It's a critical week in North Central Community College Conference athletics as many of the conference's top teams match up against Harper College in several sports.
• The Harper men's cross country program, ranked No. 1 among NJCAA Division III teams, has competed in three meets to date. The Hawks have split a pair of encounters with College of DuPage in invitational settings, and the squads meet for a third try this weekend as the Chaparrals host the College of DuPage Invitational at St. James Farm in Warrenville.
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• In a race that looks like it will go down to the final days of competition, the Harper women's volleyball team was recently tested by two of the N4C's best teams.
On Sept. 20 in a matchup of teams ranked in the top five nationally, the Hawks suffered a 23-25, 25-17, 25-22 defeat to Rock Valley College.
On Tuesday, Harper met seventh-ranked Madison Area Technical College, and Harper (20-4, 6-1) was able to produce a thrilling win, 25-21, 25-17, 25-22.
Today, the Hawks travel for a nonconference contest at Moraine Valley in Palos Hills. The Cyclones are 18-0 and ranked No. 4 in the NJCAA Division II poll.
Barring upsets, an Oct. 4 game between Harper and Rock Valley will decide the regular season N4C champion.
• In their last nine games, dating to Sept. 14, the women's soccer team has a 4-5 record and has lost its last three games. But it's not all bad news for the Hawks (2-5 overall, 2-3 N4C).
Last Wednesday, the Hawks captured a 3-2 road win over DuPage (5-4-1). That win gave Harper the opportunity to control its own fate in the conference race.
But that was before the Hawks dropped a 6-0 decision to Joliet Junior College (5-3, 3-1). According to the N4C website, the Hawks sit 2 games behind the Wolves and a game behind the Chaparrals in the conference standings.
Harper meets DuPage again at 4 p.m. on Oct. 10 in Palatine.
This weekend, the Hawks travel to Rochester Community College (Minn), for the YellowJackets' annual tournament.
• The men's soccer team has dropped its last 3 decisions, including a pair in conference. Harper has had a total of 3 goals in that span.
All looked well going it to the second half Wednesday against Triton College, but the four-time defending Region IV champs were eventually able to find the Harper net en route to a 3-2 victory.
Harper freshman defender Jason Palmas had a goal and an assist, and freshman midfielder Jacob Velinski (Palatine) had the other Hawks goal.
Triton (5-1 N4C) is ahead of Joliet for the top spot in the conference standings.
Next week, Harper plays its two N4C foes from Wisconsin before hosting fourth-ranked Anoka-Ramsey Community College on Saturday, Oct. 6.