Tie-breaker steals men’s soccer from playoff spot

A small rule in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference ended up costing the Waynesburg men’s soccer team its chances to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2014.

With a 3-0 loss to Washington & Jefferson (W&J) this past Saturday, the Yellow Jackets were eliminated from the Presidents’ Athletic Conference postseason for the fourth year in a row.

Coming into the game, W&J needed to win to make the playoffs. For Waynesburg, though, it was a little more complicated thanks to some of the tiebreaker rules in the PAC.

Entering play Saturday, the Yellow Jackets were 2-3-1 in the conference and the Presidents were 3-3. Grove City, Westminster and Bethany had already clinched three of the four spots for the postseason, leaving the fourth spot open to either Waynesburg, Geneva—who was 3-3-1— or W&J.

Waynesburg tied Geneva 3-3 in its second-to-last game of the season Oct. 24. A win would have tied the Yellow Jackets with Geneva in the standings at 3-3-1 (10 points). The tiebreaker for a head-to-head tie like this is conference scoring differential.

Here’s where it gets interesting, and, in my opinion, ridiculous.

Going into Waynesburg’s final game, Geneva had a plus-two scoring differential (13-11) and Waynesburg, according to PAC rules, had a negative-one scoring differential (11-12).

This meant that the Jackets needed to beat the Presidents by at least three goals to contend for the postseason, because if Geneva and Waynesburg tied in scoring differential, the next tiebreak is “goals for in conference matches.” Scoring three goals would have given them more goals in conference than Geneva, meaning they would get into to postseason.

That’s way too many scenarios for me, and it shouldn’t have gotten to that point. Here’s why: The Yellow Jackets actually had a plus-one differential.

Let me explain. The PAC has a rule that if one team beats another by five or more goals, the winning team is credited with a plus-four, rather than a plus-five or more.

Waynesburg defeated Saint Vincent 6-0 in the PAC season opener Sept. 29. Rather than getting credit for scoring all six goals, the Yellow Jackets settled for a plus-four that ended up haunting them at the end of the season.

If Waynesburg was credited with all six goals that they scored in that match, it would have gone into the final game of its regular season against W&J with a plus-one scoring differential (13-12). In that scenario (what should have been the case), the Yellow Jackets just needed to win the game.

That’s all.

Instead, because of the rule that discredits a team for scoring too much in a game, a Waynesburg team that scored three or more goals in just four out of 16 total contests in the 2018 season had to will itself to at least three goals against a W&J team that allowed three or more goals just three times this year entering that game.

Knowing that they needed to win by three in the game, the Yellow Jackets completely altered their style to try and get on the board early. Senior Tyler Sisler took a shot immediately after the opening whistle blew. The team was forcing the ball into W&J territory and doing whatever it took to just get scoring opportunities and chances.

It was obvious that they were sacrificing anything they could to get that first goal, but W&J capitalized first in the game just nine minutes in, essentially deflating the life in the team and solidifying their fourth-straight season without postseason play.

This 2018 Yellow Jacket team averaged just 1.69 goals per game. Their style was much more balanced than trying to go all out to score. That changed the course of the game and what it could have been from the start.

Had the Yellow Jackets played their normal style, I don’t think W&J scores as quickly. I don’t think W&J scores three goals. I don’t think Waynesburg would have been scoreless. The game would have been much closer.

If Waynesburg knew it just needed to win the game, rather than win by three because of a rule that caps teams from scoring too much, the outcome of the game would have been different. They still may have lost, but they might have won too. In any case, the game would have been played much differently by both sides.

The idea of a “cap” in scoring at the collegiate level is ridiculous. If a college team can’t stop the other team from scoring, that’s on them.

When a game gets “out of hand,” many coaches put in players that typically don’t see much playing time. Those depth players are going to want to give it everything they have, because they are trying to get more playing time themselves. They’re not just going to give up.

Those player’s minutes are limited throughout the season, so they’re going to make the most of their chances. If one team’s backups start scoring on the other team’s starters, the team doing the scoring should not be penalized.

The bottom line for this is that this is college athletics. If you are losing badly to other teams, that’s on you to continue to develop and recruit players that will improve the program. Teams that are scoring a lot should be credited for each and every point they get, period.

In the case of the Yellow Jackets, the PAC is essentially telling them that they shouldn’t have scored so much. The PAC is telling Thomas Robinson, who scored the fifth goal against Saint Vincent, and Lane Chaney, who scored the sixth goal in that game—his only of the season—that their goals are irrelevant.

That isn’t fair to the players. That isn’t fair to the teams that are right on the cusp of reaching the playoffs.

This rule effectively kept the Waynesburg men’s soccer team out of the playoffs this year. You can’t assume that the Yellow Jackets would have won that game had they received credit for every goal they scored this year, but I know for a fact that the game against W&J last Saturday would have played out much differently.

Most rules are in place for a reason, but this specific rule has no place in college athletics.