Check back later in the afternoon for previews of the later games.
Pepperdine vs UCLA – 6:00 PM
Another Battle of Southern California sees pesky Pepperdine again trying to be a thorn in the side of UCLA in a rivalry that’s heated up considerably in the past half-decade. Despite the Waves’ recent success in this series, Pepperdine still will inevitably have the sour taste of last year’s 4-0 hiding at the hands of the Bruins in Westwood in their mouth ahead of this meeting. The Waves come into this one with some renewed momentum after looking to be back on the ropes somewhat following two straight losses to Michigan and Toledo. The defense took a pounding, while the offense couldn’t compensate, but Pepperdine rebounded in a big way with two clean sheet wins this past weekend. Lynn Williams’ nuclear hot 2013 season has continued in earnest, with the junior having scored the club’s last five goals in the last three games, including all three last weekend to down USC and San Diego State. Williams is already making a case for herself as one of the club’s best players ever, and if she can repeat her scoring feats in this one, she will continue to build her legend in Malibu. The defense? Well…not so great. Yes, the club did hold San Diego State scoreless last Sunday, but it also conceded a ridiculous fifteen shots on goal to the Aztecs. Given the Bruins’ sharper edge in front of goal, a repeat of that will likely equal a heavy loss on Friday. Pepperdine has what should be two wins on the non-conference slate after this one, meaning they’ll want a win to build momentum and boost their odds of a national seed come November.
UCLA returned back to Westwood after their brutal four game road stretch last week for a single game weekend and made the most of it, also topping San Diego State, 2-0. Unlike Pepperdine, the Bruins managed to put the clamps on the Aztec offense for much of the match, keeping SDSU to just two shots on goal. While UCLA’s attacking trio of Darian Jenkins, Rosie White, and Taylor Smith being held to just two shots on goal, the Bruins needed other faces to step up to fill the offensive gap and got their wish when center-back Abby Dahlkemper and reserve Kodi Lavrusky each scored en route to a 2-0 win for UCLA. Having already netted wins over Notre Dame and Duke among others, the Bruins will be searching for more fuel for their run at a #1 seed in November. UCLA figures to be favored in their next four after this one, all the way up to the league trip to Stanford in the second week of October. There are a lot of great matchups to be seen in this one, including UCLA’s midfield and whether Pepperdine can stop the Bruins’ magic trio from playing right through them. Additionally, it’ll be worth watching the UCLA backline to see how they cope with Lynn Williams, who’s been in irrepressible form early this season. For their own attack, UCLA will likely be missing Rosie White through international duty, meaning the Bruins may have even more incentive to avoid a protracted shootout with their Malibu rivals.
Navy vs Boston University – 3:30 PM
Boston University couldn’t have asked for a much harder matchup for their Patriot League debut, with the Terriers facing a daunting trip to Annapolis against league juggernaut Navy. The Terriers have firmly put themselves into the discussion for an at-large bid with a draw against South Carolina and a win over UConn but still need to win and win often in the Patriot League. Though their new league is still probably a touch more difficult than the America East, the Terriers know that their RPI will probably drop like a stone with too many slips in conference play. Last weekend, BU netted a huge win over UConn, doing just enough to tame a solid Husky offense while getting an early goal from Megan McGoldrick and making it stand up for almost eighty-seven minutes. The defense again was a class apart on Sunday, all but silencing Providence’s attack while looking formidable on offense themselves. The rub may be that BU scored just once despite putting up seventeen shots, marking the sixth time this year the Terriers have scored just one goal or hasn’t scored at all. The defense has been the club’s saving grace, even in defeat, holding the high powered attacks of Boston College and Penn State to just a single goal each. This is probably BU’s last, best chance for an RPI boost down the stretch, and they’ll be favored in every other game after this one in all likelihood. A win here, and they’ll be overwhelming favorites to win the Patriot League title.
