Florida’s McKenzie Barney Will Be Looking to End UNC’s Undefeated Streak on Sunday
After Friday’s slate of games featuring far too many matchups of Ranked Team vs “Oh My God! This Team Is Going To Sink Our RPI, How Many Places?!?” University, Sunday features a little of something for everyone. Undefeated teams vs undefeated teams, underdog specials, and must-win bubble battles. So enjoy the last big weekend before most conferences start league play.
North Carolina vs Florida (12:00 in Durham, North Carolina)
When these two heavyweight programs meet on the pitch at high noon for the first time since 2006, it’ll be hard not to conjure up memories of 1998?s infamous title game, marked by Danielle Fotopolous’ stunning free kick and the Gators’ Whack-A-Tar Heel tactics (Thirty! One! Fouls!). Many UNC fans haven’t forgotten or forgiven the Gators for that game and Sunday’s showdown in Durham promises to be another heated affair on a technically neutral pitch. For the first time in a while, the Gators seem to have a team that can make a push towards the College Cup and will be looking to prove their chops against a North Carolina side whose offense has been purring for most of the season. The defense will be have to be wary of Florida forward McKenzie Barney though, who has been scoring goals for fun in 2010 so far. An upset from the SEC side could have Florida fans dreaming of a national title.
Villanova vs Charlotte (11:00 AM)
You don’t have to stress the importance of these mid-season non-conference tilts to these two teams. The reverse fixture last season, a 3-2 win for Nova, was likely what pushed the Wildcats into the tournament and kept Charlotte at home in November. These two teams could be in the same situation this year with neither doing much to separate themselves in either direction from the bubble. The Wildcats have made a comeback, beating Wake Forest and Monmouth to creep back into at-large selection after three straight losses. They need to keep winning though, and a win over fellow bubble battler Charlotte would go a long way in ensuring Nova gets back to the Big Dance.
Rutgers vs Boston College (12:00)
Losses to Monmouth and Seton Hall have gone a long way in stripping whatever illusions may have lingered about how good Rutgers really is. The Scarlet Knights look a mere pale shadow of the side that advanced to the NCAA Tournament last season. They get a big opportunity to make themselves relevant again with a fearsome Boston College side coming to town in a clash between former Big East rivals. Since the match against Stanford at the beginning of the season, the Eagles have hardly been troubled and will surely be looking to flex their muscle once more against a desperate opponent.
Arizona State vs Central Florida (12:30 in Tucson, Arizona)
If the Sun Devils aren’t going to get any respect out of the pollsters, they’re just going to have to beat it out of teams on the pitch. Ohio State was a bit tougher than ASU would have liked, but the Sun Devils found a way to win when they weren’t at their best, the true mark of a good team. Now, there can’t be any letdown against a Central Florida team desperate for a result to add to their NCAA resume. The draw against Arizona likely wasn’t what UCF were hoping for, and the Golden Knights need big wins before Conference USA play to avoid leaving themselves a task and a half in league play.
Boston University vs UConn (1:00)
Boston University look to be one of the most interesting cases for the Selection Committee if they have a winning season in the America East. Should the Terriers slip up in the conference tournament final, but rack up wins elsewhere, could they get an at-large look? BU has seemingly taken an “anyone, anywhere” mentality, in non-confernce play and have come up with nice wins against Washington and William & Mary as a result. A loss to Monmouth wasn’t so great, and the Terriers may need to top UConn to make up that lost ground. The Huskies slipped up against Providence after a nice run, so they probably won’t be sleeping on their opposition come Sunday afternoon.
Wake Forest vs South Carolina (1:00)
Wake Forest are about as volatile as you would expect a team littered with young players to be. The Demon Deacons have blown away many a team this year behind the firepower of Katie Stengel and Rachel Nuzzolese but have also mystifyingly lost to UNC Greensboro and Villanova. A battling win with tiny High Point also had to have some Wake supporters gnashing their teeth. After last season’s breakout year, it appears that South Carolina are taking a step back this year. The Gamecocks don’t seem to be able to run with the nation’s best, which doesn’t bode well going on the road against Wake. That is if the good Wake Forest shows up. SC are still plenty good enough to win if the Deacons team that dropped games to Greensboro and Nova shows up on Sunday.
West Virginia vs Virginia (1:00)
What once looked like a tantalizing non-conference treat is now more likely West Virginia’s last chance to do something of note before Big East play begins. The Mountaineers have been desperately disappointing in 2010 and look some way off of being anywhere close to the NCAA Tournament field. That could spell big problems with a Virginia side that has been crushing teams so far this year coming to Morgantown. The Mountaineers know that a win here could change the course of their season though, so Virginia can’t come into this one with their guard down, lest they be given a nasty surprise before ACC play starts next week.
