The women’s Division I college soccer season is here, officially kicking off Friday. A glut of games awaits fans of the collegiate game.
Here’s a look at five matches to watch, along with a team and players to keep an eye on.
Five Matches to Watch (all games Aug. 19, EST)
There’s potential here for something of a barn-burner between LSU’s dynamic and athletic offense, and a Hokie team that consistently produces at a high level. Some of the nation’s best attacking players will be on display, whether that’s Jorian Baucom or Summer Clarke of LSU, or Alani Johnson and Murielle Tiernan of Virginia Tech. Momentum of this game if is important for both sides, though the Tigers would likely do a big favor to its tournament hopes with an early victory here.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 2-1 LSU
Few matches of the weekend can match the intrigue provided by the national champions returning to the field. With the logjam of expected starters missing on World Cup duty, the Nittany Lions will have a vastly new look coupled with a handful of impact players returning. The pressure will be on the likes of Frannie Crouse, Brittany Basinger and Megan Schafer to power Penn State, which has a quality roster even with the likes of Emily Ogle, Kaleigh Riehl and Maddie Elliston expected to redshirt.
Speaking of absences, Kadeisha Buchanan and Ashley Lawrence will both be playing on Friday, though down in Brazil for the Bronze Medal match with Canada before returning for the college soccer campaign. Michaela Abam, Carla Portillo, Bianca St. Georges and Amandine Pierre-Louis provide the star power for the Mountaineers, which enter the season with title ambitions of their own.
Prediction: Penn State 3-2 West Virginia
Two College Cup contenders clash in College Station when the Seminoles make the trip to Texas, beginning a quest for a sixth straight appearance in the national semifinals. While the holes are glaring in some regards for Florida State, the talent back is just as good; whether it’s Cassie Miller in goal and Kirsten Crowley returning at the back, or the creativity of Megan Connolly and Kaycie Tillman creating chances in the midfield. If one thing could cause the Seminoles to stumble this season it would be in the goal-scoring department. Newcomer
Despite leaning on a young team a year ago, the Aggies came up a game shy of returning to the College Cup for a second straight year, losing to the same Seminoles that they face to open the season. Mikaela Harvey missed that game due to a red card suspension and will be chomping at the bit to prove a point, albeit in vastly different circumstances. Haley Pounds and Emily Bates will lead the charge up front as A&M looks to crack what should be a tough FSU defense.
Prediction: Florida State 1-0 Texas A&M
Expect this matchup between power conferences to be a tough and gritty affair. The Tigers will be without Kailen Sheridan goal, perhaps shading the advantage to the hosts. Auburn has the midfield capable of causing problems for Clemson, whether it’s Brooke Ramsier or Casie Ramsier causing problems. Claire Wagner is usually the one tasked with providing answers defensively, while Catrina Atanda will look to provide something in the final third for the visiting ACC side. Both teams have something to prove and high ambitions, making this an intriguing clash to keep an eye on.
Prediction: Clemson 2-2 Auburn
Hopes are high in SoCal, as USC has a tremendous opportunity to prove itself as one of the nation’s elite programs. Strong in a number of areas of the field, whether it’s Sammy Jo Prudhomme in goal, Morgan Andrews in the midfield and Kayla Mills at the back, a successful trip to Santa Clara would be the ideal start needed. Santa Clara, expected to contend in the West Coast Conference, can make a statement with the home victory as it builds for a new season.
Prediction: USC 2-1 Santa Clara
Team to Watch
Stanford made a cross-country trip on Wednesday carrying the No. 1 rank with them, traveling to the D.C. area for a Friday night kickoff against Navy and a Sunday matinee against Georgetown. The pressure and expectations are going to be steep for the Cardinal for the duration of the year, considering that they have one of the best rosters in the nation and no players absent for the U20 World Cup. The first indication of how they might handle having a target on their backs for this season can be seen this weekend against two solid opponents.
Players to Watch
F Savannah Jordan, Florida: The final season for one of college soccer’s finest goal-scorers in recent memory could be her best yet, as Jordan seeks to continue to pummel the back of the net. The Gators can go deep this season, and if Jordan is fit and firing from the first game, it bodes well for the SEC side.
M Rachel Corboz, Georgetown: One of the teams to welcome Stanford to the nation’s capital, Rachel Corboz will look to stamp her authority in Sunday’s matchup against the Cardinal. It’ll be tough going, but if Corboz can pick her passes and help the Hoyas control the game, the chances of Georgetown upset increase tremendously.