Virginia vs Santa Clara – 2:30 PM
The spotlight will burn brightly on Santa Clara on Sunday afternoon as the Broncos try and prove they’re capable of sitting at the head table after a largely underwhelming performance against defending national champions North Carolina on Friday evening. It had been a hotly anticipated clash between national title hopefuls, but only North Carolina’s credentials emerged unscathed, as the Broncos’ much vaunted offense fired blanks for much of the affair. Senior transfer Morgan Marlborough was largely a peripheral figure for the Broncos, and the big forward must surely know that a similar performance against more top opposition on Sunday could send her NWSL Draft stock spiraling in a class loaded with burly forwards. Sofia Huerta was largely the more dangerous SCU forward, and the Broncos will naturally want to take advantage of her while she’s here as she departs for Mexico’s WNT ahead of the side’s early September clash with the USWNT. It seems hyperbolic in some measure, but SCU’s season may already be at a crossroads. After having been so feeble against ranked opposition for the better part of half a decade, another decisive loss on Sunday could almost irreparably damage the perception of their national title credentials after just a weekend. Stanford still looms on the docket later in September, but a big loss here would likely shake the faith of most in the Broncos. A win, and SCU would again be in the discussion for a College Cup challenge and stoke the flames of a potential rematch with UNC down the line.
Virginia’s problems Friday were more defensive than anything. Morgan Brian ran riot with six shots on goal and two assists, including an insane pass for the first goal, but the Cavs giving up multiple goals to mid-major opposition will surely make head coach Steve Swanson see red going into this one. Brian’s performance was one to savor, but there might be worries about the club’s forwards Makenzy Doniak and Gloria Douglas both going without a shot on goal on the evening. In the end, UVA was able to put the boots to VCU, thanks to their superior depth, but two goals allowed on two shots on goal has to be a concern given the superior opposition on Sunday. Danielle DeLisle and Churchill O’Connell split time in goal as well, leading to the belief that Swanson may not have made up his mind about his #1 just yet. Virginia also needs to show its offensive chops beyond Brian, because she’ll be missing during next weekend’s crunch clash against Penn State while on international duty with the USWNT. SCU doesn’t promise to be the easiest team to break down though considering they’ll be desperate for a win after Friday’s result. It’s high drama for sure in Charlottesville, and a winner here could have a big leg up in the battle for national seeding come November’s NCAA Tournament.
Florida State vs Auburn – 1:00 PM
Any doubts as to whether Florida State’s defense would be a fortress again may have been silenced, at least for one night, by their suffocating display against Oregon State on Friday night. Though they may have been playing through a havoc inducing rain storm, the backline held up very well with newcomer Megan Campbell and returnee Carson Pickett doing well to supplement the titanic duo of Kassey Kallman and Kristin Grubka. The team defense as a whole meant a relatively easy night for keeper Kelsey Wys, and helped compensate for a sometimes frustrating night in front of goal, where the Noles’ shots seemed to be attracted to the woodwork, ringing off the structure of the goal no fewer than three times. FSU figures to be a bit luckier in the future, especially if they continue to be allowed opportunities to showcase their skill in firing from range. The partnership of Dagny Brynjarsdottir and Berglind Thorvaldsdottir up top will probably need some time to bed in, but FSU has plenty of auxiliary options, meaning the Noles should be dangerous regardless. The ACC side can’t be caught looking ahead to next Friday’s clash with Florida, but they’ll still likely fancy their chances against an Auburn side that looked bereft of a cutting edge in their opener against Clemson.
