Conference play is here.
After a month of play of mostly non-conference games, just about every major women’s college soccer conference is heading into action this weekend. Stakes are high, as wins and losses at this point can impact the at-large chances of each program come tournament selection time.
Here’s a look at some of the action that lies ahead.
Top 5 Matches to Watch
The Cougars are always a tough out in Provo, and the Pioneers face the tricky test of trying to come away with points after traveling over the Rocky Mountains. Midfielders Cloee Colohan and Rachel Manning continue to help BYU tick in the middle of the park. Both sides are coming into this one fresh off losses, as the Pioneers dropped their first game of the season against Nebraska last weekend, while BYU lost to Long Beach State. Corralling Denver senior forward Kristen Hamilton will be key in this one, as she’ll look to keep the Pioneers moving in the right direction.
Don’t sleep on the Big Ten. Conference play is under way, and this is a doozy of a matchup between two teams that are both capable of making a run at conference honors. Senior forward Nkem Ezurike has lived up to the preseason billing for the Wolverines. She’s currently the team’s top offensive provider (six goals, six assists), and will be a key focus for the Wisconsin back line. Freshman Madisson Lewis has also proved to be a quality option as well. The Badgers have a prized freshman of their own, as Rose Lavelle’s college career has certainly started brightly, while Cara Walls (seven goals, two assists) is the dangerous option up top.
This SEC battle also happens to feature two of the top scorers in the country. Mississippi’s Rafaelle Souza certainly has a nose for goal, tied for first in the nation with 11 goals on the year. The Gators counter with freshman goal scorer Savannah Jordan, who carries 10 tallies into this game. Along with being a vital conference battle, this is an opportunity for the Rebels to make a statement in the SEC with a win against a top ten opponent.
Colorado opens its conference season at home against Stanford. No big deal right? The Buffaloes have enjoyed a great start on paper, though their loss this season came at the hands of the only ranked opponent they’ve played, a 3-0 defeat at Denver. Anne Stuller and Brie Hooks have driven the offense, and they’ll look to continue that against a talented yet young Stanford side. Courtney Verloo and Taylor Uhl will pack the offensive punch for the visitors, as the two have combined to tally 13 of the Cardinal’s 22 goals on the season. Stanford is young – albeit talented – at the back, and perhaps that’s what Colorado has to exploit to spring the upset.
In the midst of a five-game run at home in Waco, the Baylor Bears hope to lay out a cruel welcoming mat for the Mountaineers, who are making a swing south to visit Big 12 opponents for the weekend. Defense has been Baylor’s strength thus far, conceding just a single goal through its first nine games. West Virginia will look to the scoring abilities of Frances Silva to guide the team to what would be a big road and conference win.
Team of the Week
It’s always difficult to gain a foothold in the ACC, but Virginia Tech is on the cusp of something special. Last weekend, the Hokies won two big games in conference, and have two more on the road this weekend with trips to NC State and Duke on the docket. Two more wins – or even a win and a draw – would be continued progress in the right direction.