The women’s college season plunges deeper into the maze of conference play, which means top games are coming hard and heavy. While conferences like the Big 12 are only just cranking up, the Big 10 is halfway through its league slate. Let’s take a look at five games to watch this weekend as teams vie for top conference billing.
TDS Women’s Games of the Week:
The top-ranked women’s showdown in the country on Friday pops off in Morgantown, West Virginia, where Tech travels to face the Mountaineers in a crucial early-calendar Big 12 meeting. Despite the fact that this is the Big 12’s only top 15 showdown for the foreseeable future, both these teams are scrapping to move up the table, which should make this game particularly hard-fought.
After an unbeaten run in nonconference, Tech is winless in its first three conference games, while West Virginia is mired in the middle of the table behind three other teams after its first two. For West Virginia, top scorer Kate Schwindel is still trying to hit her stride (she’s played just eight games this year), while Tech is springing off a draw with Oklahoma State. The Red Raiders will have it tough on the road, but with Janine Beckie in good form (nine goals from 13 games), this game should be a cracker.
Looking for the mid-major matchup of the weekend? Look no further than UCF’s meeting with in-state rival South Florida. Despite losing star Lena Petermann to the pro ranks earlier this season, the Knights have quickly become one of the most fun teams to watch in the nation. They’ve won nine straight, and they’ve scored more than a goal in all but one of those. South Florida has quality, though, and back-to-back wins should give the Bulls confidence. That said, one of the reasons this game gets such high billing is because it’s sure to be a shootout. South Florida hasn’t registered a shutout in nearly a month. Should be goals galore as UCF attempts to hang onto its top spot in the AAC.
Penn State is on a heck of a run. Rutgers can’t lose lately. Something has to give when these two Big 10 title hopefuls face off in Happy Valley on Saturday in a virtual six-pointer. The mad thing here is neither of these teams has lost in weeks. For Penn State, that looks like a nine-game winning streak that cuts through the heart of Big 10 action. That includes impressive wins over ranked Illinois and Wisconsin teams in the last three. Rutgers, meanwhile, is on a six-game unbeaten streak of its own. The Scarlet Knights lost their first Big 10 game of the year and are 5-0-1 since, including wins in their last three.
Penn State should expect to win this game at home, but Rutgers just ripped through Purdue 4-0, and the Scarlet Knights are getting contributions from all over the field. With Stefanie Scholz leading the team with 12 points, don’t write off Rutgers in this battle. If it can get an early goal and weather the storm, we could be looking at a Big 10 shakeup of massive proportions.
The story here is a one side attempting to hang onto its power while another reverses a couple early stumbles to launch itself back into the ACC title discussion. With the exception of a loss to Florida, Florida State’s season has gone largely as planned so far with wins in its first four to open the league. Virginia Tech, however, has lost two of three to Notre Dame and North Carolina after starting the year 10-0. While the Seminoles sit atop the league, Virginia Tech has to find a way to claw back into contention. With the game in Tallahassee, the Hokies may need some extra juice to get there.
Stanford’s two-game swing through LA first took them to No. 1 UCLA on Thursday, but the second game - a trap game by most standards - is no less important. It often happens in sports that teams get so keyed up for big games that they let down for the follow-up, so the No. 2 Cardinal will have to guard against that against a solid USC side on Sunday. Namely, how does the Stanford defense bounce back from giving up two goals in as many games after starting the season with a historic shutout streak? This is a huge opportunity for the Women of Troy, who are still looking for a modicum of respect on a Pac-12 scene dominated by UCLA, Cal and Stanford. Can USC elbow its way onto the big table? We’ll see.