UConn vs Florida State – 7:00 PM
This is probably an under the radar clash given the beginning of league play this weekend in the ACC, but FSU’s non-conference finale could nonetheless be a thrilling showdown thanks to their opponents in Storrs on Thursday night. For the Huskies, it’s a chance to not just grab a big non-conference win as they prep for AAC play next week, but it’s also a chance to put their name in lights for a casual public that might see them still as a faded star. The Huskies have plowed through most of their regional opposition thus far, but there isn’t really a standout win, and the club hasn’t beaten a big name, with the victory over Hofstra probably tops thus far. All the while, UConn’s been lifted by the goals of Rachel Hill, the sophomore rapidly turning into one of the nation’s top strikers. Hill already has nine goals in eight games and is a serious threat for twenty this season. Hill should get a few chances at least against FSU, but the question is how the defense is going to hold up. The Huskies’ rearguard left a lot to be desired against Penn State earlier in the season, but the hope is that they’ve improved since then. Win this, and the Huskies will likely be favored in every match through the end of the regular season, with all the big league matches in Storrs.
Florida State has played with real venom after their 2-1 loss at home to Florida. Saint John’s (NY) was brushed aside by a 4-0 margin before the club routed Stetson, 7-0. The Noles face a difficult battle though, as the club is likely to be without Dagny Brynjarsdottir, Megan Campbell, and Emma Koivisto, who were all playing in Women’s World Cup qualifiers on Wednesday and don’t seem likely to be ready for action before Sunday’s game at Boston College. It likely means the club will be hoping for more from the likes of Marta Bakowska-Mathews, who netted a hat trick against Stetson last weekend. Getting Cheyna Williams going may also be paramount with league play imminent, as she has just three goals in seven matches thus far. With Campbell playing limited minutes thus far, and Koivisto likely absent, there are worries on defense as well, where the partnership of Kristin Grubka and Kirsten Crowley at center-back is still settling in, while the full-back duo may be German Isabella Schmid and attack-minded Carson Pickett, who has a team leading five assists this year. This one screams ‘trap game’ for FSU, and without some key personnel, they’ll need all of their might to avoid an upset on the road on Thursday night.
Texas A&M vs Tennessee – 7:00 PM
Texas A&M will have bad memories of this league opener from a season ago, when a 1-0 loss to the Lady Vols effectively cost them an outright league title when all was said and done. The Aggies have aims to get the job done this season and have blistered opponents on offense, failing to net multiple goals just twice in eight matches thus far. A perfect 6-0-0 at home in College Station, A&M will try to start their league season off with a bang before a potentially tricky trip to Baton Rouge next Friday night. This one may have more national seeding implications than once thought as well, as despite beating perennial Big East contenders Marquette last Sunday, the Aggies are still clawing for the top heap of the RPI after an ill-fated road trip to Arizona and less than expected gains from that win over a struggling Golden Eagles side. They put three past Marquette, and though Kelley Monogue couldn’t add to her seven goals, she did pitch in with her fifth assist, on the eventual match winner. Monogue and Groom have been splendid in the attack, but most of the worries are with a defense that has been pried open too easily at times this year. Hannah Wilkinson and Anna McClung are big, physical strikers, likely to give A&M’s backline fits if they aren’t at the top of their game. But A&M still has the ability to outgun most clubs, and this one could end up being a real fireworks display if both teams’ offenses play to their potential.
Tennessee enters knowing that a result on Thursday might be vital to their NCAA Tournament hopes after an indifferent non-conference campaign. The Lady Vols had a couple of swings at top clubs like Wisconsin and Virginia and whiffed in 2-1 losses, while a loss to BYU, a potential bubble rival, could prove just as damaging in the end. UT’s RPI isn’t lagging too badly, but that won’t be the case for much longer if they don’t start winning en masse in the league. A Hannah Wilkinson header on a set piece gave them the lead against UVA, but they mounted little offense after that and could hardly begrudge the final 2-1 scoreline to the Cavs in the end. Striking while Wilkinson is still here is crucial, as the New Zealand international looks likely to miss the club’s final three league matches in the regular season while with her national side for Women’s World Cup Qualifying. A clear route to an NCAA Tournament berth should be a result against Texas A&M, and the Lady Vols have to be encouraged with the brace that newcomer Anna McClung scored against Richmond after a slow start in Knoxville. At the same time though, UT was second best in almost all the offensive categories to the Spiders, save the one that matters most. Having come close to a big win numerous times this season, the Lady Vols will be hoping to rain on Texas A&M’s parade on Thursday, boosting themselves greatly in the process with a win.