This week includes a match that could see five Aussies on the pitch without involving Wyoming, as Nyomi Devine and Harriet Withers of Murray State take on Jenna Collingridge, Maddy Cornell, and Siena Senatore of Southeast Missouri State. Elsewhere, East Tennessee State look to continue their perfect start to conference play, whilst Hofstra continue their run towards a possible at-large bid.
Massachusetts (Laura Johns)
This week: v La Salle – 6am, Friday October 2; v Richmond – 4am, Monday October 5
Massachusetts only had a midweek game last week so it’s been a while since we’ve talked about them in the preview. They kick off their conference slate against a couple of teams in the Atlantic 10 with poorer records in the form of La Salle and Richmond. La Salle’s 3-4-2 record belies their ability though; they have played a very tough schedule and they would perhaps be expected to defeat Massachusetts. Richmond have also played a tough schedule, but their wins have come against some very low teams whilst their losses have come against six RPI Top 100 teams, so they haven’t played anybody in between, exactly where Massachusetts sit. Expect two tight contests, with Massachusetts’ defence, which has been notoriously stingy so far, doing its best to give the Minutewomen a chance. Laura Johns has 3 assists for the season and it may be one of her incisive passes from midfield that sets the side up for a winner or two this week as she plays an hour or so in each game, as per usual.
Albany (Claire Urquhart)
This week: v Binghamton – 9am, Friday October 2; at New Hampshire – 5am, Monday October 5
Albany have a had an inconsistent season and it continued that way with a frustrating draw against UMBC last week. This week, they get their biggest chance at a win that they’ll have throughout most of the conference season against lowly Binghamton, a side that has only scored in 2 of their 10 games this season. New Hampshire, the Great Danes’ second opponents of the weekend, beat Binghamton 6-0 last weekend but before that had lost five on the trot. Albany would probably settle for a draw if it came to it in this one, but they should really be looking for two wins this weekend. Claire Urquhart hasn’t seen any playing time in a few weeks – maybe a game against a lower team will see some rotation that allows her some solid minutes this weekend.
Creighton (Anastasia McCleary)
This week: v DePaul – 10am, Friday October 2; v Villanova – 5am, Monday October 5
It was a less than auspicious start to conference play for Creighton as they went down 5-1 to Marquette after taking the lead inside 10 minutes. DePaul will provide an even tougher test than Marquette did, with the Blue Demons currently sitting at 7-2-2, even knocking off Northwestern 3-0 (albeit in an exhibition game). Creighton will get their chance to dominate a game if they want to take it against Villanova, though. ‘Nova, as they are known, is also Spanish for “not going”, which aptly describes the Wildcats’ attack, which has been shut out in 8 games so far this year. Couple this with Creighton’s potent attack which has scored 9 goals in the last 4 games, and this is easily the Bluejays’ best chance of a win. Anastasia McCleary has been managed as she gets back to full fitness, so perhaps we will see her play solid minutes in one game and less in the second as has been the case in recent weeks.
Washington State (Tia Gavin)
This week: v USC – 12pm, Friday October 2; v UCLA – 5am, Monday October 5
Washington State started conference play in the best possible fashion with a win over Arizona State, and this weekend host the Pac-12’s Los Angeles schools. Keidane McAlpine left Washington State for USC after the 2013 season, so there is a bit of history between these two sides outside of the general conference rivalry. It’s a bit tough to know how much of a test these teams will be; USC have lost a few close games to some very good teams, whilst UCLA were touted to make another deep run in the national tournament, but have started 5-4 after losing six players to the NWSL, including new Adelaide United W-League signings Sarah Killion and Abby Dahlkemper with the second and third picks of the 2015 draft. The question is: are they just starting to gel, or are there some real roster problems? Regardless, Washington State will have a lot thrown at them this weekend but they do have it in them to turn 8-1 into 10-1. Tia Gavin has been a real impact player off the bench, and this will probably be her spot this weekend too and possibly for the rest of this season.
Murray State (Nyomi Devine, Harriet Withers)
This week: v Tennessee-Martin – 6am, Saturday October 3; v Southeast Missouri State – 6am, Monday October 5
Murray State won their first conference game a couple of weeks ago, but then lost a non-conference game to Saint Louis last weekend. This weekend, they come up against two teams who went undefeated last weekend, but more importantly, their second game of the weekend is against the Aussie-filled Southeast Missouri State. First though, they have to deal with Tennessee-Martin, who are looking good after starting the conference schedule with wins over Eastern Illinois and SIU Edwardsville last week. Murray State will be favourites in this game, and they’ll also be expected to defeat Southeast Missouri State in a match where a total of five Aussies could be on the pitch at once (which is rare when Wyoming aren’t playing). Especially interesting will be the potential battle between Siena Senatore and Harriet Withers, whilst we may also see Maddy Cornell taking on Nyomi Devine on the flank.
Alabama State (Shelbi Vienna-Hallam)
This week: at Grambling State – 7am, Saturday October 3; at Arkansas-Pine Bluff – 5am, Monday October 5
Alabama State pulled off one of the shocks of the season last week, downing Howard 1-0 in the conference opener. That win alone should give them the confidence to go on and really put the hammer down in these matches against some of the lesser lights of the SWAC. Grambling State have played just five games this year, conceding five or more goals in all of those games, and Alabama State do love scoring goals when they get the chance. Arkansas-Pine Bluff will pose more of a test, but the Hornets will still be expecting to go two from two this weekend. Shelbi Vienna-Hallam continues to dance around the pitch, but hopefully we’ll see her dancing around defenders as she gets a bit more game time up front moving into conference play.