Navy’s odds of an at-large bid are almost nil after earlier defeats to NC State and Maryland in non-conference play, but the Midshipmen will at least want to take a big step towards the Patriot League title with a win here. To their credit, Navy’s done everything else expected of them, winning their six other games, often putting on an offensive show in the process. Navy has gotten some new faces to step into the spotlight this year, with Paloma Perez and Ashlynn Soellner still featuring but taking a back seat to Morgan Dankanich and Kaylie Davidson, who have combined for ten goals thus far, more than half of Navy’s total through eight games. The backline and goalkeeper Elizabeth Hoerner have kept four clean sheets thus far, but the club has notably struggled against the better offenses they’ve played against, conceding five goals combined in the losses to Maryland and NC State. While Navy would need some odd things to happen to net an at-large bid, the Patriot League title is still very much within their grasp given their early season form. A win here, and it’s hard envisioning the Midshipmen not walking away with silverware come season’s end.
Ohio State vs Illinois – 5:00 PM
It’s time for Ohio State to show their NCAA Tournament credentials after a bit of an up and down non-conference slate. Struggles with minnows early and a draw with Arizona and loss to Boston College had the pessimists out, but the Buckeyes have done well over the past three games to recover a little of their mojo heading into Big Ten play. Granted, it’s not exactly come over a murderer’s row of opposition, but the club still knocked down a Saint John’s (NY) side that came into last Sunday’s meeting with an unbeaten record. Nichelle Prince, who came into the season with a ton of hype, started slow but has come around as of late, including netting the only goal in that win over Saint John’s (NY) last week. Prince now has five on the season, and her form in front of goal in the Big Ten is going to be crucial for OSU’s NCAA Tournament hopes. The defense has been pretty solid for much of the season, with two straight clean sheets while also not conceding more than one goal since the opener. The Buckeyes are pretty sparse on big results so far, even with that win over the Red Storm, meaning they’re going to be doing most of their resume building against the Big Ten. The next two should be quite winnable before a stretch where the club plays Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Penn State over four games. It means building a little momentum with a win in this one could help the club build a nice amount of points going into the key stretch of their season.
Illinois’ last result may not have come against a big opponent, but the result may have been more important than the name of the vanquished team. That’s because, at long last, the Illini finally kept a clean sheet after the club’s defense had been bounced around like a superball for almost all of the non-conference season. That included the match before the win over FIU, as Illinois shipped two to minnows Indiana State, undermining another strong offensive effort. Illinois got some offense from unusual sources on Sunday, with Reagan Robishaw and Megan Pawloski, who both started the game on the bench and who had combined for just one goal going into the match, each netted a brace in the blowout victory. More than likely though, Illinois will be hoping that their two key offensive players, eight goal Jannelle Flaws, along with midfield dynamo Vanessa DiBernardo, can keep on scoring through Big Ten play to try and lead the club back to the NCAA Tournament. Like their Friday opponents, Illinois is in need of some quality wins down the stretch to avoid bubble stress in November. They’d best do it early in the league slate rather than leave it late too, as the Illini face almost all of the title contenders from mid-October on.
Florida Gulf Coast vs Memphis – 7:00 PM
OK, some mid-major’s gotta contend for an at-large bid, right? It’s not been an exceptionally great year for the little guys in DI, with few racking up quality wins to put them in the mix if they can’t score their league’s auto bid. Florida Gulf Coast looks to be squarely in that category following a defeat in their big opening day test against Florida and a shock draw a week later against Davidson. Since that 0-0 game though, FGCU’s won four straight, and if they can upset both Memphis and UCF this last weekend before league play, they might just stand a sliver of a chance to get some consideration if they don’t win the A-Sun Tournament. Tabitha Tindell made serious waves last weekend when she netted four goals for the Eagles in their 5-1 win against Idaho State over in Hawaii. That upped Tindell’s seasonal total to six, but it remains to be seen if she, or her teammates, can do it against sterner opposition. Nobody else on the team has more than two goals, though Melissa Arnold has been doing her best to set the table with six assists on the year thus far. The Eagles haven’t really been the stoutest side defensively, with just one clean sheet in four, while they also shipped three to Florida in the opener. Memphis isn’t Florida, but the Tigers do have plenty of weapons to work with. FGCU’s been a program seemingly waiting for that one breakthrough win over a big conference foe for ages, and a win here would certainly make many take notice.