Illinois vs Louisville (2:00)
Something’s gotta give when these two vaguely familiar teams meet in Champaign on Sunday afternoon. Both teams suffered disappointing 2009s and have made up for them in spades through the non-conference portion of the season. Both teams also have candidates for their respective conference’s Freshman of the Year award. Illinois’ Vanessa DiBernardo and Louisville’s Christine Exeter have been big parts of their teams’ revival this season and figure to be key factors again when the sides meet up. If Louisville can take care of business here, they should be undefeated next Sunday when Notre Dame comes to town for what could be one of the biggest matches in program history.
Missouri vs Wisconsin-Milwaukee (2:00)
After a difficult beginning stretch to the season left them with a mighty hole to climb out of, the Tigers have just about gotten themselves above water before the conference season begins. Mizzou are now unbeaten in four, although Friday’s match against Loyola (MD) was probably too close for comfort, the home side prevailing in extra time. Wisconsin-Milwaukee will be looking to cap off a winning weekend after downing Kansas in extra time on Friday night. With both sides being dragged past regulation less than forty-eight hours ago, there could be some very tired legs at the end of this key clash.
Nebraska vs Iowa (2:00)
Could it be time to possibly reexamine the Hawkeyes? Iowa looked to be the same old underwhelming team after a first day loss to DePaul but have rebounded by winning every match since. While they haven’t really been playing heavyweight opposition, Friday’s drubbing of Iowa State was still impressive. They’ve got another chance to take down Big XII opposition on Sunday, but Nebraska are a bit tougher foe than the Cyclones. The Huskers have taken two heavy losses to their toughest opposition this season and really need a win to avoid being dubbed as paper tigers.
Stanford vs Georgetown (2:00 in Santa Clara, California)
Georgetown’s national coming out party didn’t end quite as planned on Friday night as hosts Santa Clara were able to sneak a 1-0 victory in the end. The Hoyas didn’t disgrace themselves in defeat in the process though and will have another chance to make a statement on Sunday, albeit against a much tougher opponent. Stanford is still undefeated despite a couple of scares and close contests along the way. Christen Press has been firing on all cylinders lately and the large Georgetown defense will have to be at their best if the Hoyas have any hope in Santa Clara on Sunday.
Vanderbilt vs Wisconsin (2:00)
Wisconsin’s long line of must-win games continues in earnest with the second of a weekend doubleheader in Tennessee, this time taking on an equally desperate Commodore side that appears thoroughly unable to beat a team with a pulse. The senior laden Dores took Virginia Tech to overtime last weekend before falling, but close isn’t going to cut it with an otherwise middling profile come Selection Monday. Wisconsin are winning in ugly, ugly fashion, but it’s not like they’re facing an opponent that’s been lighting up the scoreboard against solid teams. This one could be a slogfest decided by a goal or less.
William & Mary vs East Carolina (2:00)
William & Mary looked to be in a good position to make a case for an at-large bid going into last weekend, but its prospects have dimmed considerably after two heavy defeats in Charlottesville. East Carolina are in similar straits after an upset defeat at the hands of UNC Wilmington on Thursday night. Both sides probably have slim chances at best of garnering an at-large bid, but defeat on Sunday would likely snuff out those slight hopes for good.
Colorado College vs Oklahoma State (3:00)
Very quietly, Oklahoma State has had a pretty good season to this point. The Cowgirls obliterated Mississippi State on Friday night and have only slipped up against Portland in a hard fought match on the road. They’ve got a tough ask on Sunday though, going on the road to Colorado College who are thirsting for a defining win before Conference USA play starts. The Tigers have a win over Dayton and a draw with Oklahoma but really needs something to make their resume shine in a crowded pack of contenders. An upset over OSU would do that and then some.
Arizona vs Ohio State (3:00)
While it’s hard to find anyone who believes Arizona will be a Pac-10 contender this season, the Wildcats have at least improved to the degree that they’ll be more than moving cones out on the pitch. The Wildcats were good enough to topple Tennessee last weekend and fought Central Florida to a draw on Friday night. Renewed confidence could make them sterner opposition than Ohio State would have liked coming off a loss to Arizona State. The Buckeyes will be favorites, deservedly so, but better not be sleeping on the home side who could make things interesting with a good break or two.
Northwestern vs Notre Dame (5:30)
Surely they can’t do it again, can they? Northwestern stunned the establishment when they upset UCLA earlier, but have come back to Earth afterwards, only going 2-2-1 since, including a loss to a woeful Kansas side. The Wildcats still look a formidable side, but it’ll take another sensational performance to get anything out of Sunday’s match against the Irish. Notre Dame are still undoubtedly smarting from UCLA’s win over them last Friday and will be eager to ease the pain against Big Ten opposition. First and foremost for the home side will be stopping Melissa Henderson and Rose Augustin, one of the nation’s most formidable scoring duos.