Prominent non-conference games are on the docket this weekend, especially on Friday night as the DI women’s soccer season flies along.
Five Games to Watch:
A big test for both teams takes the Bears all the way to the East Coast for a clash with Tar Heels. North Carolina has shot out of the gates in the final third, bagging 17 goals from its first four games. And while the opposition takes a step up this weekend, Alexa Newfield and Summer Green are both in good form and will be key for Annia Mejia and Emily Boyd to shutdown at the back. Offensively for the Gold Bears, Arielle Ship tops their scoring charts with three tallies, while the talented Emma Fletcher looks to continue her adjustment to a new team. A breakout for the Canadian international Friday night would be a great start.
This meeting between two 2014 College Cup finalists features a slew of new faces but should prove to be fascinating nonetheless. The Seminoles are sure to be chomping at the bit to move on from their first loss of the season, 3-2 against Florida. Tightening up the defensive effort after an uneven first half that saw FSU concede three times before the break is crucial for Kirsten Crowley and the back line. Of course, the team’s near-comeback shows how good the attack can be, and surely a warning for Texas A&M. The Aggies enter Friday night’s matchup undefeated, though this is by far the team’s most significant test so far. Offensively speaking, the team has hit the ground running through Haley Pounds, Kate Hajdu and Mikaela Harvey.
Two of the nation’s top teams converge in Morgantown, with a plethora of outcomes possible. Both teams have weapons at both ends of the field, from West Virginia’s dominant central defender Kadeisha Buchanan, midfielder Ashley Lawrence, to the work of Mallory Weber and freshman Kaleigh Riehl for the Nittany Lions. Weber’s start to the season is very encouraging, as the senior has three goals and two assists in four games, while Frannie Crouse has bagged a pair in the early days of the sophomore. It could turns this game into a high-scoring affair, or both sides could adopt a more conservative approach and grind out a low-scoring meeting.
The second game of the day in Durham pits another enticing matchup of an ACC power and USC. Finally healthy, the Blue Devils have put together a strong start to its campaign punctuated with a 0-0 draw last weekend against Penn State and have yet to conceded a goal. Freshmen are providing the one-two punch up front in the form of Kayla McCoy and Taylor Racioppi. USC dropped its second game of the season at the hands of Florida State, but signs in Southern California are promising as Morgan Andrews continues to adjust to a new team. Finding a consistent goal scorer remains key as the Pac-12 program has just three tallies from its first three games.
A rematch of the 2014 NCAA quarterfinal classic sees the Cavaliers fly back out to Westwood for an early season test. Virginia has dominated its first three games at home, scoring 16 times while conceding just once. Visiting a Bruins side, even one that is reloading, is their most difficult challenge to date. The free-flying attacking approach has worked so far for Virginia, as 10 different players have found the back of the net. UCLA continues to look for options in attack through Amber Munerlyn, Taylor Smith and Darian Jenkins, as the Bruins have netted just three times in its first three games.
Three Players to Watch:
F Ashley Hatch, BYU – The high-scoring forward is a big part of her side’s 3-0 start tied for a team lead in two goals. The Cougars’ scoring ace is sure to be a central figure on Friday night as BYU hosts in state rivals Utah, while a trip to Stanford on Monday is also on the horizon.
F Cecelia Kizer, Mississippi – It’s been a strong start to Kizer’s college career, as the attacker netted four goals from her first four games. A big step up in opposition awaits on Friday night against UCF, a chance for Kizer to make a statement and continue her high-scoring start.
F Jorian Baucom, LSU – Another SEC striker off to a hot start, the sophomore’s three goals and two assists have helped the Tigers register an unbeaten four-game run to start the season. Ball State and Indiana visit the Bayou this weekend as Baucom aims to continue piling up the points.