By Mark Molz
With less than ten games left in the Premier League Season it seems as though nobody will catch Manchester City who are in top form at the moment, but the race for top four and a coveted spot in next year’s Champions League is still open.
Manchester City are the top team in the Prem and it looks as though they will go on to win their third season title in the last four years. City is currently 14 points ahead of town rivals Manchester United who are in second, and it would truly take a catastrophic ending to City’s season for them to lose their substantial lead. On their way to the top this year City has also scored the most goals this season with 64 and have the most clean sheets with 16.
Although City appears to be running away with this year's title, it will be a tight race between Chelsea, West Ham United, Liverpool, Everton, and Tottenham as they fight for fourth place on the table. Only a mere six points separate Chelsea, who is fourth, and Tottenham, who is eighth, but with Chelsea hitting their stride at the right time it might be hard for the teams that are currently behind to catch up.
So, who will be in the top four at then end of the season? Let’s take a look at the teams who have a chance.
Since former PSG manager Thomas Tuchel was appointed to Chelsea in January after the sacking of Frank Lampard, The Blues have gone on to win or draw their last ten games and have posted clean sheets in their last four. Although they are currently only three points ahead of West Ham United they appear to be in top form, and well on their way to finishing in the top four.
It is hard not to see Chelsea taking one of the top four spots in this year’s premier league season as Tuchel seems to be the perfect fit for this young Chelsea squad. On top of their recent surge in the Premier League they recently just moved past Atletico Madrid in the current Champions League Season and are on their way to the quarterfinals.
West Ham United
West Ham has surprised most premier league fans this season by hanging around in the top half of the table this late into the season. Finishing sixteenth in the table last year, just a mere five points above the relegation zone, they have made a substantial jump from previous years. Instead of fighting to stay in England's top league, they are competing for a spot in one of the most difficult competitions in the soccer world.
One of the Hammer’s most notable moments this year was the acquisition of Jesse Lingard on loan from top tier squad Manchester United. Since joining the Hammers Lingard has appeared in six games while finding the back of the net four times. But, although the signing of Lingard has helped the Hammers they have currently dropped points in two of their last three games and moved out of the top four. While the Hammers still have a very viable chance to make the top four and find themselves in the Champions League, it is hard to see them out playing Chelsea who are currently three points ahead.
While the defending champs are only five points back from a top four spot, they have been struggling to stay afloat in this year's season. Dropping six out of their last eight games, with one of those losses handed to them by soon-to-be relegated Fulham, it does not seem as though The Reds will finish this year in Champions League contention.
Through 29 games this season they only have 13 wins and have a total of nine loses. Through the same amount of games in the season prior they were well ahead of the rest of the league in points and had only accumulated one loss and one draw. While Liverpool has struggled to match their form from last season, it is important to point out that injuries have decimated their backline, including one of the top defenders in the world in Virgil Van Dijk.
And as the Premier League continues, it seems they will put most of their energy in winning the current Champions League Season in which they recently advanced to the quarterfinals.
Right in the thick of things with 46 points, Everton is making a push to make their first Champions League since 2005. While they are doing their best to make the top four they have recently dropped four out of their last seven games including a 2-0 defeat to Fulham, who also beat Liverpool in their recent struggle for success.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin currently is third in the league in goals scored with 14 and has the most on this Everton side. If Everton wants any chance at making the Champions League next season, they are going to need Calvert-Lewin to continue to perform at a top level in these final games.
Jose Mourhino’s Spurs are on the outside looking in as this season is coming down to the end. Sitting eighth in the table with ten games left for the Spurs squad, this is definitely not where they imagined themselves at the beginning of the season. With players such as Gareth Bale, Dele Ali, Son Heung-min, and Harry Kane, who has the second most goals scored in the Premier League this season, many would have expected Tottenham to find themselves in the top four for the most of the year. But, Mourhino has appeared to have his struggles managing this squad as the season has progressed.
While The Spurs still have a chance to make it into the top four, it doesn’t appear they will have what it takes to get them there.
premier league table
Saint Mary’s basketball coach Danielle Mauldin reflects on transitioning from a Saint Mary’s student athlete to a Saint Mary’s coach, and the lessons she hopes her athletes learn about growth, and commitment.
