Brooke Elby & North Carolina Will Look For Their Second Straight Win Over Notre Dame on Sunday
(All listed times are EST.)
Notre Dame vs North Carolina – 1:30 PM (Notre Dame Adidas Invitational)
Another chapter in the biggest rivalry in women’s college soccer will be written in South Bend on Sunday afternoon as Notre Dame hosts North Carolina. Seldom has there been a more unpredictable iteration of this derby, as both clubs have found their fair share of challenges thus far in 2012. The hosts have been blooding no end of youngsters into the lineup thus far while also dealing without Mandy Laddish and Cari Roccaro, off at the U20 World Cup. The construction of this Notre Dame team took a big step forward on Friday though, with Randy Waldrum’s side claiming a hard fought victory over Santa Clara for the Irish’s first big win of the season. Notre Dame will look to make it a perfect weekend against a North Carolina club who also struck it big on Friday after they themselves have been dealing with absences from international duty and injuries. This was a Tar Heel side that hadn’t scored in an official match going into the UConn game and was desperately trying to avoid a winless month of August. In the end, it was the return of Summer Green from U17 camp that proved very beneficial for the Heels, as Green netted with a laser from distance for the game winner while feeding a teammate for the insurance goal. UNC will only have Green for a little while longer before she departs for the U17 World Cup, so the impetus will be there for the rookie to try and make a big impact again before she heads off. There’ll be just as much intrigue surrounding the Tar Heel defense though, as that unit wobbled a little but was able to hold UConn off the board on Friday but could face a tougher task against a young and hungry Notre Dame team on Sunday. Besides the usual passion that surrounds this matchup, national seeding implications are rife with this encounter, with the winner knowing they will increase their odds of a favorable road to San Diego come November.
UConn vs Santa Clara – 11:00 AM (Notre Dame Adidas Invitational at South Bend, Indiana)
You can call it a de facto third place game of the Notre Dame Adidas Invitational, but you can also call it a vital lifeline to save one of these clubs from going winless this weekend. UConn, after beginning the season brightly on opening weekend (despite having one game cancelled) has since slid back a little, losing two of three, though those defeats came at the hands of Boston College and North Carolina, hardly the easiest of foes. They’ll want to end that slide though and grab their first big win of the season, knowing that their non-conference RPI would suffer greatly with a defeat, with minnows making up the rest of their non-conference schedule. Opponents Santa Clara are in a little better shape thanks to an earlier win over Cal, though they did have a two game winning streak broken up by Notre Dame on Friday. Unlike their Sunday opponents, the Broncos won’t be getting a respite in non-conference play after this one, as the club heads back home to face off against Georgetown and Boston University, both of whom need non-conference wins over quality opposition quite badly. Getting Sofia Huerta and Julie Johnston back in the coming weeks will help, though the club will likely just have to make do with an attack that’s been solid but unexplosive in the early weeks of 2012. Solid will do just fine though if the defense can put the brakes to a Husky offense looking to get back in the goals after being shut down by North Carolina on Friday.
West Virginia vs Miami (FL) – 12:00 PM (WVU 90 Minute Classic)
A pair of former Big East rivals will lock horns at high noon on Sunday in the pursuit of a big non-conference win. West Virginia will be trying to avoid a hangover after a spirited battle with Penn State on Friday which saw the home side net a late equalizer before being undone by a late Christine Nairn free kick towards the end of extra time. It’s been a season of big ups and downs thus far for the Mountaineers, who likely delivered one of the iconic moments of the season with their win over Stanford but who also enter this match with a record currently under .500. With a lighter non-conference slate to lead into league play, this might be Nikki Izzo-Brown’s side’s last chance to make an impression before Big XII games start. Opponents Miami (FL) have been a thoroughly schizophrenic side through two and a half weeks of the season. The Hurricanes made waves on opening night with a shocking dismantling of Florida, which still looks impressive, but the club then lost two of their next three to dampen spirits in Coral Gables. A game against Pittsburgh on Friday looked to be an easy win on paper, but the Hurricanes labored and were forced to find a winner in extra time, though with their opponents also being dragged to extra frames, neither side should have a big edge in fatigue. The Hurricanes also are assuredly out of non-conference chances to make up some ground in the RPI after this match, placing even more importance to this match for two sides holding out hopes of a national seed come November.
