The implications of each weekend of women’s Division I action are immense for teams chasing a boost in the RPI or a conference title.
Below are the games and players to note this weekend.
Five Games to Watch:
The last undefeated team in the country, the Big Red welcomes Harvard to Ithaca looking to leverage its strong start into an Ivy League title challenge. Cornell’s defense is the foundation of its current record, conceding just one goal in 11 games, as goalkeeper Kelsey Tierney has 10 shutouts in 2015. Keeping a zero is going to be critical for the home side, as the Crimson attack is heating up. Star forward Margaret Purce is one of the nation’s elite attacking options and is coming off a hat trick in Ivy League play last weekend against Yale.
The intrigue and stakes of a clash between the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams in the country ratcheted up after UNC lost its first game of the season on Thursday night against Louisville. The combination of experience and freshmen talent has been impressive for both teams this year, as the Seminoles have managed to incorporate their top first-year talent into a well-oiled machine of returning talent. Despite injuries to key players like Isabella Schmid and Megan Campbell, FSU rolls into this one winners of three straight, outscoring opponents 13-1 in ACC play. The Tar Heels will turn to its talented attacking corps of Alexa Newfield, Summer Green and Jessie Scarpa as they search for openings along the Seminole defense.
Another big ACC clash, the Hokies can grab the inside track for a top four finish and a spot in the conference tournament if they can grab a result in South Carolina. Murielle Tiernan battled through an early-season injury and is tied for the ACC lead in goals scored with 10. Virginia Tech’s slightly more physical approach is matched equally by Clemson, which fell at home on Thursday night against Virginia(w). Both teams are going to do whatever they can to find the three points and remain near the top of the league standings.
Through 12 games, the Mountaineers have been nearly flawless, save for an early season loss to Virginia Tech. Kadeisha Buchanan’s exploits are well-documented, but it’s been the play of Michaela Abam, Ashley Lawrence and Kailey Utley up front that have established WVU’s excellence on both sides of the ball. This weekend, West Virginia continues its Big 12 slate on the road with visits to Oklahoma and Texas Tech. Sunday’s clash is a steep test, as forward Janine Beckie looks to fire the Red Raiders to the upset.
No. 19 Texas A&M (10-3-0, 3-2-0) at No. 10 Auburn (11-2-0, 4-2-0), Sunday, Oct. 11, 3 p.m.
On the heels of a 2-0 win over Auburn, South Carolina is quickly seizing control of the SEC regular season title chase. When the Tigers host Texas A&M on Sunday, it’s a battle to remain relevant for both teams in the SEC race and boost a chance at a high seed in the NCAA tournament. The young but talented Aggies lean on sophomore sensations like Haley Pounds and Mikaela Harvey to create scoring chances. On the other side, Auburn’s fine defensive record has dipped in conference play, although center back Kala Faulkner still offers a commanding presence at the back. Auburn midfielder Casie Ramsier’s scoring exploits are more than capable of keeping pace with Texas A&M should it turn into a high-scoring affair.
Three Players to Watch:
F Taylor Smith, UCLA – The chances to keep the Bruins in the postseason hunt could soon be dwindling as UCLA struggles continued into Pac-12 play. Smith’s offensive output must kick into high gear this weekend at home with Arizona and Arizona State visiting LA.
D Christen Westphal, Florida – Normally reliable at the back, Florida has leaked goals over the past few games in SEC play, conceding a total of 17 so far through 12 games. Westphal, a crucial senior piece in central defense, must have a big performance as Florida matches up against Tennessee on Friday and hosts LSU on Sunday.
F Ashley Herndon, James Madison – The Dukes have jumped off to a perfect start to its CAA schedule, standing at 3-0 so far. Northeastern and Hofstra both pay a visit to Harrisonburg this weekend, providing a big opportunity for JMU to stake a claim at a CAA crown against two of the conference’s best teams. Herndon leads the offense with nine goals and six assists this year.