Florida State vs North Carolina – 8:00 PM
Two sides who have played some absolute classics in the past decade will lock horns in Tallahassee again on Wednesday night with the national stage all but set for themselves in a rare mid-week game. The home side were given a brutal start to the ACC season, being drawn against Wake Forest and Duke, two fellow league title rivals, on the opening weekend of the league season. All things considered, FSU did very well for themselves, netting four points from the weekend to keep themselves squarely in the title picture. Three points on Wednesday would be another big statement of their title credentials and would likely mean FSU would be favored in their next eight games, all the way up to a crunch clash at Virginia at the end of October. FSU’s defense continues to impress, having all but shut down Wake Forest in the opener last week while also doing enough to stifle Duke in the Sunday game, shutting down Kelly Cobb and Laura Weinberg for most of the match, though Kim DeCesare did find a little success. That bodes well considering the club will be dealing with Crystal Dunn, Kealia Ohai, et al. The offense remains a worry. The effort against Wake left much to be desired in a stalemate, but Berglind Thorvaldsdottir finally broke a dry spell against Duke, while Kristin Grubka underlined her side’s effectiveness on set pieces in grabbing the late winner. They might need more of that set piece magic on Wednesday, and the defense will again have to keep it tight, as the offense probably isn’t going to be winning too many shootouts against teams the calibre of UNC.
North Carolina knows that despite the schedule easing up over the next few weeks after this contest, losing a second straight game in the league would be a very damaging blow to their title hopes. The Heels looked to be on their way to dismantling Virginia Tech with two goals in the course of an hour in the ACC opener, but they were made to sweat a bit at the end after conceding a goal off a corner late. Set pieces proved Carolina’s bane again on Sunday, when Morgan Andrews headed home after a throw-in from Brittany Von Rueden. Despite intense pressure in the second half, UNC couldn’t find an equalizer, though a Crystal Dunn shot that bounced off the bar and over the line but went unspotted by the linesman was a serious spot of contention after the match. UNC’s probably desperate for others besides Dunn and Kealia Ohai to establish themselves offensively, but things have become considerably harder with injuries taking their toll on key contributors Alexa Newfield and Amber Munerlyn, both of whom appear to be doubtful for the weekend. It’s also worth watching Anson Dorrance’s tactics in this one. The Tar Heels started out in their 3-4-3 against Notre Dame but quickly shifted to the 4-2-3-1 in the first half to solidify things. Against tough opposition on the road, Dorrance may want to go with a more conservative gameplan. You never know though, and that goes for the fixture as a whole too, with this one looking like another potential classic with a national television audience.
Indiana vs Xavier – 7:00 PM
Raise your hands if you had this one as a game to follow at the beginning of the season. Hey, raise your hands if you had either of these two teams being unbeaten at this stage of the season. Neither seems to be a serious threat for an at-large bid right now, but considering how much these two have struggled in recent seasons, the success each has experienced early on this year is nothing to sneeze at. The Hoosiers had a great test against Saint John’s (NY) lined up last Friday that ended up getting washed out by travel woes for the visitors but bounced back with a solid win against Central Michigan on Sunday. All that being said, this is still probably going to be IU’s toughest test of the non-conference season. IU showed a lot of resolve after going down early to CMU on Sunday and then coming back off the back of fine offensive performances from Kayleigh Steigerwalt and Rebecca Candler, who combined for six shots on goal, with the former netting the game winner in the eighty-sixth minute. The schedule makers didn’t do IU many favors in the league, with Minnesota, Ohio State, and Penn State the first three conference opponents. That killer trio means that IU really needs to keep their winning touch through this win and enter league play with maximum momentum.
Xavier probably caused a raised eyebrow or two when they stunned Purdue, 4-3, on opening weekend, even if they were outshot 34-8. That might have hinted at a fragile defense, but XU has actually held up very well defensively since, to the point that they haven’t conceded in four straight and, in fact, have conceded in only that Purdue game all season. OK, Xavier hasn’t been facing the best of opposition, but they still have beaten city rivals Cincinnati and a better than average Evansville side in the non-conference season. The club is still prone to the occasional stinker (see the unexplainable scoreless draw to winless Eastern Kentucky), but the battling spirit they showed in the Purdue win should serve them well in this one. Rookies Tori Doss and Maggie Hare have helped to inject some life in the Xavier offense, tying for the team lead in goals with three each at this point. The Musketeers’ league schedule is brutally front-loaded, with Saint John’s (NY), Georgetown, Villanova, and Marquette to open up, with that four quite possibly the favorite for the top four in the Big East this season. Without a doubt though, XU will go into the league on Cloud Nine if they can claim their second Big Ten scalp of the season with an upset here.