Notre Dame vs UCLA – 1:30 PM
It’s a true clash of the titans in South Bend on Sunday afternoon as hosts Notre Dame entertains Pac-12 favorites UCLA. The Irish didn’t exactly face a huge challenge on Friday, rolling over Horizon League side Oakland with plaintive ease. For the third time, the Irish struck with lethal precision early, taking the lead after just three minutes. They poured it on with three goals in the second half, never being remotely in danger from OU but doing quite the professional job in dispatching the Grizzlies. Lauren Bohaboy, who netted her fourth goal, and Crystal Thomas, who assisted the first two goals, continue to impress and will be vital for Notre Dame’s hopes of defending their turf on Sunday afternoon. The defense also finally played a full ninety minutes in getting a clean sheet, though it has to be said that UCLA on Sunday will be by far the best offense they’ve played against so far. With just Detroit remaining on the non-conference slate after this matchup, Notre Dame will desperately want to grab a win here to boost their odds of a high national seed. None of the other wins in non-conference play look like helping the Irish’s cause much, meaning this could be a pivotal matchup, even though Notre Dame should have plenty of chances to make hay in ACC play. Still, a convincing win here would do wonders for the confidence of a still pretty young Irish side.
UCLA faced a much tougher challenge on Friday, their first time out of California this season against perennial Big East contenders Marquette. It looked like the Golden Eagles had caught the Bruins napping as well, after UCLA went down after just forty-five seconds. The Bruins perhaps just needed a bit of a wakeup call though, as they came back less than four minutes later to equalize before grabbing a winner just after the hour mark. It wasn’t exactly the club’s best showing in front of goal, as they put just three of nineteen shots on target, but the club did get a third goal on the year out of rookie Darian Jenkins, who might be settling nicely into the scoring role that Sydney Leroux and Zakiya Bywaters have filled so competently in the past. The defense was on their heels a bit in the second half, with Katelyn Rowland forced into three saves to protect the win, though the Bruins did eventually gut it out. UCLA can’t have a slow start against the Irish though, given the host’s penchant for putting teams down early. The Bruins themselves are quick starters though and may just be able to put a shock into the Irish considering they’ll be far above anything the ACC side’s faced so far this year. Either way, emerging out of South Bend with something against UND would be big, getting a win and two on the weekend would be even bigger with a trip to Durham looming next weekend. UCLA’s schedule sets up for plenty of chances to boost the RPI, and a win on Sunday would be another great step towards a high national seed or even a potential #1 seed come Selection Monday.
Virginia Tech vs North Texas – 11:30 AM (in Winston-Salem, North Carolina)
So close, yet so far for North Texas on Friday. The Mean Green were shockingly effective against Wake Forest, hitting right back after the half after going down 1-0. The C-USA were achingly close to a priceless draw before being knocked back by a Katie Stengel free kick in the second half of extra time. If anything, it proved that the Mean Green does have the capacity to play with just about anyone in the country, with their depth (using nineteen players for at least fifteen minutes) being quite the pleasant surprise. But for all that North Texas showed, few will remember it beyond the “L” in the win-loss column come season’s end. The Mean Green looked like a club that would be worthy of an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament if it came to that, but that’s going to be a pipe dream unless they get a result to justify it. While Baylor and Oklahoma State present opportunities down the road, beating an ACC team away from home would command instant respect and might just be an instant ticket to an at-large bid depending on Virginia Tech’s performance the rest of the way. The question is if the Mean Green have enough in the tank to seal the deal given how much the effort against Wake Forest probably took out of them.
The Hokies are probably feeling a bit of pressure right now to get a non-conference win of note. Charlotte and James Madison probably aren’t going to provide much RPI weight come the end of the season, meaning the club needs to get a win now and not rely on a sweep next week alone to get things done. The draw against Louisville might be enough if the club takes care of business in ACC play…then again, it might not if the club doesn’t fare well in the league. North Texas is a potential bubble rival if it comes down to that, meaning the Hokies will want to get a result, preferably a win, here. The Hokie defense did a pretty good job of keeping the dynamic Louisville duo of Charlyn Corral and Christine Exeter under wraps for most of Friday’s draw, though Exeter did assist on the Cardinals’ lone goal. North Texas doesn’t have anyone as dynamic as those two, but they still have a lot of eager attackers and a deep bench if need be. The Hokies have firepower of their own though, namely rookie Murielle Tiernan, who’s enjoyed a dream debut for the club through three matches, having scored in each one. The towering freshman already looks like a name for the present and future for Virginia Tech and extending her scoring streak to four matches could lead VT to victory once more. The Hokies did go one hundred ten minutes on Friday but will be confident of prevailing still considering their opponents almost did likewise against Wake Forest.
