Wake Forest Sports Under Ron Wellman: Part IV - Women's Soccer

Welcome to the fourth installment of my review of Wake athletics under current athletic director Ron Wellman. Here's a quick recap of the what and the why you're (hopefully) about to read:

The purpose of this exercise is to generate discussion on the merits of Wellman's tenure as an athletic director. Recently, Wellman has come under fire for some of his decisions - this series is an attempt to quantify as best as possible the success of lack thereof of Wake teams under his tenure. For this reason, I am primarily looking at the past 21 seasons for each program, dating back to the 1993-94 academic year. Wellman actually came to Wake in October 1992, but his impact cannot be quantified until the following year, due to coaches and student-athletes already in place for that year.

The basic method that I'm using to measure Wellman and each individual program are based on the state of the program that he inherited, generally in the form of a 10-year average (usually from 1983-84 to 1992-93). The results of the program during Wellman's tenure is then compared to the baseline established to determine if and to what extent the program has progressed or regressed in the past 21 years.

This week's program is women's soccer, which Wellman actually founded and which played its first season in 1994. Also, at the end of this piece, there is a poll concerning the weighting of sports against each other for cumulative evaluation. Please vote for which weighting system you prefer. I cannot stress this enough - I want this to be as accurate an evaluation as possible, and it's clear that there is definitely a hierarchy of sports' importance at Wake. Please vote in the poll.

***** Index *****

Part I - Football

Part II - Volleyball

Part III - Men's Soccer

***** Program Overview *****

Instead of detailing the (non-existent) history of Wake women's soccer, let's partake in a little bit of a thought exercise.

In recent years, prior to John Swofford ninja-ing it to death, the Big East was treated as the greatest basketball conference in NCAA history. The conference sent eight teams (out of 16, or 50%) to the NCAA Tournament in 2006, 2008, and 2010. In 2009, the conference became the first to garner three of the top regional seeds. And in 2011, the conference surpassed its previous mark by sending 11 teams to the Tournament (68.75%), which is still the record.

The conference's record in the tournament wasn't too shabby either: in the 15 years prior to its recent dissolution (1998-99 through 2012-13), the Big East claimed five national champions (UConn in 1999, 2004, 2010; Syracuse in 2003; Louisville in 2013), and accounted for 11 of the 60 Final Four participants (18.3%).

Pretty impressive, huh?

In the past 15 years (dating back to 1999-2000), the current ACC members have won eight national titles, have had 27 of the 60 College Cup participants (45%) - college soccer's equivalent to the Final Four, claimed all four top regional seeds in a single season (2013 - Virginia, Florida State, UNC, Virginia Tech), and has placed as many as 10 of its current 14 teams (71.4%) or 9 of its then 12 teams (75%) into the field. The current ACC membership accounts for 24 national titles (21 from UNC, 3 from Notre Dame); every other team combined accounts for 8. In the past two seasons alone, 9 different ACC teams have been ranked in the top 5 nationally at one point or another. Over half the conference has played in the College Cup since 2010 (BC, Duke, Florida State, UNC, Notre Dame, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake).

In short, ACC women's soccer is basically Thunderdome. And I want you, the reader, to be fully aware of how brutal it can be.

So, with this being said, here's the brief history of Wake women's soccer. In 1994, Wellman tabbed Chris Turner to start the program. Turner got the Deacs off and running, with an NCAA Tournament appearance in his third season. After Turner resigned to take a position at Forsyth Country Day (yeah, I have no idea), Wellman picked Tony da Luz to lead the program, a position da Luz has held ever since.

In his 17 seasons, da Luz has accumulated a record a 214-118-37 (.630 winning percentage) and, more impressively to me, a 68-65-18 (.510) ACC record. da Luz's 214 wins trail only legendary UNC coach Anson Dorrance on the ACC's all-time list, and he was named ACC Coach of the Year in 1998. da Luz also oversaw the program's first ever ACC Tournament championship in 2010 and the first ever College Cup appearance in 2011. Soon-to-be graduate Katie Stengel (class of 2013) also recently became the first Deac to receive a call up to the US Women's National Team. Most importantly, da Luz has never missed the NCAA Tournament in his 17 seasons, which is pretty awesome.

