Things are really getting to the pointy end now, as teams scrap for position and try to secure a spot in their conference tournament. Whilst some teams have wrapped up their spots and are fighting for top spot, others need to put together a winning streak over the next couple of weeks if they are to play any post-season soccer.
UMBC (Lilly Rydon)
This week: at Binghamton – 4am, Monday October 27
After a vital 1-0 victory over Albany on Friday morning, UMBC finish off their weekend with a match against second-last Binghamton that they really should get a win from. With that said, UMBC have already lost to last-placed Vermont this season, so a win against Binghamton shouldn’t be counted as a guarantee, especially as Binghamton have only lost 3 of their six games, with a win and two losses in the other. Lilly Rydon’s goals have dried up in recent weeks, but she has proved so far this season that she has the class required to slot one when it’s needed, and this may just be the weekend that she snaps the goal drought.
Nicholls State (Jess Coates)
This week: v Houston Baptist – 7am, Saturday October 25; v Central Arkansas – 4am, Monday October 27
Nicholls State laboured slightly in their games last week, leading to two losses that dragged the Colonels right back into a scrap for a conference tournament spot that they had previously hoisted themselves out of. With four matches to play, Nicholls State are only a game behind sixth placed McNeese State, but face three teams ranked above them in their four remaining games. The two easier of those four games, however, will be played this weekend, and two wins this weekend will put Nicholls State right back in the mix. Houston Baptist sit in fifth position in the Southland Conference, and are in scintillating form recently, winning their last three games. Nicholls State have managed to snap losing streaks quickly this season, however, and should have the belief that they can do so again. Their second match, against Central Arkansas, should prove to be slightly less challenging, with their opponents sitting in second-last place in the conference, but they have put together five wins for the season, even if only one of those has come in conference play. Jess Coates’ attacking impact has been slightly down in recent weeks, but this extended stint at home gives her a real chance to get back into the groove in familiar surroundings.
Southeast Missouri State (Jenna Collingridge, Maddy Cornell, Bridget Sankey)
This week: at Tennessee Tech – 7am, Saturday October 25; at Jacksonville State – 5am, Monday October 27
Southeast Missouri State sit in equal second with fellow Aussie-laden side Murray State in second place in the Ohio Valley conference standings, and with their last game of the season coming against league leaders SIU Edwardsville, two wins this weekend will set them up for a crack at the league title next weekend. Bottom team Tennessee Tech should prove to offer up little challenge to the Redhawks, but Jacksonville State will be a different story. Jacksonville State are the third team in the conference with a 5-2-0 record, and play SIU Edwardsville in their first match of the weekend, so this game may already be between two conference leaders by the time Monday morning rolls around. Maddy Cornell and Bridget Sankey are seeing little, if any, playing time at the moment, but Jenna Collingridge remains the lynchpin of the Southeast Missouri State midfield and could provide a huge influence in these games.
Colorado (Kahlia Hogg, Alexandra Huynh)
This week: v Washington State – 8am, Saturday October 25; v Washington – 6am, Monday October 27
Colorado remain on the precipice of securing a national tournament berth, and with the Pac-12 having no conference tournament, regular season play is the only way they’re going to manage to grab one. These matches against Washington State and Washington, who both sit just above the Buffaloes, could prove to be make or break as two losses here could mean curtains, but grabbing at least one win will put the side right into contention for an at-large spot. They’ll need to be at their best, however, to take down two teams who sit amongst the nation’s elite. Colorado have been in just about all of their conference games even when they haven’t had the desired result, and their ability to keep pace with any opponent could prove vital in this match. With Alex Huynh out through injury, there remains a big hole in the side’s defence, but Kahlia Hogg has been ever-present in the forward line and has been one of the outstanding Australians in college soccer this season.
Hofstra (Emily Hulbert)
This week: v Drexel – 10am, Saturday October 25; v Delaware – 4am, Monday October 27
Hofstra’s last two games of the regular season come against teams ranked immediately above and below them in the conference standings, and a win in either game will assure the Pride of a conference tournament berth, whilst two wins could see them jump from 5th to 1st if other results go their way. With both games this week being at home, Hofstra will be hopeful of picking up wins in both games, especially given the team’s recent good form. The Pride have had 3 wins and a tie in their last four games, including a win against conference leader Northeastern a couple of weeks ago. Emily Hulbert is really coming into her own for the Pride, alternating between defence and midfield and showing a real willingness to be involved in attacks when required. Expect to see the young Victorian in the mix for her 3rd goal of the season this weekend.