Dayton vs Michigan State – 1:00 PM
The road back to the NCAA tournament has been a bit bumpy for Dayton early on in 2013. Without team scoring talisman Colleen Williams, the Flyers’ attack flatlined against Boston University in the opener but has rebounded nicely in two straight wins against Providence and Cincinnati, netting three goals in each triumph. Leading the way has been senior Juliana Libertin, a player tipped for big things going into the new season, and she’s scarcely disappointed, with two goals and two assists in Dayton’s three games thus far. Ashley Campbell has also scored, but the Flyers will be hoping the Canadian can keep it coming with a flurry of difficult games to come. For Dayton to be remotely in the at-large bid picture, they’ll probably need to win two of their next three to stand a chance, such is the middling strength of the A10 and the rest of their non-conference slate. The defense has coped reasonably well despite giving up two goals in three games, but they’ll also be put to the test in a big way going forward. Freshman Elizabeth James has been in the crosshairs thus far, and she might be a busy camper with the Flyers having been dead even in shots with their opponents through three games and with bigger foes to come.
Did Michigan State answer some questions on Friday with a 1-1 draw against San Diego State? Probably. But maybe not enough, as the Spartans peppered SDSU with shots throughout but still needed a goal which was mired in controversy to net a draw with the visiting Aztecs. MSU had rolled right through some lesser opposition on opening weekend but was still needing to make a statement win going into the SDSU game. A draw helps, but it might not help enough come Selection Monday, so the Spartans will be keen to pick up the ‘W’ on Sunday. By most accounts, their goal against the Aztecs was a scrappy one, and the Spartans will be looking for a sharper edge around goal against the Flyers. Despite putting ten on frame on Friday, only Rachel Van Poppelen, quickly becoming one of the Spartans most dangerous players, and Marisa Oleksiak netted more than one, so MSU will also be looking for someone to truly pick up the reigns in attack. There’s really not much else left on the Spartans’ non-conference slate that is going to help them come November, meaning the pressure will be on for the non-conference win of consequence that the club have desperately needed for so many seasons now. In form and full of confidence, MSU is plenty capable, but they’re also on their first road trip of the season, meaning this could be an unpredictable one in Dayton.
Florida State vs UCF – 1:00 PM
Two teams potentially in opposite moods come Sunday afternoon. Florida State will be in buoyant spirits after decimating rivals Florida with three first half goals on Friday. Dagny Brynjarsdottir continued her star turn as FSU’s goalscoring weapon of choice with a quickfire double, including a close range header off of Megan Campbell’s absurd long throw to the far post. FSU all but ended things with a late boomer from Michaela Hahn and took their foot off the gas a bit in the second half for the sake of tightening things up and protecting their lead. The Icelandic connection of Brynjarsdottir and Berglind Thorvaldsdottir (though she didn’t have a shot on Friday) are quickly proving to be a real nightmare for opposing teams to deal with. The Noles’ defense also ended up doing just enough to put the brakes on Savannah Jordan to pitch another shutout despite a second half push from the Gators. There’s no time to bask in the glory of that win though, as FSU returns home to face a UCF side that’s fought them tooth and nail in the past. The win over Florida should provide them with plenty of fuel for the RPI and resume come November, but a win over a UCF team likely to be high in the RPI again could be what puts the club over the top in their quest for another #1 seed.
