Two teams kick off their conference tournaments this week, with UMBC and Hofstra playing for a national tournament berth in the America East and Colonial Athletic Association respectively. Elsewhere, Colorado are right on the edge of securing a national tournament berth but will need some more results if they are to make their way into the big dance.
Pacific (Ellie Papalexiou)
This week: v San Diego – 1pm, Friday October 31; v BYU – 1pm, Sunday November 2
With no conference tournament to play for, Pacific bring their season to a close with games against San Diego and BYU at home. The Tigers will be of little more than nuisance value in these fixtures, although a win against San Diego would foil any ideas the Toreros have of moving from fifth up into third in the conference, whilst BYU are almost assured to have secured the conference title by the time the game on Sunday morning rolls around. At this stage in the season, though, it’s most important to ensure that the side keeps their motivation up and continues playing to the expected level even with little to play for. One player who will have little trouble finding motivation is Ellie Papalexiou. With a senior currently starting in her favoured position of left back, Ellie will be looking to make that position her own next season, and solid performances at the back end of this season are a great way to start.
Nicholls State (Jess Coates)
This week: at Southeastern Louisiana – 7am, Saturday November 1; at Sam Houston State – 5am, Monday November 3
Perhaps the most interesting team to watch this week, Nicholls State need to pick up two wins to ensure they secure a spot in the Southland Conference tournament. This, however, will not be easy at all as they travel to fifth placed Southeastern Louisiana before taking on second placed Sam Houston State. The Colonels can’t be counted out of either game though; whilst their record doesn’t look so hot right now, it’s sometimes been a matter of being their best against the best and worst against the worst. The Colonels have also shaken off a 3 game losing streak with a win against Central Arkansas that saw their attack combining again like we know it can, and with Jess Coates getting back in the groove with a goal and an assist in that win, the Aussie could be instrumental in helping the side to the conference tournament, and why not? It’s what a captain does in times of need, and that’s what Jess has done many times this season.
Colorado (Kahlia Hogg, Alexandra Huynh)
This week: v Arizona State – 8am, Saturday November 1; v Arizona – 7am, Monday November 3
Colorado welcomes the Pac-12’s Arizona teams to Prentup Field this weekend knowing that they need to keep winning if they are to stay in the mix for a national tournament bid. With these two teams sitting directly below Colorado in the conference standings, losses here will not only hurt Colorado’s chances, they will significantly strengthen their opponents’, and even in a conference as stacked as the Pac-12, not every team is going to make the tournament. Arizona are without a win in four games, whilst Colorado are winless in three, although it must be said that both sides have had difficult stretches lately. Arizona State have had much the same trouble, losing to California and Stanford last week after defeating USC two weeks ago. This makes these games incredibly difficult to pick, but Colorado’s home field advantage may just give them the leg-up required. It will be interesting to see if Kahlia Hogg moves back up front or if she remains in the midfield position she played in last week – either way, she’ll be in the starting eleven, whilst Alex Huynh is still recovering from a foot injury.
Wyoming (Alisha Bass, Georgia Rowntree, Candace Sciberras)
This week: v Colorado State – 8am, Saturday November 1, Mountain West Conference Tournament – Starts November 6
With a win required to keep a hold of their second place in the Mountain West, Wyoming could have been handed much tougher challenges than second-bottom Colorado State, but this doesn’t mean they’ll be able to let their standards drop. Colorado State have dropped their last five games straight, although they only fell 1-0 to top team San Diego State, suggesting that the Rams can be hard to break down in defence if they organise themselves properly. Alisha Bass and Candace Sciberras combined for a goal last week, and if they can manage the same kind of play they’ve shown in previous games, alongside the rest of the Wyoming attack, they should be able to grab a goal and force Colorado State into more expansive play, which could lead to even more chances for Wyoming. The Cowgirls then move onto the Mountain West conference tournament – if they remain in second place, they will secure a bye through to the semi-finals, but if they finish in third, they will play in the quarter-finals on November 6 – as yet, their potential opponents are undecided.
Creighton (Anastasia McCleary)
This week: at Xavier – 9:30am, Saturday November 1
The season is coming to an unfortunate early end for Creighton, as the Bluejays missed out on qualifying for the Big East tournament. However, they have a real chance to end their season on a high as they travel to winless Xavier for their final game of the conference schedule. After starting their season with 7 straight wins, Creighton fell back to Earth pretty quickly as the conference season started and the level of competition rose, managing just a win and 2 draws this year in the Big East. Anastasia McCleary was unfortunately not given any time off the bench in last week’s game against Butler, and hopefully she is given some time to impress in this final game of the season, especially given that the game has no meaning to either team other than bragging rights over the other.