Those Tigers managed just three shots on goal the whole night, two from Tori Ball, a worrying sign for the SEC side since Sunday’s opponent figures to have a much tighter defense than Clemson’s. Another worry has to be the lack of production from the bench, as not a single Auburn reserve finished with a shot, which has the potential to be very problematic considering some squad rotation must be in order with the club having gone an extra twenty minutes Friday and going straight on the road after that home draw with Clemson. The defense may have pitched a shutout, but they needed a lot of work from keepers Alyse Scott and Alicen Wright, who split time, to do it, with the duo combining for eight saves on the night, as Auburn was more than doubled up in both shots and shots on goal by Clemson. The rest of the non-conference schedule looks very forgiving, which may be a double-edged sword in the end. Auburn should have the chance to rack up some wins heading into SEC play, but they’ll also probably need to have a great league season to keep their NCAA Tournament streak going. Of course, if they can emerge from Tallahassee with a result despite being heavy underdogs, they might just have a lot more wiggle room come November.
Louisville vs Illinois – 1:00 PM
It took a while for Louisville to put a game Butler side to the sword on Friday, but goals early and late in the second half meant it was mission accomplished for a Cardinals side expected to contend for an AAC title in 2013. Perhaps just as important as the result was the play of Christine Exeter, who netted the match winner off a headed corner kick, a promising sign after the Canadian was largely a shadow of her usual self last year. The insurance goal came from the increasingly prominent Charlyn Corral, a player who has blossomed into a star for Louisville and has the potential to be one of Mexico’s best players in this generation. They did a fairly decent job of stifling a Butler team with some underrated weapons, but the Cardinal defense obviously has a much bigger challenge on hand on Sunday against Illinois. Specifically, Vanessa DiBernardo will be looking to make an impression after being held in check for much of Friday against Notre Dame. There are massive challenges ahead next week against Virginia Tech and Wake Forest, so the Cardinals will definitely want to pick up a second win before traveling away from home to face a pair of future conference rivals.
Odds are, Illinois aren’t going to be too fond of remembering Friday’s opening defeat against Notre Dame, where they were pummeled by the Irish, 4-1. Illinois went down after just five minutes and were largely swimming upstream after, the club going into the break down by three goals. Rookie netminder Claire Wheatley undertook a trial by fire in her collegiate debut and had some good moments and some shaky ones, including having a shot careen off her palms and into the back of the net at one stage. It will not get any easier on Sunday, as the Cardinals’ firepower, especially Corral and Exeter, will put the Illinois netminder, as well as the backline, to the test. Vanessa DiBernardo didn’t have her usual influence on the game against the Irish, but she’ll probably have more room to roam here with Louisville’s midfield not likely to match Notre Dame’s in talent. DiBernardo can’t do it all though, and as much as Illinois will be looking for her to get on track, the Illini will be just as eager for teammates to get into an offensive groove as well. This game’s the hardest test left on the non-conference slate, and it’ll be one Illinois desperately wants to pass before returning home for two games next weekend.
Wake Forest vs Alabama – 1:00 PM
Wake Forest got a shock to the system late in the first half against Kentucky when they went behind to a Jade Klump goal off a breakaway. It was perhaps a needed wake-up call, as the Demon Deacons scored three unanswered around a lightning delay as they struck down the Wildcats in rather comfortable fashion. Katie Stengel ended up having a hand in all three goals, though it was as provider and not finisher. The hat trick of assists was great, but Wake fans will also be hoping that their scoring talisman gets back in the goals on Sunday. If anything though, the three goals scored by three different players showed the offense may not be shackled by the one-dimensionality that stifled earlier Demon Deacon teams. Defensively, the club did well other than that one big breakdown in the first half, and they’ll want to be on their toes again against another SEC contender on Sunday.
Alabama…Alabama’s a bit of a mystery at this point having not played on Friday night. For debuts, you could hardly have asked for a tougher one, with the Crimson Tide heading out on the road to play one of the ACC’s best. Bama were deeply disappointing last season after a breakthrough in 2011, and the Crimson Tide know this will definitively be their best chance at a big RPI boosting result before conference play starts in late September. Head coach Todd Bramble has recruited well, boosting his ranks with highly rated internationals, in addition to some fine domestic players, but it hasn’t translated to a finished product on the pitch yet. A preseason defeat to Clemson probably hasn’t settled nerves any, and the Tide face a stern challenge on Sunday. Alabama may worry about where the goals are going to come from given some of last year’s struggles and a tough Wake Forest defense, but after losing a pair of starters on defense, the more pertinent worry may be if the rearguard will be able to stop Stengel and co. for ninety minutes.
