Kristen Mewis & Boston College Look to Stay Unbeaten on Sunday Against UCF
Boston College vs UCF – 12:00 PM
High Noon in Newton will bring a big showdown between two of 2012′s most impressive teams through a quarter of the season. Boston College, a club consistent in their inconsistency in large stretches before this season, appears to have come of age this year, having racked up result after impressive result thus far. That includes a draw at defending national champs Stanford in Palo Alto and two clean sheets in a row after. That’s a key point, as the Eagles’ defense had been a bit susceptible for a bit but seems to have stabilized in recent weeks. Kristen Mewis has a point in six straight games for the Eagles, while Stephanie McCaffrey looks to be having a breakthrough season for the ACC contenders. They’ll have to be at their best on Sunday though, as a battle tested UCF side comes to town. The Golden Knights have used a consistent offense and near impregnable backline to roll to five wins so far, with their sole defeat coming against Florida State in a rather close match. The home side will be wary of Hermann Trophy candidate Tishia Jewell, who struck a winner in last weekend’s win over Georgia, as well as Nicolette Radovcic, who has two game winners this year, giving her seven for her career. The Golden Knights are a program notorious for bringing their best against the toughest opposition and are a club big sides seldom enjoy running up against. Given the upsets above and around them in the rankings so far this weekend, an impressive win for either in this big ticket showdown could be the catalyst for a surge up the polls.
Long Beach State vs North Texas – 11:00 AM (at College Station, Texas)
Two of the top mid-majors thus far in 2012 will aim to avoid a winless weekend as they meet on neutral ground Sunday. The Sun Belt side probably had the happier Friday, scrapping with Baylor in a match that ended in a 0-0 draw. The Mean Green needed a result to keep any hopes of an at-large bid alive, and that might be the case again on Sunday. John Hedlund’s side did a pretty good job of containing Baylor’s volatile attack, and they’ll need more of the same to stifle a dangerous Long Beach State offense. The 49ers came out of the gate slow and wilted in the Texas heat to a certain degree. Leaving with a lopsided, 3-0 defeat to Texas A&M, LBSU will be eager to erase those memories and pick up another RPI boosting win in the process. Though she had something of a rough day at the office against A&M and hasn’t been in explosive form so far this year, striker Nadia Link has the quality to terrorize many a defense and will surely be a marked woman for the Beach on Sunday. If Link is bottled up, it’s not clear where the offense will come from, as Alex Balcer is the only LBSU player with multiple goals, and both of those were from set pieces. Besides wanting to end the weekend on a winning note, the Beach will want to prove it can get a result away from home. The club is 4-0-0 on home turf but 0-2-0 away from it, a rather unpleasant split that they won’t want to see get worse on Sunday.
North Carolina vs San Diego – 11:00 AM (Duke Nike Classic at Durham, North Carolina)
A couple of weeks in college soccer is a relative eternity, and North Carolina is a perfect example of how things can change in an instant in this sport. The Heels stood officially at 0-1-1 after two weekends of the season, with the offense stuttering to a painful degree as international duty and injuries ate up the national powerhouse. A few weeks later, and anyone doubting the North Carolina squad has been left to eat a giant helping of crow, as the club has promptly recorded three convincing wins, outscoring their opponents by a 7-0 clip. Friday was a masterpiece, as the Heels held Marquette to just one shot on goal while pounding in four of their own. That included two more strikes from rookie Summer Green, who already looks like a star in the making for UNC. She and her teammates will surely relish facing a defense that’s looked like a sieve all too often this year. San Diego has kept just one clean sheet all season and has conceded multiple goals in five of seven matches. That included Friday, where San Diego got ripped to shreds by Duke’s deadly offense, with the visitors conceding four goals in under forty-two minutes. Still, the Toreros have shown enough talent and heart to beat the likes of Texas A&M and Minnesota thus far, so you figure the defending WCC co-champs have a sliver of a chance if they play a perfect game. Both of those games were at home though, and the Toreros figure to have a steep uphill climb if they want to pull the upset here.
