California is the place to be this weekend, as the Golden State plays host to several intriguing non-conference matchups.
Also kicking off this weekend is Big Ten conference action, as the hectic slate of action begins.
Top 5 Match to Watch
One of the premier matches of the Big Ten’s opening weekend slate, one team’s perfect record will be unseated one way or another when the Badgers make the trip to Lansing. The door to Big Ten supremacy might just crack open for a Badgers side that is looking like an all-around threat, either offensively through Kinley McNicoll, Rose Lavelle and Cara Walls, or at the back with goalkeeper Genevieve Richard. They’ll look to stop a Spartan team that is also off to a tremendous start. Freshman forward Jamie Cheslik’s addition has been significant, as she’s bagged four goals in the team’s first six games. Provided she stays on track in the conference season, the Spartans look like they might be able to exceed expectations in the Big Ten.
Early returns from a banner recruiting crop have been positive, as the Bears have spun off six straight wins to start their 2014 campaign thanks in large part due to its freshmen. The loss of forward Ifeoma Onumonu to a season-ending injury is going to be a real hurdle to overcome, both this weekend and down the road in the Pac-12. Offensively, it’s been a goal-scoring by committee approach thus far, with ten players scoring so far. Guro Bergsvand, a first-year Norwegian import, leads the team in minutes played, while freshman Emily Boyd has been solid in goal. The Red Raiders pose the biggest challenge to California thus far in 2014. Hannah Devine has been the scoring threat up front with five goals, while Janine Beckie is also a handful for opposing defenses, and Alli Murphy has setup seven tallies. That’s without mentioning the marauding runs of outside back Jaelene Hinkle. A win for either side will be big with regards to RPI and chances of an at-large bid.
After paying a visit to in-state rivals Florida State and coming away with the victory, the Gators will be feeling good ahead of an even stiffer challenge in California. Stanford has yet to concede a goal in 2014, lending credence to the fact that this game will be an uphill battle for attacking talents Savannah Jordan and Pamela Begic. If that duo can’t crack the Cardinal defense, Stanford has the horses to hurt the Gators despite only scoring six goals this season, as senior forward Chioma Ubogagu has shot strongly out of the gates with three goals on the campaign. This one has all the ingredients to be a 1-0 win for whichever team manages the first goal.
No. 11 South Carolina (5-1-0) vs. Florida Gulf Coast(w) (4-1-0), Sunday, Sept. 14, 1 p.m.
It’s an SEC-flavored weekend for the Eagles, which visited Texas A&M Thursday night before this meeting against South Carolina back at home in Ft. Myers. Sophomore forward Tabby Tindell continues to look like the real deal, tallying six goals so far on the season and showing no signs of slowing down. Going up against Taylor Leach, Sabrina D’Angelo and the rest of the Gamecock defense is the biggest challenge she’ll likely face this season. On the other side, South Carolina bounced back nicely from a loss to Clemson and will look to keep the momentum up in this Sunday encounter.
The Nittany Lions were knocked off their Big Ten regular season perch last year thanks to a fantastic season by Nebraska. This weekend, they open conference play with a swing through Indiana, for games against Purdue and this Sunday meeting with the Hoosiers. Early signs are promising for head coach Erica Walsh and her squad, as the experienced players like Emily Hurd, Raquel Rodriguez and Mallory Weber have blended well with their talented freshmen. Junior midfielder Jessie Bujouves looks poised to breakout this season, already eclipsing her previous season high in goals scored with four tallies. Whether that’ll be enough to keep up with a high-powered Penn State attack will dictate which team claims the win.