Illinois State vs Wisconsin – 2:00 PM
Illinois State already faced a tough task going into Sunday entertaining a Wisconsin side tipped for a nice season, but it’s going to be more of an uphill climb after starting goalkeeper Aryn Newsom was sent off for bringing down Katy Dolesh outside of the area late against Miami (OH) on Friday. The Redbirds would manage to preserve their lead to emerge with a win, but true freshman Laura Burrill will again be under the microscope on Sunday against the Badgers. Burrill didn’t have to make a save in thirteen minutes on Friday. It’s safe to say she’ll be busier on Sunday afternoon. She may have to put in a Herculean performance, because her defense still looks very much to be a work in progress. After some worrying showings in the preseason, the Redbirds spotted Miami (OH) a first half lead before clawing their way back and eventually prevailing 3-2. The Badgers have tons of weapons to rely on though, meaning ISU is going to have to seriously tighten things up at the back if they hope of getting anything out of this one. The good news is the Redbirds aren’t without weapons of their own, with star forward Rachel Tejada already doing damage with two assists, while senior forward Kyla Cross got off the mark with two goals against the Redhawks on Friday.
Wisconsin looked to be off to a flyer after going up 2-0 on UConn shortly after the beginning of the second half on Friday. Reality hit in a big way shortly after though, as the Huskies found two goals to equalize. The Badgers ended up rallying to net a late winner through Cara Walls, delivering UW a priceless opening night win. The club got big contributions from some new faces, with Rose Lavelle netting the opener after no shortage of hype coming into the new season, while Alev Kelter, technically an old face but one who did not play last season, back heeled a through ball to Kodee Williams for the 2-0 lead in the first half. The defense obviously is going to have to bear down and protect leads better going forward, but UW’s offense looks to be cranking already, with Walls not missing a beat early on in 2013. ISU will provide another big test though, as the Redbirds played Wisconsin very close last year and will be eager to claim a big name scalp for their at-large bid hopes. For their troubles, Wisconsin will be looking to mark the halfway point of their four game road stretch to open the season with two wins out of two. If the Badgers can put the clamps on ISU star Rachel Tejada, it could bode well for Big Ten season, with big name strikers galore ready to shine this season.
Memphis vs Missouri – 2:00 PM
These two sets of Tigers will be looking to pack the meanest bite on Sunday after impressive wins in their openers on Friday. The home side certainly left it a little closer than they would’ve liked after falling off a cliff in the second half against Samford. Memphis had raced out to a two goal lead with some confident finishing from newcomers Nugene Nugent and Valerie Sanderson and actually held their opponents shotless in the first half. The Tigers ended up mysteriously tapering off in the second half though, seeing their offense go without a shot themselves and being outshot 6-0 in the second frame. The good news was that Memphis still managed to limit Samford to just one shot on goal total, making life a little easier from highly touted rookie keeper Maryse Bard-Martel. Missouri looks a sterner challenge on Sunday though, and the opposing offense should provide a nice test for Memphis’ defense. The home side have a fantastic record against SEC sides in recent seasons and will want to extend that record on Sunday afternoon. Though there are other SEC opposition still to come, this may nonetheless be Memphis’ best chance to deliver a big boost to their non-conference resume.
Missouri didn’t have even remote trouble on Friday against a Pacific side clearly out of their depth. Early days still, but the decision to move Danielle Nottingham back into attack from defense, where she played last season. Nottingham had a hand in three of the club’s five goals and gives more heft to an already dangerous frontline. Considering Reagan Russell and Taylor Grant combined for zero goals last season, to see them net a brace each has to be very encouraging for the SEC side, especially when you consider the offense didn’t seem to skip a beat despite forward talisman Alyssa Diggs not netting a shot on goal and only going forty-five minutes. If the offense can stay well-rounded, Missouri looks to be a very dangerous team going forward. The defense has to be on their toes though. As impressive as Mizzou’s offense was on Friday, they probably don’t want to press their luck on the road in a shootout against a potent Memphis side. But victory here, and Missouri will know they’ll likely be 4-0-0 going into a huge showdown with Baylor.
