League play is now underway in every conference in country, as October ratchets up the pressure on everyone, from the championship hopefuls to the bubble sides.
Here’s a look at some of the more intriguing matchups and players to keep an eye on this weekend.
Five Games to Watch (all times ET):
Nine trips to Gainesville has never resulted in victory for Kentucky, which can deal another blow to Florida’s SEC title hopes and boost their own on Friday evening. The Gators’ defense has been the weak point, giving up 16 goals through 11 games so far. By comparison, Florida conceded 22 times in 23 games last season. Junior Savannah Jordan has been good as advertised, among the nation’s best once again with 12 goals scored. Eleven different players have accounted for Kentucky’s offense, and they’ll certainly have chances to do more damage this weekend.
Is Pitt’s early season surge for real? The Panthers have passed just about any test thrown at them, losing against Northern Colorado and drawing Saint Francis (PA) at the start of the season. Since then, they’ve spun off eight wins in a row, including three in a row in ACC play over NC State, Wake Forest and Louisville. A trip to Tallahassee to face the No. 1 RPI team in the country is an opportunity to prove that they are more than just a product of an easy schedule and can make a run at an at large bid. Taylor Price and Jarena Harmon have both been key in the attack for Pitt so far, who will be searching for openings and looking to continue its surprising run against the FSU behemoth.
The Big Ten is shaping up to be an extremely competitive race this season, with Penn State and Northwestern two of seven teams all within six points of one another. Surprisingly, the Wildcats are the side in second place, with a 3-0-1 start to their campaign coming into this meeting having knocked off Rutgers last weekend. Addie Steiner’s goal scoring has been enough for a strong Northwestern defense and the sure hands of Lauren Clem in goal. Bottling Penn State’s loaded offense is critical in this one, as Frannie Crouse, Raquel Rodriguez and Mallory Weber are plenty capable of threatening the Northwestern goal.
Nine games into the season, the Bruins are scrapping for a spot in the Top 60 of the RPI after a tumultuous start to its rebuilding season. On the heels of Thursday’s loss in Seattle, UCLA needs a win over a Top 30 RPI side like the Cougars to veer towards the tournament bubble. Goalkeeper Arielle Schechtman has started the last three games in goal and needs to be a critical figure if the goals fail to come. The Cougars can start thinking about making a run at a Pac-12 crown, but are looking for a bounce back effort of their own after a defeat on Thursday against USC.
No. 5 Virginia Tech (10-1-1) at No. 24 Duke (6-3-3), Sunday, Oct. 4, 2 p.m.
The ACC schedule makers were unkind to the Blue Devils earlier this year, stacking their first four games in league play against Florida State, Boston College and Virginia. As a result, Duke enters this matchup not desperate for a win, but could use the full points to boost itself back into consideration for a top four conference finish. The offense has slowed of late, with just one goal in its past three games. Scoring has been carried by the freshmen duo of Kayla McCoy and Taylor Racioppi, who will look to crack an underrated Virginia Tech defense. Speaking of the Hokies, the firepower of Murielle Tiernan and Ashley Meier continue to drive a dangerous attack that will be eager to score early and often in Durham.
Three Players to Watch:
F Mimi Asom, Princeton – Everyone in the Ivy League knows what Tyler Lussi is capable. But the first-year forward Asom is showing to be a nice foil to the senior striker, netting four goals and three assists so far this season. A big matchup lies ahead this weekend against Dartmouth as the Tigers seek a conference crown. Expect Asom to continue to flourish alongside Lussi.
F Rachel Daly, St. John’s(w) – A Big East title challenge is on the cards in Queens, as the combination of an impressive defense and Daly’s offensive output (9 goals in 11 games) the Red Storm have won ten of their first eleven games. While Daly’s on pace to get near 20 goals this season, Sunday’s meeting with Marquette is an opportunity to stay on course for Big East contention as a team.
F McKenzie Meehan, Boston College – Another formidable strike partnership in college soccer resides in Newton, between Meehan and Hayley Dowd, who have combined for 12 goals this season. The defense has been hit or miss at times this season heading into a Friday night matchup against North Carolina. Meehan will need to be on form as the Eagles look to keep pace with the formidable Tar Heel attack.