The women’s Division I season is back.
Games officially kick off on August 16, with ranked sides getting their first taste of action yesterday.
There’s a long way to go between now and when postseason play is clear. However, wins at the start of the season can sometimes make or break the hopes of postseason soccer.
Keep an eye on these five games over the weekend.
Friday, August 17
Arguably the best matchup of the first few days of the season, the Mountaineers and Nittany Lions have cultivated a nice little rivalry over the past few years. Both have plenty to prove, seniors to replace and tweaks to try out. Penn State arguably looks the more dangerous of the two, with returning standouts like Emily Ogle, Kaleigh Riehl and Maddie Nolf leading the team defensively. Figuring things out in the goal-scoring department is one of the questions the Big Ten side needs to answer. On the other side, WVU brings back established defenders of their own, including Rylee Foster in goal and Bianca St. Georges defensively.
The Huskies make a cross-country trip with a big chance to secure a marquee win in their first game of the season. Washington hasn’t managed to punch above its weight in conference play of late, though a win here would be critical. It’s an interesting start to the season, as the Huskies have been in Florida since the weekend, defeating South Florida 4-1 in an exhibition match on Monday night. Florida is going to be a difficult team to beat. While they did lose a couple of pieces, Deanne Rose is back to lead the attack as a sophomore, and the team’s ability to control and dominate games hasn’t gone anywhere.
Sunday, August 19
Both sides enter this game with a lot to prove as well. The Bulls, which lost 4-1 to UW as mentioned above on Monday, needed overtime to beat Towson in Thursday’s opener. Meanwhile, Auburn cruised to a 4-0 win against Samford. Brianne Folds looks ready for a big role this season, and she’ll go toe-to-toe against Evelyne Viens, one of the best attackers in the game.
Games against Duke and North Carolina are no easy way to start the season. But it’s also the kind of test that can teach a team the right lessons at the start of the season. Ohio State dropped Thursday’s opener against Duke by a 2-0 score, and now face a Carolina team that won 3-1 against Illinois. Reconfiguring the team’s spine is a big task for the Buckeyes, and the level of opposition won’t make it easy. The Tar Heels conceded first against Illinois but were able to score three unanswered goals. It wasn’t pretty at times though it was effective.
Another all-Florida clash pits the AAC favorites against the Atlantic Sun perennial power. UCF will be missing Stefanie Sanders, with the German national team at the U20 World Cup. That may or may not be necessary here, with Dana Orschmann back as a sophomore. Between that attacking pair, and goalkeeper Vera Varis, UCF has the look on paper of a dark horse College Cup outfit. Sunday’s game, their opener against a talented Florida Gulf Coast side, will put that claim to the test.