By Mark Molz
Former stand-out Saint Mary’s basketball star Danielle Mauldin has just finished another year of coaching at the same place she graduated from back in 2014. Mauldin is wrapping up her third year as an assistant coach for the Women’s basketball team, and during her time here she has used her platform to not only address on-the-court issues, but issues off-the-court as well regarding social justice.
Mauldin was born in Vallejo, California, before moving to Benicia, and living all over the Bay Area in her early life. Prior to becoming a coach for her alma mater Mauldin found herself coaching at Diablo Valley Community College a few miles up the road, and up north at Eastern Washington University for a season.
Mauldin has been around basketball since the age of seven and has continued to find passion in the game today. Mauldin attended Saint Mary’s College High School right up the road in Berkeley, and when it was time to choose where she wanted to play next she looked right up the road to Saint Mary’s. Saint Mary’s followed Mauldin during her high school years and since it was close to home it made it an easier decision when deciding where she would attend.
“I wanted my parents to be able to attend a lot of my games and not have to travel all the time to see me play,” Mauldin stated. “Being close to home made it feel like an easier transition.”
In high school Mauldin knew she had a knack for finding the ball, rebounding, and knew Saint Mary’s College had a system she could thrive in. Once arriving on campus in her freshman year, Mauldin would spend her next four collegiate years becoming one of the best players in Gaels history. Mauldin would graduate Saint Mary’s as the best rebounder in WCC history with 1,282 boards, and holds the record for most rebounds in a season with 427. She also holds the record for most free-throws made and attempted in Saint Mary’s history, along with having played the second most games ever with 131.
“I had a good support system around me and I liked how I was offered the opportunity to be able to play a lot of minutes, starting out freshman year.” Mauldin continued, “that helped boost my confidence a little bit, having supportive teammates, to help me be successful really was key.”
Along with being able to play early minutes as an incoming freshman, Mauldin also credits her success to her teammates and support system that surrounded her throughout the years. Having the support from her family, friends, and teammates around her by staying in the bay was key in helping her become a better player overall.
When reflecting on her time as a student, one her favorite memories are the relationships she was able to build on and off the court. Outside of basketball Mauldin was able to get involved in organizations like the Black Student Union here on campus and valued the relationships she was able to build with fellow students. Being able to connect off the court helped her find an identity outside of basketball.
“Giving me that outlet to express myself enriched my experience completely,” Mauldin stated. “And like I said, that's how I was able to meet more people and who I have connections with to this day. You never know when you are going to call somebody or need somebody in the future, so building those connections during that period of time was so awesome.”
After graduating Mauldin wasn’t entirely sure that she wanted to be a coach, or at least so soon after her playing career was over. But, after hearing stories about student-athletes, traumatic experiences regarding mental health, and their athletic experiences throughout college she began to give it more thought.
When reflecting on her decision to coach Mauldin stated, “I want to enhance or make somebody else's experience so much better.” She continued, “so when they reflect back on their years of being coached or being in a space like that, they reflect on those years with the utmost admiration.”
As most student-athletes probably feel, practice is a love-hate relationship. As a player Mauldin always loved the games, but as she has transitioned into coaching her appreciation for the practice has only grown. Being able to see the process and her players grow over the course of a season is something she has grown fond of and is one of her favorite parts of her coaching experience.
“I'd say my favorite thing now is just getting able to work with student athletes on the court and in practice,” Mauldin stated. “I love development, I'd say that's the thing that I've grown to love so much more.”
On top of being able to watch her players develop, Mauldin enjoys being able to build relationships with her players even after she is no longer their coach. Stating that she keeps in touch with a handful of her past players she has been able to coach over the years.
Within the team environment Mauldin also likes to generate conversation away from basketball and focus societal issues regarding race, gender, and social justice. When asked if she has been able to attend Saint Mary’s 44-days event on campus she said she has been unable to due to the time commitment of the basketball season. But, she mentioned she has been leading her team through a nine-month diversity conversation, where each month she invites her team to sit-down and discuss topics of race and gender, giving them an outlet to speak on these issues.