***** Notes on Methodology *****

Very quickly, ties in soccer are referred to as "draws." A draw in the record counts as .5 of a win, so (for example) a team that has a record of 7-11-5 would have an effective record of 9.5-13.5, and 9.5 wins (to be weighed against the expected wins figure).

Second, and a bit more important, women's soccer is the second sport (volleyball being the other) for which Wellman is responsible for the program's genesis. Unlike volleyball, women's soccer has never existed as a varsity sport prior to 1994, so it lacks any sort of historical precedent. I have decided to give the women's program the same standards as the men's program. As a result, the graphs will refer to the men's program's record from 1983-1992, which comes out to a .561 overall winning percentage and a .331 conference winning percentage.

In addition, I have once again implemented the "grace period" during the first four years of the program's existence. As a result, the program's expected winning percentage in 1994 is 0, and increasing until 1998 when it reaches the historical standard. This serves the dual purpose of unjustly punishing the startup program, while simultaneously giving Wellman a slight bump to the program's evaluation due to his creation (more programs are always a positive). On the graphs, you will see a line increasing from 0 to .561 or .331, and then remaining steady from 1998 through the present.


Enough talk, let's fight look at some pictures.


One thing you'll notice is that women's soccer has generally been fairly consistent. The range on winning percentages in any given year is from .471 (in 1994) to .769 (in 2011), but 14 of the 20 seasons fall within .500 to .650. 1994 is the only season below that range, by the way: women's soccer is an exceptionally healthy program.


It's a bit of a different story for the conference yearly results. The margin for error in any given year is miniscule given the competition, so luck plays a decent-sized role in fluctuation. This past season, Wake went from top 5 in the country to missing the ACC Tournament in about 2 months (the ACC Tournament fields 8 teams; the ACC sent 8 teams to the NCAA Tournament, albeit not the same 8, and in some years, the ACC will send more teams to the NCAA Tournament than to the ACC Tournament).

Another thing to note is that, yet again, the historical conference standard is low. We've now seen this in every sport covered thus far - Wake has traditionally been largely non-competitive in conference play in a lot of sports. So far, men's soccer's (and by proxy, women's soccer's) .331 winning percentage is the highest standard.


Here we can see the general shape of the program's narrative arc: a strong beginning under Turner, followed by da Luz improving on the momentum for a few years; a prolonged lull from 1999 to 2005, and then a gradual building of the program from good to very good/elite from 2005 to the present. Given the massive roster turnover in each of the past two graduating classes, it will be interesting to see if da Luz can continue this upward trend; given that this growth has occurred over two full recruiting cycles, it'd probably be smart to bet on him to continue succeeding.


Here, the general shape is much more pronounced - you can clearly see that rise, lull, and re-rise of the program. Again, 2005 marks the demarcation point between the down period and the growth (what is it with Wake soccer and 2005?).


Similar to men's soccer, the large majority of Wellman's data with regards to women's soccer is also da Luz's data; specifically, about 85% (17 of 20 seasons). As a result, the graphs separating overall performance from coach performance should look fairly similar, particularly after 2003 or 2004.

Like last time, I'm putting Wellman's evaluation (i.e., the overall program) as the top graph of each set, with the individual coaching evaluation being the bottom graph. First up is cumulative winning percentage:



Nothing we haven't seen before. da Luz's personal winning percentage is - at this point - consistently about .012 higher, with the margin between the two shrinking by .001 or so a season.

Turner finished with a .542 percentage, da Luz is at .630, and the program overall is at .618 after 2013, which is the highest it's ever been (incrementally ahead of 2012). This is very much a good thing.



Again, the upward trend is good; it means we're consistently outperforming not only the .331 standard but also the existing program winning percentage. The effect of this is to gradually increase the cumulative winning percentage.

If you're wondering, Turner had a cumulative conference percentage of .150, while da Luz is at the aforementioned .510. Overall, the program hasn't quite gotten up to .500, sitting at 71-82-18 (.468) in conference play. Given the general upward trend, it's possible da Luz might be able to break this barrier before he retires.



