One game down already this week, with Anastasia McCleary and Creighton going down 7-2 to Marquette. All teams bar UMBC are now in conference play, and for a lot of teams, this is where the real test begins, as many of these teams will need to win their conferences to progress to the national tournament – outside of Colorado and Hofstra, at-large bids are out of the question, and even for those two schools, it’s going to be an uphill battle.
Nicholls State (Jess Coates)
This week: at Abilene Christian – 2am, Saturday 27 September; at Incarnate Word – 3am, Monday 29 September
After a scrappy start to conference play, Jess Coates and Nicholls State look to turn around their Southland season in this trip to Texas. First up is an Abilene Christian side that have been as inconsistent as Nicholls State, currently sitting at 4-6. Whilst this game appears to be a bit of a tricky tie for the Colonels, there should be no such problems against Incarnate Word on Monday. UIW have gone 0-8 so far, and whilst a lot of those games were against much stronger sides, they have also slipped up in matches they would ordinarily be expected to win.
UMBC (Lilly Rydon)
This week: at Robert Morris – 5am, Saturday 27 September
After two absolute demolition jobs last week, Lilly Rydon and UMBC head to Moon Township (in Pennsylvania, not on the Moon) to play Robert Morris in their final non-conference game. Robert Morris have struggled so far this season, sitting at 2-7-1, with one of those wins coming against Canisius, who currently sit 332nd (of 332) in Division I RPI. Conversely, UMBC are 7-2 and primed to make another run at a conference title. Lilly Rydon has been one of the side’s top performers and will most probably lead the line once again for UMBC.
Murray State (Nyomi Devine, Harriet Withers)
This week: v Tennessee Tech – 6am, Saturday 27 September; v Jacksonville State – 4am, Monday 29 September
Heading into this week with a 3 match winning streak in the back pocket, Murray State have a real chance to turn it into a full handful with two eminently winnable games against Tennessee Tech and Jacksonville State. Tennessee Tech have picked up just two wins all season from 9 games, and are currently on a 3 game losing streak. Their schedule is nothing special, and Murray State will definitely be favoured in this one. Jacksonville State’s record reads slightly better, at 4-5, but they have spent a fair portion of their time beating up on some much smaller opponents, including a 15-0 win over Mississippi Valley State. Combine these facts, and it again looks as if Murray State are favoured for this game. Nyomi Devine and Harriet Withers have been used in a variety of ways this season, but hopefully this week sees a return to the starting lineup for the pair from Palm Beach.
Southeast Missouri State (Maddy Cornell, Jenna Collingridge, Bridget Sankey)
This week: at Eastern Illinois – 6am, Saturday 27 September
It’s been an up-and-down season for Southeast Missouri State so far this season, and they currently sit at 3-3-0 after last week’s win over Arkansas State. Eastern Illinois, on the other hand, have just had a down season so far. Their record currently sits at 1-7-1, despite playing 7 home games, and this record has led to an RPI that sits 309th in Division I, showing that their schedule hasn’t been one of the strongest around. Southeast Missouri State have had an infuriating inability to win games that they are slightly favoured in, and they’ll be desperate to change this and get their conference season off to a good start. Jenna Collingridge has continued to be ever-present in the starting lineup, and hopefully Maddy Cornell can join her in the upcoming games.
Wyoming (Alisha Bass, Georgia Rowntree, Candace Sciberras)
This week: v Nevada – 7am, Saturday 27 September; v UNLV – 5am, Monday 29 September
A couple of pretty tough fixtures for Wyoming this weekend as they host the two schools from the state of Nevada. Whilst Nevada, the first opponents, have a 3-5-1 record compared to Wyoming’s 2-5-1, their schedule so far has been much stronger, and therefore their wins have come against stronger teams than Wyoming’s wins have. UNLV provide a sterner test still, having put together a 5-2-1 record so far this season. Still, despite their lacklustre record, nobody can accuse Wyoming of not keeping things tight and scrapping right to the end in every game. Alisha Bass and Candace Sciberras have forced their way into the starting side on a regular basis, whilst Georgia Rowntree has started the last couple of games and appears to be sharing goalkeeping duties now – something that appeared highly unlikely at the start of the season.