Memphis showed more of a distinct “Jekyll & Hyde” streak last time out in a 3-0 loss to Ole Miss that could seriously damage their NCAA Tournament hopes. The Tigers had a penalty saved early, and things deteriorated from there en route to a heavy defeat. Memphis has shown enough to top Samford and Missouri and crush Alabama, but they’ve also fallen well short against the aforementioned Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. As a result, their RPI has been lagging a bit, and the Tigers need significant wins down the stretch to feel comfortable on Selection Monday. Florida Atlantic on Sunday is probably going to do more damage than good on the RPI, regardless of result, meaning the Tigers really need this win to try and mitigate the damage from the weekend capper. Christabel Oduro and Valerie Sanderson both enter this one with five goals each and have the potential to form a fiery partnership up top, but neither are guaranteed to fire on all cylinders on all occasions. Defensively, the Tigers were taken apart convincingly against Ole Miss, but they probably will fare a bit better against an FGCU side that doesn’t pack as much firepower as an SEC side. Still, questions linger over goalkeeper Maryse Bard-Martel, and the club’s defense has proven to be far from airtight thus far in 2013. The visitors probably have more to lose than to gain in this one, and they’ll be desperate to avoid a second straight defeat that would keep their RPI reeling.
Georgia vs South Carolina – 7:00 PM
There’s something about Athens that just doesn’t agree with the Gamecocks. They are 0-6-0 in their last six against Georgia on the road, and considering SC has won just five of twenty-one overall against the Bulldogs, you could easily label UGA as their bogey side in the SEC. The away hex that SC seems to suffer from has been especially prevalent, as the Gamecocks have taken two teams that would eventually win major trophies in the league in 2009 and 2011 into Athens and come away empty-handed. The Gamecocks’ traditionally rock solid defense will be key to them breaking their duck, with SC having conceded just once in eight games so far, that coming against Clemson more than three games ago. Since, SC has smothered three straight foes in clean sheet wins at home. The offense is a bit worrying though, having just scored one goal in each of last week’s wins. One goal against Duke and none against Boston University also underline some of the struggles the club has seen in front of goal, though the defense and goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo have certainly masked the club’s offensive deficiencies. If SC does score, it’s likely to come from Danielle Au, who leads the team with three goals and two game winners, Raina Johnson, also on three goals, or Sophie Groff, willing to pull the trigger but with little success thus far. Next Sunday begins a tough stretch for SC with Arkansas, Florida, and Tennessee in succession, underlining the importance of a quick start in the league. A win in a place that’s been impossible for the Gamecocks historically would be a big statement of intent for the SEC season ahead.
National respect and NCAA Tournament aspirations could be on the line for the home side on Friday night. Little of the former has been in store thus far, with the Bulldogs making mincemeat of its non-conference opposition for the most part, though the level of competition has been questionable in stretches, and the club also lost rather tamely to Texas in the season opener. But at the same time, UGA did convincingly top Long Beach State last Friday before demolishing the College of Charleston in probably the most complete weekend the team has played all season. Beyond respect though, Georgia really needs a quality win to hang its hat on, as Furman’s going to inevitably sink in the RPI, even if they do well in the SoCon, while counting on Long Beach State as their best win on the resume sounds like a recipe for potential disaster. Victory over the high-flying Gamecocks would be a perfect cure for Georgia’s resume problems, but it’s going to be a challenge, recent history be damned. Georgia leaned on rookie forward Marion Crowder for goals last weekend, with the freshman coming up big with two great showings and leads the team with six on the season. She hasn’t faced a defense anywhere near as good as South Carolina’s though, with the Gamecocks having proven to be death for most of the forwards they’ve faced thus far. Besides Crowder, Georgia are short on consistent scoring options, with Madeline Barker and Rachel Garcia, next on the stat sheet, combining for just five goals. Don’t discount the Georgia defense though, which kept six straight clean sheets before conceding from the spot against the College of Charleston. Given the defensive record of both and the relatively inconsistent offense of both, this one will probably be another nailbiter on Friday night in Athens.
Arkansas vs Ole Miss – 8:00 PM
Baylor vs North Texas – 8:00 PM
Cal State Fullerton vs Washington State – 9:00 PM