Boston College vs Boston University – 3:00 PM
The Battle of Boston heats up once again as these two rivals square off in what has become a typically closely fought annual derby. The visitors come in hoping to seal a perfect weekend after a 1-0 win over Dayton in the opener in match of mid-major heavyweights. Neither side tested the opposing keeper with any great regularity, but BU made a goal near the half-hour mark by reserve Jenna Fisher stick for the victory. The Terriers were highly impressive in stifling a Dayton attack with no shortage of weapons and seemingly used their superior depth to great effect throughout. The defense is going to have to steal the show again against a Boston College side that doesn’t appear to have lost too many steps in the attack despite some notable offseason departures. If the visitors were able to pull off an upset here, 4-0-0 is a real possibility ahead of what would be a highly charged trip to Penn State in a few weeks. Even if the club can’t put together that long winning streak, a result here could be huge for BU’s chances of netting at-large bid consideration down the line.
The home side themselves may feel like they have something to prove after leaving a victory on the table against Stanford on opening night. Many have tipped the Eagles to suffer greatly this season after the loss of Kristen Mewis among others, but the offense certainly didn’t seem to skip too many beats early against the Card. Stephanie McCaffrey in particular proved troublesome, and she and her teammates finished by forcing Emily Oliver into nine saves on the evening. The defense seemed to hold up for much of the night, but the club’s questions in goal are likely to continue for a while after starting netminder Jessica Mickelson spilled a Chimoa Ubogagu free kick in extra time, with Alex Doll prodding home the rebound. The Eagles will likely be thankful that Sunday’s opposition aren’t in possession of an offense anywhere near as potent as Stanford’s, though it may matter little if the home side can’t be a bit more acute with their finishing. The pressure is on for a result here though. With the ACC’s massive league schedule, there’s only limited room for non-conference games. An 0-2-0 start could crank up the pressure even further before a crunch clash in mid-week with regional rivals UConn.
San Diego vs USC – 4:30 PM
USC fans would probably do well reminding themselves that it’s still very early in the season, but it’s hard not to be enthusiastic after just one game. The Trojans thrashed a San Diego State side that had been one of the nation’s most impressive teams last season, pummeling SDSU, 4-1. While the margin of victory may have flattered the Trojans a tiny bit as they stretched the lead to three goals late on the break after the Aztecs had committed numbers forward, the win itself by no means was undeserved, as USC blitzed their opponents. Encouragingly, USC grew in strength as the match went on, using their depth to wear down SDSU and turn a 1-0 lead at the half into a decisive 4-1 win. Elizabeth Eddy netted a brace, a very good omen for USC, as the senior has proven to be a player with immense potential on her day but also one who has been far too inconsistent to turn into a star thus far. The addition of super rookies Mandy Freeman and Kayla Mills already looks to be having a great effect, while bringing the likes of Tanya Samarzich off the bench has to be frightening for opponents to deal with. USC has some good sides still to face in non-conference play, but there’s nobody that the club shouldn’t be able to handle if they can stay consistent. Of course, that’s been the issue the past few years with this team.
Opponents San Diego are coming off an atypically average season last year but certainly look to be on the right track if their opening day performance is any indication. The Toreros got a massive contribution from their rookie class on Friday, with the freshman duo of Michaela Dooley and Jacqueline Altschuld each netting two goals as USD demolished state rivals San Jose State, 5-1. The Toreros were out of sight at the half having netted three goals by halftime and adding a couple more for good measure. Of course, USC are made of much sterner stuff, and San Diego will need to go from strength to strength if they’re to be victorious on Sunday. There are still big tests galore on San Diego’s non-conference schedule before the gauntlet that is WCC play, but that doesn’t mean USD wants to come away empty-handed from Sunday’s showdown, which could be a big resume booster come November if USC plays as they might. History says the home side have a nice chance of victory, but the Trojans might be talented enough to rebuff that history this season.