Duke vs Marquette – 1:30 PM (Duke Nike Classic)
The tea leaves don’t make for pretty reading for Marquette ahead of this one. The warning signs were certainly there for the visitors after they were losing 3-0 very early in a match against Florida State on the first weekend of the season, only to be spared by the weather forcing the match to be abandoned. While the club didn’t concede in three matches after that, Marquette wasn’t exactly facing first rate offenses either. The other shoe fell on Friday, as North Carolina blitzed the Golden Eagles, scoring four goals and then suffocating the Marquette offense for good measure en route to a commanding 4-0 win. Instead of a respite, Marquette gets a Duke side that has been eviscerating opponents with a destructive offense. Twenty-four goals in six games is a mind-blowing pace, and things could get even better for Duke with the return of Kelly Cobb and Mollie Pathman off their U20 World Cup success. San Diego was just another team to be chewed up and spit out on Friday, with Duke hitting the Toreros for four before the halftime break. The deadly duo of Kim DeCesare and Laura Weinberg has been in impeccable form, combining for eleven of the club’s goals thus far, with DeCesare in particular looking like one of the early breakout stars of the new season. The Blue Devil defense has quite been watertight this year, but unless a team can keep up with its offense, Duke may continue to mow down opponents in dominant fashion. Marquette will hope to spring a big upset, but the Golden Eagles will have to improve drastically on defense to stand a chance of being anything more than another notch on Duke’s belt come Sunday afternoon.
Wake Forest vs Illinois – 2:00 PM (Wake Forest Tournament)
You get the sense that while Wake Forest is undoubtedly thrilled that Katie Stengel is coming home a U20 World Cup winner, the Demon Deacons are even happier that she’s coming home, period. The ACC contenders have found life without their scoring machine difficult, although not unbearable. Early life without their talisman wasn’t easy, and the lack of a cutting edge showed in a draw with UNC Wilmington and defeat to UNC Greensboro on home turf. Gradually though, it’s come together for Wake, who’ve had to get it done in close games, having won their last three by a single goal. It’s largely been scorer by committee for the Demon Deacons, as the club has nobody over three goals but nine players with goals thus far in 2012. They’ll be facing an opponent in much the same situation on Sunday, as Illinois will also be happy to welcome back attacking midfielder Vanessa DiBernardo from international duty, as well as head coach Janet Rayfield. The ills of the Illini offense were certainly on display on Friday, as the Big Ten side misfired against Virginia Tech, not putting a single shot on goal in the second half. Illinois has lost two of three and are just 2-2-1 in their last five, which is a bit worrisome. More worrisome is the club’s lack of big wins, with the victory in the opener against Western Michigan the club’s best win thus far, a victory that’s not likely to carry them very far come November. The Illini have a chance to change that on Sunday though by upsetting their hosts. That will be much easier said then done though, in a match that figures to be decided by a razor-thin margin when all is said and done.
Texas A&M vs Central Michigan – 2:30 PM
Having successfully vanquished one strong mid-major, Texas A&M will look to repeat the feat on Sunday afternoon against Central Michigan. The Aggies have saved their best performances this season for the biggest games, crushing both Rutgers and Long Beach State at home in eye-catching performances. The second game in two game sets have proven to be problematic though, as A&M lost to San Diego in the opening few games and struggled to put away St. Mary’s (CA) last Sunday despite controlling the run of play. It could be another trench war on Sunday, as there’s no telling how much the heat in College Station sapped from the Aggies on Friday evening. It’s not like opponents Central Michigan were immune from the sun though, as they also played in Texas on Friday, though they had a rather easy time in getting past Texas State, scoring twice in the first quarter of an hour before holding on for victory. Anyone, anywhere, seems to have been CMU’s non-conference scheduling philosophy with the Chiipewas facing a gauntlet of talented teams in the opening weeks of the season. Results have been positive for the most part too, with wins against West Virginia and Dayton and a draw against Marquette. The visitors’ defense hasn’t been foolproof though, as they did ship five to Penn State and two to Dayton, and the Aggies certainly have a comparable offense to those two clubs. A letdown from Friday would be unwise though, as A&M will be facing a resilient, organized team with every chance of capitalizing on an off-day from the home side.