Hofstra (Emily Hulbert)
This week: at Elon – 9am, Saturday 27 September; at William & Mary – 4am, Monday 29 September
Hofstra have been looked at as an outside chance for an at-large bid if they fail to win the Colonial conference this season, and this week will go a long way to shortening the odds of that happening. First up are Elon, a side that have put together a 4-4 record against a slightly weak, but certainly not a terrible schedule. Matches like this are the ones that Hofstra can’t afford to drop at all, because one loss in a game like this will completely kill their at-large chances. The Pride’s second game this weekend is against William and Mary, a side that toured Australia in their pre-season and played against Colorado defender Alexandra Huynh. William and Mary are a highly athletic side and they have used this to their advantage, putting together a 6-1-1 record. These two sides look to be the cream of the Colonial Athletic Association, with Hofstra possibly just favourites in this one. Emily Hulbert has quickly become an integral part of the Hofstra defence, and will hopefully be starting again for the Pride this weekend.
Southern (Simone Arthur)
This week: v Grambling State – 9am, Saturday 27 September; at Arkansas-Pine Bluff – 4am, Monday 29 September
After being led to the slaughter in some games during their non-conference schedule, Southern this week come up against some opponents more on their level. Grambling State, the Jaguars’ first opponent this weekend, have played just 3 games this season, conceding 17 goals and not scoring one yet. Southern may have lost 8 in a row, but they at least have match sharpness, even if their squad is down to 14. Arkansas-Pine Bluff may possibly be in an even worse situation than Grambling State – whilst they have played more games, and scored goals, they have been routinely demolished by their opponents. This could be the start of some better form for Southern – hopefully Simone Arthur can come back this weekend to help the side after a couple of weeks out.
Alabama State (Shelbi Vienna-Hallam)
This week: at Prairie View A&M – 9am, Saturday 27 September; at Texas Southern – 9am, Monday 29 September
Alabama State have been tipped as the team to beat in the SWAC this season, and as one of only two teams in the conference to put together multiple wins in non-conference play, there is no reason to think this would change as they take on Prairie View A&M and Texas Southern, two sides that have put together one win between them. Shelbi Vienna-Hallam has continued to be a mainstay in Alabama State’s defence after establishing her position early, and whilst the side has been outmatched in the last week or so, these games will hopefully be a chance for the Tasmanian to show that she is one of the premier defenders in the league.
Colorado (Kahlia Hogg, Alexandra Huynh)
This week: v California – 5am, Sunday 28 September
Probably sitting a little more on the outer with regards to chances of an NCAA tournament at-large bid when compared with last season, Colorado have been handed no favours to start the Pac-12 schedule, taking on #12 California this week. Both teams have been in top form recently, with the Buffaloes currently on a 4 game winning streak, whilst California have 8 wins in 9 games. This could prove to be an extremely tough fixture for Colorado, but if the Buffaloes can continue their high level of performance that they have showed in the last few weeks, there is scope for an upset. Alex Huynh and Kahlia Hogg will both be pivotal in any success Colorado may have in this game, with Kahlia being a scorer and provider of many goals this year, whilst Alex has remained a starter all year in defence after establishing her position last year.
Pacific (Ellie Papalexiou)
This week: at UC Davis – 6am, Sunday 28 September
It’s been a tough season so far for Pacific, with just two wins in nine games, but their opponents this week, UC Davis, have faired little better, with just 3 wins in 9 games. Both teams are on prolonged losing streaks, with UC Davis losing their last five, and Pacific losing their last four. Pacific’s record is a little deceiving, however, with losses to nationally ranked USC and California occurring in the middle of that streak. Pacific would love to get a win on the board here to give them a little bit of momentum heading into a tough West Coast Conference schedule, and this game may prove to be a chance. Ellie Papalexiou has been used off the bench in the majority of games recently, and will be looking to provide a spark down the left.
Creighton (Anastasia McCleary)
This week: v St. John’s – 4am, Monday 29 September
After a brilliant non-conference schedule, Creighton were hit hard by Marquette in their first Big East match on Friday morning, going down 7-2. This match against St. John’s will also prove tough, but will be a winnable game for Creighton. Being back at home in Omaha will help the Bluejays after travelling to Milwaukee for the game against Marquette. Despite proving to be an impact player for Creighton, Anastasia McCleary was used sparingly in the side’s two close games last week, before playing 27 minutes against Marquette. Whilst it may be a case that the Creighton coach is still attempting to define McCleary’s role in the side, there is no doubt that when the side needs a spark, Anastasia is the player the coach should be turning to to lift the team.