and a lot of guesswork. As DIII schedules tend to be very regionalized, it is very difficult to create true national rankings,” said Dan Mouw, sports information director and women’s soccer coach at Eastern, in an e-mail interview.

Soccer and volleyball are both broken up into eight different regions across the United States. Generally speaking, teams ranked second in their regions do not receive a top eight ranking. Teams who are number one in their respective regions are given preference with the top eight spots.

Committees comprised of coaches and athletic directors from across the country cast their votes based on factors such as records, strength of schedule and whether games were played at home or away. In some cases, reputation and past success help as well.

“In the case of EU, our soccer team has never been ranked this high, and I’m certain that it will only take one loss for us to drop down several notches, since a loss would probably come to a ‘lesser ranked’ team,” said Harry Gutelius, Eastern’s Athletic Director, in an e-mail interview.

The teams ranked above Eastern in soccer and volleyball are both defending national champions. Messiah College, another PA team, is currently ranked number one in men’s soccer.

“Our volleyball team has been a power for years, and they have played a very tough, national schedule,” Gutelius said.

In fact, the volleyball team’s recent losses at major tournaments in Chicago and at Juniata College will likely cause a significant drop in its ranking.

However Eastern’s teams finish this season ranking-wise, this is not college football. Rankings are only opinions that sometimes have an impact on where teams get seeded for the postseason. The champions are not decided by ranking, but by tournaments.

“The only ‘rankings’ that really count are the ‘standings’ at the end of the season,” Gutelius said.

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