Stanford vs Georgetown – 3:00 PM (Stanford Nike Invitational)
One of the main questions going into this weekend’s matches was if Georgetown was for real. Going into Sunday, it’s still hard to give a definitive answer to that question. While the Hoyas did manage a draw with Santa Clara on Friday night, the reality is that Georgetown may have gotten a little lucky at the end of the day. The Big East side were outshot by a 2:1 ratio and a 5:1 ratio in shots on goal against the Broncos. Dave Nolan’s squad benefitted from a fantastic goalkeeping performance from Emma Newins, who made fourteen saves to earn her club a share of the spoils. Odds are, the Hoyas are going to need some more heroics, on both sides of the ball, to get anything out of Sunday’s match with Stanford. The Card had a close shave of their own on Friday night, needing a late winner from Alina Garciamendez to squeak by Boston University. The home side were certainly the dominant force on the evening, holding BU without a shot on goal, but the offense struggled to find the breakthrough. Ironically, it was a defender, Alina Garciamendez, who found the answer, striking in the eighty-ninth minute from twenty yards to spare the home side’s blushes. Paul Ratcliffe and co. won’t want to leave it so late on Sunday, not least because Georgetown has a few more weapons than the Terriers. While the offense will soon get a shot in the arm with the return of Chioma Ubogagu, that won’t help them on Sunday, with Stanford still under pressure to deliver the goods to try and work their way into a high national seed come November, earning home field advantage in the process.
Washington vs Notre Dame – 3:00 PM
It’s not a stretch to say that Sunday’s showdown with Notre Dame could be one of the biggest games in recent program history as Washington seeks to stay perfect in 2012. The Huskies, considered by some to be a sleeper to make some noise coming into this year, have certainly been impressive early, winning their first six and looking a good bet to return to the NCAA Tournament after missing out last season. Lindsay Elston has been outstanding for the Huskies early this season, with four goals and four assists and has certainly looked like an All-American candidate early on and could further bolster her case with a big showing here. The club’s biggest win has been a 2-0 victory over La Salle last week, and Notre Dame will surely represent their biggest challenge thus far. The Irish played out a pulsating 1-1 draw against Portland on Friday night, rebounding nicely from a stuttering display against North Carolina the week before. Randy Waldrum’s young club will be looking to further boost their profile, with the win over Santa Clara the only real quality victory currently on the resume. In many ways, the offense has largely been by committee up to this point, with plenty of players having scored goals, though none have more than two. Besides being a big matchup against a quality opponent, it’s also the last chance to tinker before league play starts in the Big East, with Notre Dame squaring off against Louisville in the opener. That’s not going to be an easy match by any means, meaning Notre Dame will want to come out of Seattle with a win to give themselves as much momentum as possible going into conference play.
Denver vs UC Irvine – 3:15 PM (DU Invitational)
Call it the case of the mid-major clubs who just won’t let their at-large bid hopes die. Denver looked to be cooked after a 1-1-1 start that included a loss to Colorado College and a draw with Wright State. Very quietly though, the Pioneers have reeled off three straight wins, including a 4-1 pummeling of heated rivals Colorado on Friday. In that game, Denver was up 2-0 after five minutes and 3-0 after twenty-three. The nice run has given the Pioneers a lifeline as far as at-large hopes go, and with few other mid-majors stamping out a place at the top of the at-large bid pecking order, DU could well make a strong case for themselves with a continued positive run. It’s far from a given that they’ll come away from Sunday with another win though, as they face a UC Irvine side that has seen their form lurch from one extreme to another. The Anteaters lost their first three games at home and looked to be in real trouble but have since won three of four, including potentially pivotal bubble battles against Auburn and Oregon State. A comeback win on Friday over Cincinnati gave the club another boost and could set them up well for a critical four game stretch that sees them face these Pioneers, along with Pepperdine and San Diego State. Considering these two clubs might be fighting for the same spot come November, Sunday’s match could be a pivotal point of the season for both. The winner will be right back in the thick of things in the hunt for an at-large bid. The loser will be scrambling again to keep touch with the contenders in said hunt.