Auburn vs William & Mary – 1:00 PM
It could well be last chance saloon for William & Mary’s at-large bid hopes as they head down to Auburn for a Sunday afternoon clash. The Tribe had two golden opportunities early in the season against Duke and Tennessee to make a great case for themselves but were found to be outgunned in both, losing by three goals to the former and perhaps being lucky to have taken the match against the Lady Vols to extra time. John Daly’s side has looked a lot more like the team many thought they could be since but only against lesser competition. With little in the way of big opportunities coming up to make up ground in the RPI, it’s really a case of now or never for W&M if they want to stay in the discussion for an at-large bid. Auburn themselves look to be a side in need of a big win at the moment. The Tigers have generally run over the easier opposition on their schedule but fell short on both occasions last weekend when on the road and with a chance to net a big win against Pepperdine and UC Irvine. While Texas Tech next Saturday represents another opportunity to put a feather in their cap, the Tigers still need this one to lessen their chances of bubble drama come November. Auburn at least comes into this one with a little of their momentum back after a comfortable win over Samford on Friday but will also be fully aware of their facing a desperate opponent on Sunday afternoon. With two high powered offenses on display, the goals could come fast and furious on The Plains on Sunday as these two search for a vital win.
Illinois State vs Western Michigan – 2:00 PM
The road to an at-large bid for mid-majors at DI level is a cutthroat one, with these two sides likely needing to get through each other to get their hands on one of those coveted places. The home side certainly haven’t shied away from an early challenge, battling Illinois to a draw at home before also coming up with a draw on the road against fellow mid-major power Florida Gulf Coast, coming from two behind to steal a share of the spoils. The club stumbled a bit against Northern Illinois on Friday but still managed to walk away with a vital win that keeps their at-large bid hopes very much alive. In that match, offensive ace Rachel Tejada netted her eight of the season and will be all too keen to add the Broncos to her 2012 hit list. ISU can’t be caught looking ahead to their huge match at Wisconsin next Sunday though, as Western Michigan are no marks. The Broncos also played Illinois tough early on, going down 1-0 despite hanging right with the Big Ten side until the end. Though WMU’s at-large hopes look considerably more slight, the club could make some RPI waves with a win here and a strong run of wins after. The Broncos have hardly set a foot wrong since the Illinois loss, scoring multiple goals in three straight wins. WMU hasn’t kept a clean sheet all season though, which could be a problem against an Illinois State offense that can seemingly explode for goals at the drop of a hat.
La Salle vs Portland – 2:00 PM (Husky Invitational at Seattle, Washington)
Two teams with vastly different fortunes on Friday will clash on Sunday with one trying to avoid a winless weekend and the other trying to cap off a perfect one. Portland was able to breathe easy for once on Friday after a blowout win over Fresno State following a string of somewhat suspenseful games. The dominance was highlighted by a stunning performance from Amanda Frisbie, who scored four goals in forty-two minutes to become the first Pilot to score four in a game since Danielle Foxhoven accomplished the feat three seasons ago. Given some of Portland’s scoring woes the past few seasons, Frisbie’s offensive explosion must have been music to the ears and eyes of the Merlo faithful. The intrigue for the Pilots might be in goal, where Nichole Downing got the start over Erin Dees, and it’ll be interesting to see who gets the nod against La Salle. They might need some offense either way, as La Salle’s high powered offense will be looking to rebound after being shutout against Washington on Friday. Seeing the Explorers silenced on offense has been a rare sight these past few seasons, though the A10 title contenders certainly had their chances in a pulsating encounter against the Huskies. The odds of seeing La Salle shutout in back-to-back games seems quite remote given their firepower, and with Portland’s offensive fireworks show Friday, it seems like we could be in line for a goalfest on Sunday afternoon between these two talented sides.