Why yes, that end mark of the first graph is technically off the chart. +51.3 total net wins for women's soccer under Wellman - the first program that's caused me to consider re-scaling the graph, but... effort.

What's interesting to note is the distribution of these wins: it's not as lopsided as you'd guess. Turner racked up some gaudy net win totals due to okay-to-good seasons during the grace period, resulting in +7.5-8 net wins in all three of his seasons (23.4 total). da Luz, on the other hand, has mainly accumulated his net wins since 2005 (20.2 in the subsequent 9 seasons). All told, da Luz has averaged over a win and a draw above expected per season (27.9 over 17 seasons), and since 2005 that number jumps north of two wins above expected a year.



More of the same, except that - as expected from that abysmal .150 win percentage - Turner never really accumulated conference net wins (+1.3 over three seasons). da Luz, meanwhile, has been extremely consistent; since 2005, here are his net win totals by year:

2006: +2.4

2007: +3.7

2008: +1.7

2009: +2.7

2010: +2.2

2011: +3.2

2012: +3.2

2013: +1.7

That's... uh... that's pretty good, I'd say. Average during that period: +2.3 per year. da Luz is at +27.6 total over 17 seasons, and the program overall is at +28.9 over Wellman's 20 seasons.

***** Summation *****


Proj. Record: 9.1-50.9 (1.7-18.3)

Actual Record: 32.5-27.5 (3-17)

Net: +23.4 (+1.3)

da Luz

Proj. Record: 204.1-164.9 (49.4-101.6)

Actual Record: 232.5-136.5 (77-74)

Net: +27.9 (+27.6)


Proj. Record: 213.2-215.8 (51.1-119.9)

Actual Record: 265-164 (80-91)

Net: +51.3 (+28.9)

***** Analysis *****

Excluding field hockey, I doubt we'll see a sport produce a bigger net positive for Wellman than women's soccer. Given the difficulties in starting any program, much less in a conference as diabolically competitive as the ACC, what Turner and da Luz have done is nothing short of preposterous: 18 straight NCAA Tournaments and counting, a conference tournament championship, and a College Cup appearance, plus the program has been trending consistently upwards for two full recruiting cycles.

There are certainly questions going forward: how will the Deacs replace this season's stellar senior class? can da Luz keep the program trending upwards? is there a ceiling based on the historic dominance of UNC/ND and recent dominance of FSU? But right now, the future is very bright for as long as da Luz decides to stick around.

***** Running Total *****

Football: - 6.4 (+2.9) --> -25.8 (+17.3)

Volleyball: +20.9 (+40.8) --> +36.9 (+124.4)

Men's Soccer: +46.5 (+34.6) --> +109.7 (+233.8)

Women's Soccer: +51.3 (+28.9) --> +119.6 (+169.0)


Total: +240.4 (+544.5)


Total: +366.5 (+1016.5)

Note: Once again, I'm using the original weighting system, which can be summarized thusly:

5x: football, men's basketball

2x: men's soccer, women's soccer, women's basketball, baseball, men's golf

1x: volleyball, men's cross country, women's cross country, field hockey, men's trac k and field, women's track and field, men's tennis, women's tennis, women's golf

However, it's now time for the reader participation portion of this post. Via comments made on previous posts, there are numerous sets of methods by which people think I can weight the sports. They are:

- the original weighting system, as described above

- the original weighting system, but with field hockey moved to the x2 category and everything else left the same

- a strict division between revenue (football/men's basketball) and non-revenue sports (everything else), which would be x5 for revenue and x1 for all non-revenue sports

- a system based on ticket pricing: x10 for football and basketball, x2 for men's soccer, women's soccer, women's basketball, and baseball, and x1 for everything else

- a system (don't know the numbers yet) based on the percentage of attendance for every sport (note: I reserve the right to not use this method if attendance figures are too hard to find, in which case I will use the second most popular choice)



Next week: Keep on runnin' playas, 'cause I got my good shoes on: that's right, it's time to review cross country: aka, people running very far very fast and putting all of us to shame! Plus special mildly humorous anecdote from my undergrad days!

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