Hofstra (Emily Hulbert)
This week: v UNC Wilmington – 9am, Saturday October 3; v College of Charleston – 3am, Monday October 5
Hofstra continue their tough start to the conference season with two games this weekend against teams that went undefeated in the opening weekend of the CAA schedule. UNC Wilmington defeated Emma Heckenberg’s Drexel side and drew with Delaware last weekend. Couple that with their solid non-conference schedule and they sit at 8-3-1 and pose a real threat to the favourites. College of Charleston have put together an 8-3 record of their own, and are sitting on five straight wins, including two last week against the same opponents that UNC Wilmington faced. Hofstra are still favourites to win these, and they’ll have to as they continue in their attempts to put together a record that will secure them an at-large bid if they fail to win the conference title. Emily Hulbert again came off the bench to play her regular half-hour or so in each game last week, and that seems to have become her role in the team this year, so expect little to change this week.
East Tennessee State (Isabel Hodgson)
This week: v Western Carolina – 9am, Saturday October 3
East Tennessee State had a great weekend last weekend, winning both games to start 2-0 in conference play. This weekend, they take on Western Carolina, who faced the same opponents as the Buccaneers last week and defeated VMI but lost to UNC Greensboro. On the face of it, that seems to show that ETSU should be favourites, but it’s not that simple. Western Carolina have put together a solid 5-4-2 record and are well ahead of East Tennessee State in the RPI rankings. The Buccaneers’ attack will have to be on song to get a win here too; Western Carolina have conceded just eight goals in their 11 games so far. Isabel Hodgson shook off a possible cracked rib last weekend to play 90 minutes in the weekend’s second game, and expect her to play the full 90 again this weekend.
Drexel (Emma Heckenberg)
This week: v Towson – 9am, Saturday October 3; v James Madison – 5am, Monday October 5
It wasn’t a good start for Drexel in conference play last week as they went down in two tight contests, and they’ll be in for another couple of challenges this weekend. The middle of the Colonial Athletic Association is so tight, and the Dragons need to pick up wins quickly. Towson look to be their best chance, as they have only defeated one team currently above 250 in the RPI Rankings. Drexel’s wins are by no means against luminaries of the game, but their record definitely indicates they have the edge. James Madison, on the other hand, are one of the sides that will be an outside shot at chasing the title, and this game will possibly be a bridge too far unfortunately. If the Dragons are to win, though, Emma Heckenberg may be one player that they look to – after playing just 84 minutes in five sub appearances in non-conference schedule, she played 140 minutes in two games last weekend.
Southeast Missouri State (Jenna Collingridge, Maddy Cornell, Siena Senatore)
This week: at Austin Peay – 10am, Saturday October 3; at Murray State – 6am, Monday October 5
Fresh off a 5-0 victory over Eastern Illinois last week, Southeast Missouri State continue their quest for a second consecutive regular season conference championship with an eminently winnable game against Austin Peay. The Governors have put together a 4-5 record but their wins (and even a couple of their losses) have come against many of the weaker teams in the country. Following that match, Jenna, Maddy and Siena go into an Aussie v Aussie battle with Nyomi Devine and Harriet Withers. Aside from the Aussie factor, this match could also help shape the Ohio Valley Conference title battle with both teams seemingly in the mix to win the regular season title. Siena Senatore could face Harriet Withers directly in this game and that tussle could be one that decides the game.
Wyoming (Alisha Bass, Annika Clayton, Jessie Gentle, Georgia Rowntree, Candace Sciberras)
This week: at Air Force – 10am, Saturday October 3; at Colorado College – 7am, Monday October 5
Wyoming had a win and a loss last weekend, and it appears rather likely that this will be the case again this weekend. Air Force shouldn’t be too difficult to deal with for the Cowgirls – the Falcons have played a schedule with more cupcakes than the last series of Great British Bake-Off, yet have only been able to secure three wins in ten games. Colorado College may prove to a far tougher assignment though; star striker Sarah Schweiss has been in solid form this year, and they have had the added time gelling as they represented the United States at World University Games over the American summer. They have only registered four wins in 11 games, but in many of these were games they were never given a snowball’s chance in hell of winning. This could turn into a seriously close contest, with the Cowgirls just slight underdogs. The four Aussies, all of whom are in scintillating form recently, won’t let that stop them as they form an integral part of the Wyoming side. Canadian striker Kaitlyn Lomsnes may be back for these games, which will improve Wyoming’s chances even further.
Colorado (Kahlia Hogg, Alex Huynh)
This week: at Oregon – 12pm, Saturday October 3; at Oregon State – 5am, Monday October 5
Colorado came up huge last weekend with a win over California, but that will be all for nothing if they can’t get two wins on this away trip to Oregon. With both sides currently possessing records below .500, dropping results here would require some fairly sizeable upset victories down the stretch to keep things on track. Fortunately for the Buffaloes, they are more than equipped to take down both sides. Colorado are on a long run of good form, with six wins in their last seven games, with four clean sheets and only three goals conceded in that stretch. Alex Huynh has been a big part of that, and we can expect to see her play the majority of minutes in these games. Kahlia Hogg has been out for a while now, but hopefully she’ll be coming back soon.
Winthrop (Jai Jackson)
This week: at High Point – 10am, Sunday October 4
Winthrop take on High Point this weekend after a win and a draw last week, but it’s going to be tough for them to make this game a high point of this season. High Point have compiled a 6-2-3 record to this point, although they did lose to Longwood, whom Winthrop drew with last weekend. In the end, it may come down to home advantage in this one, as High Point have four wins and a draw from their five home games this season. Jai Jackson has come off the bench regularly but early in games, and chances are she will play around an hour in an attacking role off the bench again this week. Hopefully soon she can get a start instead!