Conference action is set to take center stage in the majority of leagues on the East Coast, as the Big Ten, Patriot League and ACC all begin play this coming weekend.
Top Five Matches (all times EST)
The battle for ACC supremacy in the Commonwealth of Virginia takes place in Charlottesville, and it’s intriguing for a number of reasons. Up until last weekend, Virginia was cruising through a relatively easy non-conference slate, until they lost 3-2 on the road against Georgetown. Starting the ACC schedule against the Hokies provides an immediate test of UVA’s caliber, as they look to slow down Murielle Tiernan and a quality Hokie side. Veronica Latsko and Alexis Shaffer are key for the hosts, as they’ve been the consistent, driving force in attack. The combination of Tiernan and Alani Johnson have accounted for 10 of Virginia Tech’s 20 goals, and will once again be critical players in this one.
Prediction: Virginia 2-1 Virginia Tech
Already with one marquee win under its belt and home, Arkansas seeks another win over a top five opponent when the Gators arrive in town. To do that, the task is simple: find a way to stop Savannah Jordan. The senior forward has been on a tear early on in the season, with six goals and seven assists through the first six games of the year. It’s been a pair of freshmen that have anchored Arkansas’ strong start to 2016. Both Kayla McKeon and Stefani Doyle have been excellent to this point of the season, with the pair combining for 10 goals. Defense could become key here, because if the Razorbacks can find a way to slow Jordan down, Florida’s young back line will need to prove that they can keep McKeon and Doyle off the board as well.
Prediction: Arkansas 2-2 Florida
The defending champions head to Minnesota to tussle with a Golden Gophers side that will be eager to get a leg up on the Big Ten title race. Minnesota has tested itself in impressive fashion, despite the fact that the Golden Gophers couldn’t find a way past Duke or Stanford on the road. Those clashes should prep the side for this matchup against a Penn State side that has been solid as it navigates the season without its U20 stars. Amanda Dennis has provided the requisite caliber in goal, while forward Frannie Crouse is starting to heat up and pace Penn State’s offense. If Simone Kolander continues to play like she has for Minnesota, this one could quickly turn into a high-scoring encounter.
Prediction: Minnesota 3-1 Penn State
A program flying under the radar entering ACC play, Boston College’s opener sees the Eagles travel down to Durham with the opportunity to make a statement. BC’s high quality recruiting class has quickly played dividends, even if it’s the goal-scoring of McKenzie Meehan that has helped drive the team’s unbeaten start. There’s a major caveat that Boston College’s non-conference schedule hardly matched the program up against the best programs in the country, so don’t be surprised if this test on the road at Duke is something of a wake up call. The Blue Devils remain favorites, and got back on track with a 4-1 win over High Point last Sunday. Duke has a number of weapons that can do damage, whether it’s Tony Payne, Imani Dorsey, Taylor Racioppi or Ella Stevens.
Prediction: Duke 3-1 Boston College
For the second straight week, Georgetown faces a top five opponent when it travels on the road to Morgantown to face West Virginia. The Hoyas have already shown the ability to knock off ranked programs, winning last weekend against Virginia and knocking off Rutgers on the road earlier in the season. Facing the Mountaineers on the road will be an even more difficult challenge, as the prolific Georgetown attack tests itself against a back line boasting Canadian stars Kadeisha Buchanan and Ashley Lawrence. Handling athletic teams is something that the Hoyas sometimes struggles with, though Rachel Corboz and Grace Damaska have rampaged through defenses this season, combining for 14 goals so far. West Virginia’s offense runs mainly through Michaela Abam up front, though Carla Portillo is an unsung hero in the midfield. Regardless, this should be one of the top non-conference clashes of the weekend.
Prediction: West Virginia 1-0 Georgetown