UConn vs Stanford – 6:00 PM
Same as it ever was for Stanford, the reigning Pac-12 champions being on the back foot for some time against Boston College in Friday’s opener but digging deep and finding a way to win. Far from the team that brutalized opposition at times a few years back, this Stanford club was a callback to last year’s team that refused to lose despite numerous chances to falter. The new look defense probably bent a little more than coach Paul Ratcliffe would have liked in the season opener, but in the end, some strong goalkeeping by Emily Oliver kept Stanford in it with a chance to win. Alex Doll would pop up in extra time to send Stanford out winners, knocking in a rebound from the resplendent Chioma Ubogagu’s free kick. Ubogagu was largely the star figure for Stanford in the beginning of her junior season, though the fact that neither Courtney Verloo nor Taylor Uhl registered a single shot indicates the Card offense has a little bit of work to do to hit top form. Portland may loom next Saturday night back on The Farm, but the Card will want to avoid stubbing their toes against Sunday’s opponent. Stanford supporters will not likely have fond memories of their last meeting with UConn, a defeat in the NCAA Tournament in 2007.
Those Huskies looked like a team that was going to open up with a big flop after Kodee Williams’ goal gave Wisconsin a 2-0 lead on Friday. UConn would roar back over the next twenty-five minutes though, netting two goals to pull level before conceding a third and final goal. The result may have been discouraging, but the performance on the whole probably gave Husky supporters something to be encouraged about. One coming from Riley Houle, touted by many to be the next big Husky star upon entering college, was a good sign, and UConn will be hoping that she’s able to enjoy a breakthrough season. Sunday’s game is the middle part of a brutal three game kick to begin the season for the Huskies, that stretch ending in a mid-week showdown with Boston College. It’s a stretch that probably isn’t going to make or break UConn’s season, but they’re going to need to pick up some quality results to point to sooner or later when Selection Monday comes. There are a few opportunities later in non-conference play, but the heavy hitters are here and now, meaning a result against the Card on Sunday could be a big jumping off point for the club going forward.
Florida vs Oregon State – 7:00 PM
It took a bit more huffing and puffing than Florida probably would’ve liked, but the Gators still ended Friday night with a win by multiple goals. Opponents Florida Gulf Coast seemed to offer very little in attack but still ended up even with the Gators going into the final ten minutes of play. UF ended up wearing their opponents down in the second half though and got a quickfire double from Savannah Jordan to seal the win. Questions about the defense were answered in part, as without the team’s talisman for ages, Kathryn Williamson, the club still managed to stifle FGCU to the tune of just one shot total on the night. Going the other way, Jordan’s late show will probably draw the plaudits, but the Gators also got solid showings from Havana Solaun and Slovenian rookie Pamela Begic, the latter coming off the bench to great effect. Oregon State’s certainly not Florida Gulf Coast though, and the Gators know they’ll be facing a frontline with something to prove after OSU was shut down on Friday. With Florida State looming next Friday night, the Gators will want to keep the momentum going and go into that clash on the back of a two game winning streak. A traditionally stingy Beaver defense should prove to be a bigger test of this new look offense’s potency after it took some time to really get going Friday.
On Friday, Oregon State’s attack was swallowed up in large part by the brutal weather and Florida State’s unrelenting defense. While OSU did manage to hold Florida State to just three shots on goal, the Noles also hit the woodwork three times, meaning the final scoreline could have ended up much worse for the Pac-12 side. Linus Rhode’s charges will still likely take heart in the fact that they tipped the balance of play a bit in the second half after being outshot 12-0 in the opening half. The duo of Jenna Richardson and Chelsea Buckland have a ton of potential in their final season with the club, but the duo still have to get into a rhythm after the latter was out last season with an injury. The reshuffled Florida back four might be more palatable targets for the Beaver frontrunners, but the defense of OSU will still need to tighten up a bit, even if Florida doesn’t figure to have as much firepower as Friday’s opponent. There really aren’t many breaks for OSU in their non-conference schedule, which means they’ll have plenty of chances to rack up RPI boosting wins. Few better chances remaining than Sunday though, as the Beavers will definitely be aiming to return to Corvallis with a result for their troubles from their opening weekend jaunt in Florida.