Knowing FSU’s proficiency on dead ball situations, UCF might be a little skittish going into Sunday’s contest. The Knights looked like marching to victory on Friday against Tennessee only to be victimized twice on set pieces. After giving up a direct free kick goal to Cheyenne Spade, another was headed home by Hannah Wilkinson for the eventual winner. It was a notable flaw for a Knights side that had begun the season in near flawless fashion by decimating Washington and easing past Hawaii. The UCF offense didn’t do too bad against the Lady Vol defense, racking up seventeen shots, eleven corner kicks, and seven shots on goal, but they just couldn’t find a second goal that could’ve very easily put UT to the sword. Considering the frontline with Tatiana Coleman and Lena Petermann is still getting acclimated with each other, there’s bound to be these yips in form, but the Knights will be hoping for a good day for the forwards on Sunday. They’ll need a great one in all likelihood if they’re to upset FSU and their elite level defense. The win over Washington may not bring as much cache in the RPI as UCF would have hoped, meaning a result against the Noles on the road could be priceless come November.
Penn State vs La Salle – 1:00 PM
If Penn State’s first weekend form was a bit concerning to Nittany Lion fans, the club’s friday defeat to Virginia likely set off massive alarm bells. PSU didn’t just lost to the ACC contending Cavs, they were positively obliterated, 5-1. Some real questions have to be asked of a Nittany Lion defense which has looked far from its best early on in the 2013 season, having shipped two to West Virginia, one to Hofstra, and now a whopping five to Virginia. The Nittany Lions looked like having a good chance in Friday’s match after scoring early through Maya Hayes. PSU would hit just two more shots on goal the rest of the match though, with the club then falling under a torrent of Virginia goals. Much depends on Penn State’s state of mind going into their Sunday matchup against La Salle. PSU’s opponents lack no small degree of firepower themselves and will be keen to claim a big scalp themselves heading into A10 play. PSU’s best result thus far is its win over Hofstra, and that may be marginal as far as the RPI is concerned come the end of the day. There’s not much room for huge improvement, but a win over the Explorers might well be the club’s best shot for the rest of non-conference play.
La Salle’s been mostly in the shadows thus far this season. The Explorers were off on Friday a week after a solid but unspectacular start to the season last week where they went away from Philly and scored one-goal wins over Old Dominion and James Madison, neither of whom figured to be major challenges to La Salle on paper. The Explorers figure to be favored on paper in most, if not all, of their remaining non-conference games, but this is the one they probably have been looking towards for a long, long time. The Explorers have been waiting to knock off a truly elite team, and the Nittany Lions may well be ripe for the picking given their defensive frailties thus far. La Salle frontrunners Renee Washington and Kelsey Haycook have ripped through defenses in their careers with the Explorers and have combined for three goals thus far in 2013. They’ll be another big test for PSU’s defense, though La Salle isn’t without defensive questions of their own. The most questions could come in goal, where Katie Getzinger and Jessica Wiggins split time last weekend. Paul Royal picking the right netminder could be key for upset hopes on Sunday afternoon.
Michigan vs San Diego State – 2:00 PM
Friday was a blast to the not-so-welcome past for Michigan, whose struggles with Eastern Michigan were a callback to the club’s bizarre stumbles in non-conference play the past few seasons under Greg Ryan. A fearless EMU side went right after the Wolverines and netted a late equalizer to emerge with hopes of coming away with a draw. Michigan rescued a win with Meghan Toohey’s golden goal, but the Wolverines will not want a repeat on Sunday of those struggles. Michigan had plowed right through two opponents last week, but this is their biggest test by far up to this point of the season. Nkem Ezurike has been a titan thus far as expected, scoring two and assisting on three more as the Wolverines’ offense has generally hummed. With great support off the bench from Nicky Waldeck and Madisson Lewis, the Wolverines look like potentially becoming an offensive force this season. The goalkeeping situation has been dealt with effectively it would seem, with highly touted rookie Taylor Bucklin stepping right into the starting role. She’ll be vital again over the next two games against SDSU and Pepperdine which could be a big bellwether for their hopes of a high national seed.