Duke vs Washington State – 2:30 PM (USC Futbol Classic at Los Angeles, California)
Great teams find a way to win, and Duke’s season may have turned thanks to a pivotal win on Friday against USC. Coming off a traumatic defeat to Florida in which they conceded three unanswered goals, Duke was looking to be in trouble again after going down early to tournament hosts USC. Still down by a goal at the sixty minute mark, Duke looked in trouble but would come up big in a seven minutes span, with Kim DeCesare netting a brace to bring her side all the way back. Combined with some great goalkeeping from Tara Campbell, the offensive outburst held up, with the visitors hanging on for a big 2-1 win. Now they’ll look to seal a weekend sweep against Washington State, who also ran out victors on Friday in Los Angeles after coming from behind against San Diego. Like Duke, WSU benefitted from a brace to open up the weekend, with Micaela Castain scoring twice to lead her team to victory. The Cougars have hardly skipped a beat in Keidane McAlpine’s first season as head coach in Pullman. Some big wins against middling opposition early on were one thing, but to take down perennial WCC contender San Diego was an eye opener. Duke’s likely to provide a tougher challenge on Sunday afternoon though, while also being the club’s toughest remaining challenge before Pac-12 play starts in a few weeks. A win here could significantly raise the ceiling on WSU’s season though and put them right in the mix for a national seed in November with a good league campaign.
UCF vs Georgia – 2:30 PM (UCF Tournament)
Despite some notable losses in personnel coming into the new season, UCF has scarcely skipped a beat in getting out to a quick start, winning four of five and looking very lively in their sole loss to Florida State. The Golden Knights have altogether enjoyed a more consistent regular season to this point as compared to last season, where UCF flourished against top opposition but had some notable slips against more modest opposition. The hard-nosed Golden Knights have conceded just two goals all year and just once in the past four matches and always seem to be at their best against the biggest clubs. That trait also applies to striker Nicolette Radovcic, a clutch scorer for the Knights who has already added a pair of game winners to her career tally this year. UCF will aim for another big scalp on Sunday as they host Georgia, who downed South Florida on Friday in Orlando. The Bulldogs grabbed a big non-conference win against the Bulls with the help of some set pieces, netting both goals from dead ball situations, though they also conceded from such a circumstance, something that will need to be sorted out by Sunday against a physical UCF side. Georgia will also be holding its breath on the health of offensive talisman Alexa Newfield, who has missed the past two games and has played in just two of five this season. In her absence, redshirt freshman Bella Hartley has emerged as a scoring threat, with four goals thus far and may be called upon again to spearhead Georgia’s threat in front of goal.
USC vs San Diego – 5:00 PM (USC Futbol Classic)
One of the more notable scheduling traditions of a few seasons ago was USC and San Diego’s insistence on scheduling a home-and-home series that saw the clubs play each other twice that year. The schools will reprise that series this year, with the meetings less than two weeks apart, with the return leg in San Diego a few weeks from last Friday. Whether this will be a good thing or bad thing for the home side is still up for debate though, as USC has lost their last three meetings with the Toreros, including a 3-1 defeat here last season. The Trojans will be looking to stop a two game losing streak that has tempered the mood in Los Angeles after an explosive start to the new year. Along the way, the club’s defensive frailties have been exposed, as the Women of Troy have conceded nine in four games thus far, including two on Friday to Duke. It’s been a season of streaks thus far for their opponents on Sunday. The season started out in frantic fashion, with USD getting clobbered in their opening two matches before rebounding for two huge wins back at home last weekend. The Toreros will be hoping the pendulum hasn’t swung back the other way after a defeat to Washington State in which they gave up a few unanswered goals after taking the lead over WSU. USD’s defense hasn’t exactly been a fortress either, having given up ten goals in five matches. Given the leaky rearguards of both sides, fans could be in for an offensive show in the City of Angels on Sunday afternoon.