South Carolina vs Duke – 7:00 PM
You certainly can’t fault Duke for not taking on a challenge in the opening weekend of the season. Or frequent flyer miles. The Blue Devils chose to go into hostile territory in College Station and emerged with a 1-0 win and aren’t resting on their laurels, going into another tough place to play to square off against South Carolina. The Blue Devils started a bit slow on Friday but took the game by the scruff of its neck after a little bit, with the constantly threatening Kim DeCesare netting the winner shortly after the break. DeCesare finished with more shots on goal than the entire A&M team by the end of the night despite not actually being an out and out forward. The Blue Devils have crammed DeCesare into a formation with Kaitlyn Kerr, Kelly Cobb, Mollie Pathman, and Laura Weinberg, which may not look the most balanced on paper, but the club’s defense was still very effective in holding down a very good Aggie attack for much of Friday night. There can’t be a letdown on Sunday night though, as their opponents usually keep it tight, meaning Duke could be in for a battle if they come out flat.
Opponents South Carolina began 2013 on a winning track by topping UNC Wilmington on Friday with two neatly crafted goals. Supporters will surely be breathing a sigh of relief at the club scoring twice after last year’s squad made rather heavy weather of finishing the job in front of goal for much of the year against top opposition. The Gamecocks, perhaps with an eye towards Sunday, went nuts with squad rotation in this one, with twenty-three players seeing time on the pitch. Not insignificant minutes either, as five of the reserves saw more than thirty-five minutes on the pitch. While SC might be a bit more rested thanks to their depth options, they still only managed six shots on goal against a team nowhere near as talented as the Duke side they’ll run up against Sunday. The defense, usually stern, did well to hold Wilmington to three shots on goal Friday. That’s not any indicator of how they’re going to do on Sunday though, as Duke’s rampaging attack certainly isn’t anything like the Seahawks’. SC has three straight on the road after this, so they’d like to escape from this one with something, but the odds are long though certainly not impossible.
Other Matches to Watch:
Kentucky vs Utah – 1:00 PM – Kentucky was largely given the runaround by Wake Forest on Friday after taking a shock lead in a game that was delayed by lightning. They’ll obviously be hoping for much better on Sunday in a game with potential at-large bid implications come November. Utah had a much more successful opening day, confidently beating Sun Belt favorites Western Kentucky and hoping to make it two-for-two halfway through a stretch of four on the road to open up the regular season.
Texas vs South Florida – 1:00 PM – Both of these sides still have a ways to go before anyone considers them worthy of contender status at any level, but a win on Sunday would certainly help. This was looking like a potential showdown of two of the nation’s top keepers, but USF’s Christiane Endler went out after less than ten minutes of a friendly against Mississippi State a week ago and did not play against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Her loss would be a big one against a Texas team that made the most of set pieces on Friday in a 2-0 win over Georgia.
Colorado vs Colorado College – 4:30 PM – A brace from rookie Brie Hooks helped Colorado ease past Northern Colorado in a Colorado Cup game, and CU will be looking to lift the trophy again with a victory over Colorado College on Sunday. The Tigers don’t have a plethora of opportunities for quality results in non-conference play, so they’d best take what they can get if they harbor hopes of an at-large bid if necessary come November.
Clemson vs Furman – 6:00 PM – If Clemson’s a side tipped for improvement, they certainly looked the part in a long, long match with Auburn delayed by lightning. These Tigers effectively stifled their opponents for much of the match, though it also showed the offense is still a work in progress. The next step is taking down a fancied Furman side whose opener against Presbyterian was washed out on Friday and who won’t get a shot at any type of warm-up before the new opener against these Tigers.