San Diego State is teetering a bit already, with just one win in heir first three. The Aztecs and fears of inconsistency may be a bit founded, as they were pounded by USC in their opener, edged past Saint Mary’s (CA) a few days later, and then fought Michigan State to a contentious draw on Friday. The Aztecs have got plenty of opportunities to build their NCAA Tournament resume in a Pac-12 and WCC heavy stretch in a few weeks, but they would love a little insurance with a road upset against the Wolverines on Sunday. The defense wasn’t exactly airtight against MSU on Friday, as they gave up ten shots on goal, an amount that will probably equal defeat if they repeat that feat against Michigan’s high powered attack. With just three goals in three games, SDSU may struggle to keep up if this one turns into a goalfest, with leading scorers Hannah Keane, Jensen Skinner, and Haley Locker having all scored just once. The Aztecs have a shot if they keep it tight at the back, and noting Michigan’s occasional struggles against non-conference opposition historically, that shot might be more than a puncher’s chance.
Oregon State vs Wisconsin – 2:00 PM
Oregon State injected some life into their flagging season with a much needed win over visiting Texas on Friday afternoon. The Beavers had been humbled on their opening weekend road trip to Florida, being decisively beaten by both Florida State and Florida in telling affairs. Staring 0-3-0 right in the face, OSU responded with a battling display in taking down the Longhorns, benefitting from a simple winner from Brandi Dawson, who headed home Jacy Drobney’s corner kick. The defense did a pretty job in keeping much of the Longhorn starting offense at bay for most of the match, and they’ll have to be spot on again in stopping Wisconsin’s volatile attack come Sunday afternoon. OSU’s offense with Jenna Richardson and Chelsea Buckland still seems to be finding its feet as a unit again, meaning this one might call for keeping it tight at the back again and hitting the Badgers on set pieces. Sunday’s game is part of a critical three game stretch that ends with UC Irvine visiting next Friday that could make or break the club’s non-conference resume come Selection Monday. Knowing the heartbreak the club suffered last season, the Beavers won’t want to leave anything to chance, and a win on Sunday would be a huge feather in their cap.
The Badgers were forced to fight doggedly with Oregon to come away with the win in Eugene. A late first half goal by the Ducks’ Brooke Strawn could have sunk less mentally tough sides, but Wisconsin came out less than ten minutes after the break and got an equalizer from Alev Kelter, whose return to the Badgers from the university’s hockey team has been absolutely crucial to UW’s great early season form. Kelter also had a hand in the Badgers’ winner, knocked in by the red hot Cara Walls, who netted her fourth on the season for Wisconsin. Truth be told, Wisconsin’s defense continues to be a bit of a worry, as the Badgers have now conceded four in three and haven’t kept a clean sheet as of yet. You could argue that Wisconsin has been facing talented opposition, but you could also argue that the Badgers need to do better if they want to fulfill their ambitions this season. Given the attacking threats of Buckland and Richardson for Oregon State, the Badgers may have to provide their best defensive effort yet if they want to avoid an untimely upset in Corvallis on Sunday.
Wake Forest vs Louisville – 2:00 PM
Wake Forest probably didn’t expect to be forced to huff and puff as much as they did against North Texas on Friday to emerge with a win. It wasn’t a glamour cruise by any means though, as the Demon Deacons were dragged into extra time by their less prestigious opposition before Katie Stengel’s class shone through in the end, the senior sealing victory with a free kick goal. The Demon Deacons did hold UNT to three shots on goal, but the sheer amount of depth the C-USA side threw at them made for a longer day than expected. Having a match winner of Stengel’s calibre is the ultimate ace in the hole though, and Stengel will be eager to get her side another win to close out a perfect weekend. Another promising sign for Wake was the return of Rachel Nuzzolese, the oft-injured forward playing over an hour on Friday after missing out on opening weekend. Another win here would be a huge for Wake’s hopes of a high national seed. A trip to Portland next week offers another big chance to boost the resume. More so if they can take care of business here, with a win making an unbeaten non-conference season a real possibility.
Louisville suffered from mixed fortunes on opening weekend, handling Butler but then losing to Illinois in extra time in a revealing goalfest. Wanting to claim an ACC scalp against Virginia Tech this past Friday, Louisville found themselves right behind the eight-ball early, down after less than five minutes but had an instant response, firing back and making it 1-1 less than eight minutes later. The game devolved into a bit of a chess match until later on, but the Cardinals still emerged with a hard fought draw. Louisville knows they might need more to boost their non-conference resume, making Sunday another important contest against a future league rival. Louisville’s dynamic offensive duo of Charlyn Corral and Christine Exeter were quieted a bit against VT, but they still have plenty of scoring potential and will be looking to strike early and often against Wake. But Louisville’s defense has to tighten up, especially in light of Sunday’s shocking defensive showing against Illinois. Wake has comparable firepower and will put that defense to the test again this Sunday. The Cardinals would do their at-large hopes a whole lot of good with result here and will also want to build momentum towards the derby against Kentucky next Friday.
