Syracuse vs UConn – 1:00 PM
These two former Big East rivals will not be taking Labor Day off, as they’ll jockey for NCAA Tournament at-large bid positioning on Monday. Syracuse picked up a creditable draw to open up the season against Missouri last weekend before being downed easily by Penn State a few days later. Everyone expected the Orange to pummel Albany on Friday, and Phil Wheddon’s side obliged in a 5-1 battering. Considering the rest of the Orange’s non-conference schedule outside of a potentially tricky trip to Colgate is largely laughable, this may be one of Syracuse’s last chances to make an impression before the grind of the ACC slate. Against Albany, Syracuse got big performances from two-goal Stephanie Skilton, as well as Alexis Koval off the bench. Given the lack of goals against bigger opposition a week earlier though, it remains up to the Orange to show the offense isn’t just smoke and mirrors when presented with a major conference opponent. The defense will also have to account for Rachel Hill, UConn’s predatory menace up front, who could rain on Syracuse’s parade on Monday afternoon in this pivotal showdown.
UConn are also going to be in a mood to prove themselves after a decisive 3-1 defeat to Penn State to begin the weekend. The Huskies had made a positive start to the season the weekend before in downing mid-major contenders Hofstra and Navy, but there are still lots of questions over the club’s ceiling at the moment. You could probably argue whether Syracuse is any better than Navy, or especially Hofstra, but there are few other opponents left on the non-conference slate between almost certain losses (Florida State) and certain wins (Stony Brook, CCSU, and the like). UConn’s defense got shredded by Penn State’s explosive attack on Friday, but the Orange’s attack is nowhere near as potent as PSU’s. The Huskies can score though, and Rachel Hill is already off to a strong start with three goals in three matches and will be key in testing the Syracuse defense in this Monday afternoon battle. Win this, and the club will likely be 5-1-0 going into a match with Saint John’s (NY) that could be huge for their NCAA Tournament hopes. But before that, UConn has to take care of business on the road against their former league rivals.