Ole Miss vs Texas Tech – 8:00 PM
Somebody could get exposed on Sunday night in Oxford, as two squads with 5-0-0 records come into this meeting in desperate need of quality wins after mainly dispatching of lesser opposition thus far. The home side’s non-conference schedule has, quite frankly, been laughable for the most part, with four Sun Belt teams and an A10 squad dotting the landscape thus far. The Rebels, who are integrating many youngsters into the lineup, have feasted on that opposition thus far and come into this one having clobbered Arkansas-Little Rock by eight goals this past Friday. The double act of returnees Mandy McCalla and Rafaelle Souza have each scored five goals, but the club will be facing a much, much sterner challenge in Texas Tech on Sunday. To be honest, the Red Raiders’ schedule to this point hasn’t exactly been the bastion of toughness either, though TTU did manage to outlast Stephen F. Austin last weekend. Tom Stone’s side has been making their mark defensively this year thus far, having conceded just one goal so far while keeping clean sheets in their last four matches. Not to say TTU can’t score. Jessica Fuston leads the team with five goals, while Janine Beckie has been outstanding early, with a pair of game winning goals for the Red Raiders. More than likely though, this one will all be about the Ole Miss offense against the Texas Tech defense, with unstoppable force meeting immovable object, so to speak. With non-conference opportunities in the SEC dwindling, the pressure could be on the home side to prove their early season form wasn’t an illusion if they harbor hope of an NCAA Tournament bid.
Memphis vs Oklahoma State – 8:00 PM
Will the real Memphis Tigers get a chance to stand up on Sunday night? The Tigers have put together two vastly disparate performances thus far, being destroyed by Missouri on opening night before getting two weeks off. On Friday, they returned to action and crushed Arkansas State by four goals. While Sunday’s opponent is obviously closer to the team’s first opponent rather than the second, Memphis also should be a lot more comfortable against tough opposition thanks to the return of Christabel Oduro and Kylie Davis to the lineup. Both were members of the Canadian U20 World Cup side, and the pending return of fellow youth international Natalie Gomez-Junco to the mix as well bodes well for this Tiger club. Another international made a big impact on Friday, as Belgian Tine Schryvers helped rip apart ASU, with two goals and an assist for the Tigers. She and her attacking compatriots will be looking to get the job done against a traditionally stingy Oklahoma State defense. The Cowgirls’ rearguard has sprung a few leaks though as of late, conceding two goals to UAB on Friday, nearly unheard of for OSU in the regular season as of late. In fact, OSU hasn’t kept a clean sheet in three games, which has to be driving the defense-happy Cowgirls a little crazy. Though the Big XII powerhouse comes in with a perfect 5-0-0 record, they’re very much an unknown commodity this season, having mostly loaded up with overmatched opposition so far. That certainly shouldn’t be the case on Sunday night though, as they run up against a Memphis side looking to propel themselves forward with a big name scalp on home turf under the lights.
Long Beach State vs Michigan – 9:00 PM
It’s crunch time for Michigan, who might be running out of opportunities to prove their mettle before Big Ten play kicks in in a few weeks. The early season schedule was rather light, with games that the club were supposed to win and duly did at home. Faced with their first big test of the season on the road at Cal State Northridge, Michigan came up short, falling by a single goal to the Big West side. Sunday, the Wolverines get another shot at making an impact, facing Long Beach State with hopes of boosting their RPI profile with a win. The 49ers have already struck non-conference paydirt with a win over Baylor last Sunday but would love to add another big conference scalp to their record by toppling the Wolverines at George Allen Field. They’ll also be looking to rebound from a loss in Provo to BYU in which they looked off the pace, not recording a single shot on goal against a fierce Cougar defense. The view ahead might be just as important as the view back for the Beach though. Mauricio Ingrassia’s squad faces a tough trip to Texas A&M next Friday night, and the last thing the Beach wants is to enter that cauldron of intensity on the heels of a two game losing streak. While LBSU’s offense obviously has to do much better to stand a chance of victory here, the defense will also have to be wary of a potent Michigan attack. The Wolverines got big Canadian battering ram Nkem Ezurike back from international duty for Thursday’s game and will be looking towards their spearhead to help lead the charge to a potentially huge victory in Long Beach on Sunday night.