LSU vs BYU – 8:00 PM
OK, but do it away from Provo.
It’s the cry that often meets BYU, a club that’s proven to be nigh-unbeatable the past year or so in the comfy confines of South Field with brutal altitude and bountiful attitude from one of the nation’s most rabid bunch of supporters. The Cougars likely made another group of believers on Saturday night, effectively dismantling a Nebraska side tipped to surprise in the Big Ten. Goals either side of half-time by Elena Medeiros and Cloee Colohan all but sealed the result, while the scoreline could have actually been much worse for the visitors had Rachel Manning not had a penalty saved. The Cougars were able to again show off their embarrassment of attacking riches again, able to bring a match winner like Niki Fernandes off the bench, while throwing the likes of Michele Murphy, Colette Jepson Smith, and Jaiden Thornock into the fray from the start. The defense bent but didn’t break against the imposing Nebraska attack, able to shut down Mayme Conroy and Jaycie Johnson but also allowing three shots on goal from Jordan Jackson. LSU probably doesn’t have anyone of Jackson’s calibre, but they do have many attacking players to be reckoned with, meaning that BYU defense that has impressed so much in two matches in 2013 needs to continue to stand out.
LSU will have fond memories of their last meeting with BYU in Baton Rouge. That blowout at the beginning of the 2008 season would live on in infamy for a long free kick goal from Tigers goalkeeper Mo Isom that ended up on SportsCenter and became a YouTube hit. It’s been over half a decade since, and while BYU’s reputation has soared, LSU is seemingly where they were then, namely as a side with a lot of potential but nothing in the trophy case. The enthusiasm in Baton Rouge was likely quite high going into the new season though with the addition of a star studded recruiting class full of international talent. Early returns have been inconclusive. The club did crush Louisiana-Monroe, but they also struggled to put away Louisiana Tech, with both sides not really revealing much about the Tigers in the end. A scoreless draw at home against TCU is another warning flag, with the club putting just three of seventeen shots on goal (+2 off the post) against the Horned Frogs. The Tigers barely used their bench, only playing Gracie Campbell off the bench. Considering BYU’s strength in depth, how LSU head coach Brian Lee manages his rotation could be crucial on Monday night. Highly touted rookie Summer Clarke could well put her name in lights with a breakout performance on the attack here, but it’ll likely be LSU’s play on the other end of the pitch that determines the outcome in Baton Rouge.
Utah State vs Nebraska – 3:00 PM
Modest opposition or no, Utah State hasn’t put a foot wrong thus far in 2013 after joining the Mountain West following a dominant spell in the WAC. The Aggies under Heather Cairns has become one of the region’s most formidable mid-majors, and she’ll be looking to keep her side’s 100% record intact on Monday afternoon while also potentially netting a bit feather in their cap for a potential at-large bid. USU’s made short work of their three opponents thus far, shutting all of them out, though the offense has sputtered a bit. The defensive feats are especially impressive considering this is a rearguard that lost Natalie Norris, the best player the club ever produced and maybe the best player ever from the WAC. While BYU’s display on Saturday should give the Aggies some hopes of shutting down Nebraska’s explosive attack, if Utah State themselves can’t hit the target, they might be in for a struggle. No clear leader has stepped up to take the role of the offense’s alpha dog yet, but midfielder Kylie Dibb leads scorers with two strikes thus far. They might need more than two to emerge with a win against a Nebraska side desperate to hit back after a tough loss on Saturday.
The Cornhuskers will try to salvage a split on their two game jaunt to Utah after a humbling 3-0 defeat at the hands of BYU on Saturday night in front of five thousand plus fans in Provo. It was largely going to be firepower vs firepower in a matchup of two offensively oriented teams, but the Cougars were able to do just enough to stifle the Huskers and strike lethally the other way. Things don’t get any easier in the less than ideal conditions of Logan, and this in large part could be the middle match of a three game stretch including Arkansas next Sunday that could make or break Nebraska’s at-large bid hopes when all is said and done. Offense again will be a focus for the visitors. Jaycie Johnson and Mayme Conroy combined for five goals in the club’s first two games but were effectively erased from the game by BYU’s defense last time out. The good news is that Jordan Jackson showed some signs of life despite not scoring, a relief after the fifth-year senior opened up without a point on opening weekend. A goal or two here would be a perfect salve for Nebraska after Saturday’s mauling, though really, head coach John Walker probably won’t care about the source of the goals as long as they propel the team to a needed win.