Wisconsin vs Illinois State – 3:30 PM
There’s no real way around it: Sunday’s likely do or die for Illinois State’s at-large bid hopes. The Redbirds have coughed up most of their cushion with a poor recent run of results, including a draw with Florida Gulf Coast and a defeat at home to Western Michigan, which could prove to be a backbreaker in the end. The offense, so deadly at times last season, has misfired at key stretches this season, while the defense has also leaked some inopportune goals. If Drew Roff’s side is to have any hopes of snagging an at-large bid should disaster strike in the MVC Tournament, they almost assuredly have to upset Wisconsin on Sunday. Their opponents have had something of an identity shift between last season and this year if early results are anything to go by. Long a team that seemingly thrived upon winning games 1-0 under Paula Wilkins, Wisconsin has been surprisingly attack happy this year, with thirteen goals in their last four matches. While that might reflect some of the quality, or lack thereof, of some opponents, Wisconsin also hung four on a pretty good Loyola Marymount team that just drew with UCLA. Of course, it’s been a double edged sword at times too, with Wisconsin also conceding twice in each of their last two games. Those defensive missteps have to stop on Sunday though, because ISU boasts Rachel Tejada, a budding star for the Redbirds who has already been terrorizing defenses this year as she tries to match last year’s scorching pace. The Badgers have weapons of their own though, with Paige Adams and Monica Lam-Feist leading the charge thus far with three goals each. Though it might be tempting for the home side to have an eye towards next weekend’s league opener against rivals Penn State, such thinking would be foolish with what’s likely to be a desperate opponent staring them down in Madison on Sunday.
UCLA vs Tennessee – 7:30 PM
This was looking like a marquee showdown between two teams with perfect records…and then Friday happened. While neither side lost, both picked up the first blemish on each’s record, with UCLA drawing with city rivals Loyola Marymount, while Tennessee found their travels to Cal State Northridge difficult themselves, being held to a draw despite controlling the run of play in large part. In an odd sort of way, the results of Friday could make this one even more compelling, as both of these sides will be desperate to avoid defeat to avoid losing more ground in the race for a high national seed. The Bruins knocked on the door against LMU all night long but just couldn’t find a winner after equalizing following an early opener from the Lions. UCLA hasn’t really had anyone break out as the club’s offensive talisman thus far, but with such a doggedly consistent and stingy defense, goalscorer by committee hasn’t been a detriment at all to the club’s cause. Most of the intrigue may come in goal, where Alana Munger started on Friday in place of Katelyn Rowland, the club’s usual starter. It remains to be seen who’ll get the call Sunday, but whoever does might be in for a busy evening, as a high powered Tennessee offense comes to town. Brian Pensky’s side had put up some nice numbers early in the season but fell a bit short on Friday, as they were held to a draw by a stubborn Cal State Northridge team who benefitted from a great goalkeeping display by Cynthia Jacobo. Notably, the Lady Vols were without top attacking weapon Caroline Brown, who did not play, while New Zealand international Hannah Wilkinson made her debut off the bench but endured a rather muted performance, with just one shot on goal to her name. Odds are, UT may need both to spark into life come Sunday if they’re to pull the upset over a motivated UCLA team looking to get back into the win column.
Cal State Northridge vs USC – 9:30 PM
This one could well be a case of teams moving in opposite directions, with the home side coming in as the one looking to push on to bigger and better things. Northridge has been a program seemingly on the verge of busting out for a few seasons now and look like making good on their potential this year after wins over San Diego and Michigan and a draw with Tennessee on Friday. The Matadors did end up riding their luck a bit, as the Lady Vols put unwavering pressure on their goal, but CSUN got a brilliant performance from one of the nation’s most underrated goalkeepers in Cynthia Jacobo to earn the draw. With a non-conference profile that’s coming along rather nicely, the Matadors will be eager to continue their winning ways to strengthen their position for a potential at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Opponents USC may simply be trying to just stay afloat after a bright start has given way to a dismal past three games. A hammering at home against Minnesota has sent the Trojans into a tailspin, with the club blowing leads against both Duke and San Diego to see their record dip under .500. While USC has been playing some tough teams, the wins have to come sooner or later if they want to make a return to the NCAA Tournament. With so many new pieces coming into the new season, the challenge was always going to be blooding all those newcomers into a cohesive team in time to have a successful season. After three straight losses though, the pressure is on, and a few more defeats could leave the Women of Troy in a hole they just can’t get out of by November and Selection Monday.