Texas A&M vs Pepperdine – 2:30 PM
Some of the sturm und drang around Texas A&M was put to bed on Friday night as the Aggies delivered a convincing win against a solid Arizona State in College Station. A quickfire double right after the quarter hour mark from Kelley Monogue and Liz Keester gave the Aggies a 2-0 lead that they’d hold for the rest of the match. The offense, which had sputtered through the first weekend of the season came alive for three goals for the win. That attack may have to keep firing though considering the Aggies turn right around and host a very potent attacking opponent in Pepperdine. A&M’s defense wasn’t rock solid against ASU, including a baffling goalkeeping error from the usually fantastic Jordan Day in goal, and that defense is going to be put to the test against a Waves team boasting superb striker Lynn Williams and one of the nation’s best attacking full-backs in Michelle Pao. The win over the Sun Devils is probably going to be an RPI booster come season’s end, but a victory over the Waves may be even more valuable if the Malibu side lives up to expectations this season.
The Waves themselves may want to tighten the screws in defense, as Tim Ward’s side had some rocky defensive moments despite holding on for a draw in the opener against Cal. Eight shots on goal against isn’t a number they’ll want repeated here against the volatile Aggie attack. The good news is that Pepperdine can give as good as they get, though two goals in two games could potentially be a sign for worry with a long trip to a boiling College Station in store for Sunday. Despite Lynn Williams netting a superb winner against Wright State on Thursday, the club labored for victory despite putting ten shots on goal. The offense is going to have to do a better job of converting chances to run out winners on Sunday on College Station’s hostile ground. It’ll be interesting to see if the Waves have grown into a side that can successfully implement a Plan B if Plan A isn’t working, a problem that has plagued them when their long ball attack hasn’t gone off in the past. This is the first of a critical four game road swing that also sees the club play Michigan and USC in a stretch rife with chances to boost the RPI.
Syracuse vs Colgate – 7:00 PM
Syracuse? Relevant? Yup, the Orange are making a case for it. They managed to beat back a highly touted Hofstra side in their opener last Friday before battling West Virginia to the wire on neutral ground in the follow-up two days later. The Orange, who have endured some brutal slips against non-conference opposition in the not-too-distant past, didn’t slip against Albany on Friday, throttling them in a 4-0 win. Cuse needs to keep winning before league play starts though if they’re to contend for an NCAA Tournament spot considering the brutal ACC schedule. Colgate is a side that Syracuse should be beating if they’re a true at-large bid contender. The Orange have gotten a great season out of veteran Erin Simon so far, netting four goals and two assists for the cause thus far. She and New Zealand rookie Stephanie Skilton have been the focus of the offense so far, and they’ll need to be firing on all cylinders again on Sunday night. The Orange have had defensive issues against top clubs as seen by their opening weekend showing, which could create problems against a talented Colgate attack.
The Raiders have lived to thrill in recent years, with Colgate being a neutral pleasing side with an explosive offense and rather lackadaisical defense. It’s been all change thus far though, as the Patriot League side have kept three straight clean sheets to open up the new season. Of course, two came against America East foes and one against a MAAC side, so it’s safe to say the level of difficulty is getting ramped up on Sunday. Colgate showed they could play in the NCAA Tournament defeat to Rutgers last season though, so they’ll be confident of their abilities to claim a scalp here. Catherine Williams and Caroline Brawner are the names most repeated by those familiar with Colgate’s attack, though though likes of key reserve Sidney Parodie and Sarah Coy have shown well early as well. The key might be whoever gets the nod in goal. Erin Cummings and Brenna Mason have both started, and head coach Kathy Brawn may well ride the hot hand again. Colgate knows its opportunities for an at-large bid are scarce. They’re also probably contingent on upsetting their ACC opposition on Sunday.