Kennesaw State (Nicole Calder)
This week: v USC Upstate – 10am, Saturday October 25
Look who’s back! Yes, despite what appeared to be a season-ending injury, Nicole Calder is making a one-game comeback to play on Senior Night for Kennesaw State against USC Upstate. Kennesaw State have struggled a bit this season, with Nicole’s absence in defence proving to be a big hole for the Owls, but USC Upstate have struggled even more, failing so far to get a single conference win. A win this weekend, however, will secure a conference tournament spot for Kennesaw State in this final game of the regular season. With it also being Senior Night, there should be more than enough motivation for the Owls to knock off USC Upstate and send their seniors out on a high.
Murray State (Nyomi Devine, Harriet Withers)
This week: at Austin Peay – 11am, Saturday October 25; v Belmont – 5am, Monday October 27
Murray State sit just one game behind Ohio Valley conference leaders SIU Edwardsville, and are just waiting for a slip-up from the top team to allow them to sneak into top spot. This week, the Racers take on a couple of times fighting for a conference tournament spot, and whilst fighting for top spot is motivation for Murray State, their opponents have even more motivation with the desperation to play for a chance at a national tournament bid burning in the hearts of both the Austin Peay and Belmont squads. Nonetheless, Murray State haven’t reached a 5-2-0 record by chance, and they’ll be favourites in both of these games. Harriet Withers and Nyomi Devine have both become solid members of this team, either starting or off the bench, and their performances should continue to be big parts of any success for Murray State this season.
Alabama State (Shelbi Vienna-Hallam)
This week: v Mississippi Valley State – 11am, Saturday October 25; v Alcorn State – 5am, Monday October 27
Alabama State have all but wrapped up a spot in the postseason, and can make it official this week against Mississippi Valley State in their first match of the weekend, before their Monday morning match against literally the worst side in college soccer in Alcorn State. Alabama State faced a very tough draw early in the conference season, and whilst they are currently fifth in the conference, they are facing some less challenging opponents in their future games, so fifth is a good launching pad for the final few games of the season to possibly jump into a top 3 or 4 spot. With Shelbi Vienna-Hallam being a revelation up front since her move from defence and combining with team points leader Aaliyah Lewis sublimely, the Hornets’ goalscoring has been almost unstoppable recently, giving Alabama State great reason to be confident of a win in every game.
Wyoming (Alisha Bass, Georgia Rowntree, Candace Sciberras)
This week: at San Diego State – 12pm, Saturday October 25; at New Mexico, 6am, Monday October 27
This week sees Wyoming travel firstly to San Diego State to take on the Aztecs in a game that is almost certain to decide the Mountain West regular season title before heading east to New Mexico in a tricky match against the fourth placed Lobos. Wyoming and San Diego State have firmly established themselves as the dominant teams in the conference, but they have both had a few scares here and there throughout the conference season. As a timely example, San Diego State’s first loss came in their last game, going down to seventh placed Boise State, meaning Wyoming will have to be wary of a team itching to make amends. New Mexico also lost in their last game, to the same Utah State side that handed Wyoming their only conference loss of the year. Wyoming’s Aussies have been instrumental in the Cowgirls’s successes in 2014, and if they can play as well as they have regularly throughout the season, two wins this weekend could secure the conference regular season title and the top seeding in the tournament.
Creighton (Anastasia McCleary)
This week: at Butler – 10am, Sunday October 26
Creighton went down 1-0 to what appeared to be a much stronger Georgetown last week, and if they can put in a performance like that again, it may just be enough for the Bluejays to take down Butler and jump them on the Big East table. It’s been a tough conference season for Creighton, losing their last three and winning only one of their last seven, but two of their easier games in conference play come this weekend and next weekend against Xavier. It will be interesting to see if Anastasia McCleary starts seeing more game time late in the season, or if the coach continues to rigidly adhere to the gameplan. Clearly McCleary has the class to impact the side positively; it’s now just a case of being given the time to do so.
Pacific (Ellie Papalexiou)
This week: v St. Mary’s – 1pm, Sunday October 26
It’s been a tough old season for Pacific this year, but this match against St. Mary’s will be their best chance this conference season to get a win. Neither Pacific nor St. Mary’s have managed a win in conference play, with St. Mary’s sitting above the Tigers by virtue of their two draws. Amazingly, one of those draws came against high-flying Pepperdine, and if they put in a performance like that again, it will be very tough for Pacific. On the flip side, Pacific have shown touches of class this season and it may very well be a case of which team shows up on the day for both sides. Ellie Papalexiou has been coming off the bench most of the season so far, but in these final games of the season you never quite know what might happen, and hopefully Ellie gets a start either this weekend or next.