“I know student athletes and just college students in general have so much to say.” Mauldin continued, “it's been nice to hold those means to hear people's voices and what they think and their ideas about certain topics. So that has been awesome.”
Whether the conversations are through presentations from different players that highlight historical black figures in society or just group conversations, Mauldin believes it is important to give her players an opportunity to reflect on the world around them because they don’t always get the opportunity to do so. Mauldin noted that engaging in difficult conversations about social justice in an environment like this is important to bring awareness to all individuals and can enact change now and in the future.
“I think it's so vital, it's important to continue to at least check in or do something once a month regarding this stuff,” Mauldin stated. “Because that's what's going to enact change in the future when you go out into those workspaces and you are aware, I think it's the awareness i’m trying to build in each of us and even myself, like awareness of my biases and my things and my stuff.”
On top of these conversations Mauldin has acknowledged that she has been the only Black woman on her coaching staff more than once which can be difficult to navigate at times. Being the only Women on Color on her coaching staff she notes it can be challenging to not feel alone during certain moments in time. But, along with two other coaches in the country, Mauldin has created a group for coaches to meet and share their experiences, titled Young Coaches of Color.
Mauldin started Young Coaches of Color to create a community of resources for individuals to support one another and build connections with coaches in similar institutions and situations as her. Through her group Mauldin looks to create an environment for coaches to talk with one another and help them feel less alone wherever they may be.
“I definitely see diversity just in general, and especially in the coaching world of NCAA athletics could be a lot better.” Mauldin continued, “I feel like just knowing or seeing that you have somebody who looks like you around just offers a level of comfort in knowing that you can go out and carry out your job.”
Outside of her career and proactive steps into creating a more inclusive environment here at Saint Mary’s and other schools as well, Mauldin hopes to continue to serve in her future, whether that be coaching or not. She hopes she will be able to inspire others, help them grow, and achieve their goals.
For more information regarding Coach Danielle Mauldin please follow this link:
NBA Spring season brings new changes, spotlighting old stars, teams out for revenge, and rookies out to create their own trails.
By Mark Molz
The second half of the NBA season is underway and with the MVP race up for grabs and the path to the finals wide open, here is what you need to know before the next half of games get started.
Lebron James: It is no surprise that Lebron is in the MVP conversation for yet another year. And let's be honest with ourselves, Lebron could win it every year and probably should have more times than his already respectable four MVP Trophies.
At the age of 36 Lebron has continued to silence the ones who doubt him and excel in a league filled with 20 year old superstars. Boasting an impressive statline of 25.8 PPG, 8.0 RPG, and 7.8 APG, all in his 18th season is nothing short of spectacular. Lebron currently has the defending champs seeded third in a loaded Western Conference, and is only three-and-a-half games behind the first place Utah Jazz.
Joel Embiid: Meanwhile, on the other side of the league, Joel Embiid is leading his 76ers to win after win. Currently first in the Eastern Conference, Embiid has the Sixers ahead of two very impressive teams in the Bucks and Nets. Averaging an impressive 30.2 PPG, 11.6 RPG, 1.2 STL, and 1.4 BLK, Embiid has taken his game to a whole nother level this year.
As much as NBA fans want Lebron to win another MVP, it looks as though Joel Embid is well on his way to winning his first.
NBA Finals Matchup
This is an interesting one to think about as a handful of teams are currently playing at a championship level, but do we really think Lebron is going to let anyone from the West have a chance at winning it this year?
Los Angeles Lakers: It would be too easy to pick Lebron and the Lakers to make it to the finals and beat the lucky team that decides to give it their best shot out of the East. While the Lakers are currently third in the West, it is hard to imagine an NBA Finals without Lebron James in it, especially when he is playing at an MVP level. But, just for fun let's have a look at a few other teams from the West that just might have a shot at getting past Lebron’s Lakers.
Utah Jazz: Currently first in the West coming out of the All Star break, the Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert led Jazz squad are currently running through teams with ease. The Jazz, at the moment, currently look like Final’s contenders without a doubt. They even beat the defending champion Lakers by a solid 25 points leaving no doubt they are the top team in the West at the moment. But, we usually know how that narrative goes when you have Lebron in your conference, so I won’t get into that too much.
