Most teams start training camp this week. Here are my predictions for the OAC in 2013:
8. Mount Union
That being said, it wouldn't surprise me if any of the top 5 teams won the conference. As I've stated previously, the intra-conference play in the OAC is very competitive and it amazes me each year how close the games are among the top 5 squads.
My sleeper pick would be Marietta. Coach Blasius probably had the most talented team in recent years at JCU in 2011. They made it to the conference finals. Some questioned whether the coach's attention was fully on her team at that time. She returns now at Marietta, apparently ready to try and build a championship soccer program there. It wouldn't surprise me if that program rose in the next few years. They might sneak up on a few people this year.
So here is my thinking....I am grouping the top five into two categories. ONU were champs last year and they should remain good this year. After that, you have Capital and B-W. B-W was a big physical team that seemed to find their game until their school self-disciplined itself for some NCAA violations and took themselves out of any post-season tournaments. (BTW, whatever happened with that?) Capital is always good, and our friend Crusader Nation tells us that some red-shirted star players are returning. For me, its a toss-up as to the top three.
The next two are Otterbein and JCU. Otterbein was the dominant OAC team for many years, but fell off a few years ago after graduating a lot of seniors. They are maturing and came on at the end of 2012.
JCU has a great team too. They have the forward of the year, the (I.M.O.) best mid-fielder in the OAC and a great keeper. They have been plagued by injuries. If they can return their top defender, they may have a great season.
Anyone else want to prognosticate?