Alabama State (Shelbi Vienna-Hallam)
This week: v Alabama A&M – 11am, Saturday November 1
Alabama State come into this final game of the regular season unable to move any higher than 3rd position in the SWAC, but a loss could see them drop to fourth position for the conference tournament. Alabama A&M have split their games evenly in conference play this year, with 3 wins, 3 draws, and 3 losses, but those three wins have come against Grambling State, Alcorn State, and Arkansas Pine-Bluff, which have been gimmes for all other teams in the conference. Therefore, Alabama State will come into this game as favourites, especially with the Hornets being on a six game winning streak. Expect to see Shelbi Vienna-Hallam playing up front once again as she looks to extend her lead at the top of the College Matildas goalscoring and assist lists.
Murray State (Nyomi Devine, Harriet Withers)
This week: at Tennessee-Martin – 11am, Saturday November 1
Murray State can do both themselves and Southeast Missouri State a massive favour this weekend, as they take on Tennessee-Martin. With Tennessee-Martin sitting in third and Murray State in fourth, a win for Murray State will not only prevent Tennessee-Martin passing Southeast Missouri State for second if the Redhawks were to lose their final game, it would also see the Racers jump their opponents for third place and secure a much easier matchup in the conference tournament. Murray State had an unfortunate upset loss to Belmont in their last game, but won the four games prior to that, whilst Tennessee-Martin are on a 5 game unbeaten streak, winning their last 3. The two teams’ results have been very similar all season, and it may be Tennessee-Martin’s home advantage that gives them the slight edge here. Don’t expect that to come into Murray State’s thinking – there is a notable difference in this conference between the top 5 and the rest of the teams, so clinching that 3 v 6 matchup instead of the 4 v 5 in the conference tournament can be a massive motivator. Nyomi Devine has been a rock at the back for the Racers, whilst Harriet Withers has been finding a range of chances in recent games; if she can start finding the net again, it could spell real trouble for Tennessee-Martin.
Southeast Missouri State (Jenna Collingridge, Maddy Cornell, Bridget Sankey)
This week: at SIU Edwardsville – 11am, Saturday November 1
Southeast Missouri State picked up two wins last week which means this game will decide whether SIU Edwardsville win the Ohio Valley regular season title outright, or if the two sides share the prize. Furthermore, the Redhawks need the win to ensure they finish in 2nd and secure a bye in the first round of the conference tournament. SIU Edwardsville have won their last 4 games, whilst Southeast Missouri State have won their past 5, with both sides’ last loss coming against Austin Peay. There is little to pick amongst these two sides, and it may take a moment of brilliance to split them – could we see a repeat of last week’s 2 goal performance from Jenna Collingridge?
UMBC (Lilly Rydon)
This week – America East Conference Tournament – Starts November 3
UMBC have earned themselves a bye in the first round of the America East conference tournament, and will come up against the winner of the game between Binghamton and New Hampshire in the semi-finals. Whilst these teams both finished below UMBC in the conference standings, both will have reason to be confident of knocking off the Retrievers in the semi-finals – Binghamton defeated UMBC 1-0, whilst New Hampshire secured a 0-0 tie. Evidently both teams have the ability to shut down UMBC’s scoring ability, which hasn’t been firing on all cylinders for most of the season anyway, and the likes of Lilly Rydon will have to be on their game to get the side through the conference tournament for a repeat showing at the national tournament after last season’s domination of the America East.
Hofstra (Emily Hulbert)
This week – Colonial Athletic Association Conference Tournament – Starts November 3
Unlike UMBC, Hofstra know who they’ll be playing first up in the conference tournament, as they finished third and take on sixth placed Towson. The Pride defeated Towson 1-0 in their only meeting this season, and if they replicate that result this week, they’ll take on James Madison, a side against which they will not want to replicate the same result, as the Dukes defeated Hofstra 3-1 in their previous meeting. Hofstra have improved since that loss though, going on a six match unbeaten streak which includes five wins, and they’ll have plenty of reason to believe that they can overturn that result. After starting the season on the bench, Emily Hulbert has been a revelation in defence since moving to the starting lineup, although her ability to pop up with a shot makes her a threat at both ends.