Los Angeles Clippers: The Clippers are the other team who have the best chance at giving the Lakers a run for their money. Favored by a handful of analysts to beat the Lakers last year before blowing a 3-1 lead to the Nuggets in the bubble, the Clippers will be looking to redeem themselves in this year's playoffs. With Kawhi Leonard and Paul George leading the team, they currently hold the fourth seed in the West and will be looking to make a push once the All Star break comes to an end.
Brooklyn Nets: With James Harden, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Iriving leading your team, it is hard not to pick the Brooklyn Nets as favorites coming out of the East. With all three of them currently averaging over 25 Points Per Game, their offense has had the highest offensive rating in NBA history to start the season. But, on the other side of the ball their defense has lacked the ability to actually stop the other team, giving them the worst defensive rating in NBA history to start the season. Will the Nets offense be enough to get them to the mountain top or will their defense let them down?
Philadelphia 76ers and Milawaukke Bucks: These are the only other two teams that have a chance of getting past the Nets and making it out the East. And while former MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and current MVP frontrunner Joel Embid are trying to make a strong case to be Eastern Conference favorites, I just don’t see them being able to take their team past one of the best scoring trio's in Brooklyn.
Rookie of the Year
Lamelo Ball: Ball is currently the overwhelming favorite to win this year's Rookie of the Year and there is nothing that is going to slow him down. The 19 year old is currently averaging 15.8 PPG, 6.0 RPG, and 6.3 APG. He has taken on the NBA by storm with his dazzling passes and ability to score from anywhere on the court. He is surpassing expectations and is well on his way to becoming a house old name.
A senior ready to step-up and fill the shoes of the ones before him.
By Mark Molz
A senior from Simi Valley, CA, Nick Lapinid is the starting goalie for a top tier Saint Mary’s squad.
Before his collegiate career, Lapinid was the starting goalie for Royal High School and played club soccer for the LA Galaxy Conejo Valley. Coming out of high-school, Lapinid was a late commit, receiving offers from SMC and from a Division II in Fresno Pacfiic University.
When asked why he ultimately chose Saint Mary’s, Lapinid stated, “there was more opportunity, I liked the area more than Fresno, and I wanted a good academic school.”
Since arriving in the fall of 2017, Lapinid has been patiently waiting for his opportunity to make his mark on the field. He took a redshirt year in his first season with the Gaels, and in both his sophomore and junior year he learned from then Saint Mary’s starting goalkeeper Remi Prieur, a goalie now in the minor league system of Major League Soccer.
Lapinid would make his first appearance on the field in his junior campaign, where he played 40 minutes against Portland, making three saves en route to a 5-1 victory over the Pilots.
“Watching guys like Remi play and the way he controls the game definitely would help me during practice.” Lapinid continued, “it was something I tried to model my game after so when it was my turn I was ready to play.”
His goals when arriving at Saint Mary’s were simple, “I just wanted to play and have fun,” Lapinid stated.
He appreciated learning from Remi because of the experience he had and the willingness he had to help Nick learn and give him advice during certain situations when he got in the game.
When reflecting on his career at Saint Mary’s thus far his favorite memory is winning the WCC championship in back-to-back years and making it to the sweet 16 in 2018, where they lost in a penalty shoot-out to a strong Stanford side.
“It was a really cool experience, the whole stadium was packed, filled with students and fans,” Lapinid stated. “It was awesome because we haven’t made it that far since 2011 and to be a part of that team was special.”
Now in his senior year, he is ready to play and lead the team to another WCC title much like his predecessors before him did. And when asked about this team compared to the previous years he has been here, he thinks this squad is ready to compete at the same level.
“We lost a lot of our goal scorers from the previous years, but a lot of the freshmen are stepping up and playing really well right now.”
In his first full year as the starting goalie for Saint Mary’s he has led the team to a 2-0 start while posting two clean sheets, with a total of eight saves across both matches.
Outside of the pitch, Lapinid plans to graduate with a BA in Allied Health Science, with aspirations to be a coach or physical therapist one day.
For more information on Nick Lapinid and the mens’ soccer team follow the links below: