We’re right into the meat of the conference season, and this week could be pivotal for a few teams. Hofstra, Murray State and East Tennessee State are right in the fight for conference regular season titles and all three have vital games this weekend. Elsewhere, we have another Aussie v Aussie matchup as Alex Huynh and Kahlia Hogg of Colorado take on Tia Gavin of Washington State.
Hofstra (Emily Hulbert)
This week: at Towson – 6am, Saturday October 10; at James Madison – 4am, Monday October 12
Hofstra went down to UNC Wilmington last weekend but rebounded with a win over College of Charleston to leave themselves in prime position for a run at the Colonial Athletic Association title, and they’ll want to keep that run going against bottom-placed Towson, especially as they then take on top team James Madison in the second game of the weekend. Assuming that the Pride do get the win over Towson in the first game, they will have the chance to take equal first place in the second game of the weekend as James Madison are currently 3-0 in conference play, whilst Hofstra are 3-1. Emily Hulbert will almost certainly come off the bench to provide valuable support for Hofstra again this week, and having a player of her quality come off the bench is invaluable in top of the table clashes like we’ll see this weekend.
Wyoming (Alisha Bass, Annika Clayton, Jessie Gentle, Georgia Rowntree, Candace Sciberras)
This week: v New Mexico – 8am, Saturday October 10; v San Diego State – 6am, Monday October 12
Wyoming are right amongst the chasing pack in the Mountain West Conference but it’ll take some big performances this week to keep them there. They face two of the top three teams in the conference in the forms of New Mexico and last season’s champions San Diego State. Definitely, Wyoming’s best chance at a win this weekend will be in the first game of the weekend as New Mexico have actually conceded 15 goals and only scored 11, whereas San Diego State have only conceded 9 goals for the season and scored 23. With Wyoming conceding only 10 goals in 12 games, defence will be where these games are won for the Cowgirls, although a strikeforce which contains the likes of Shaina Ashouri, Kaitlyn Lomsnes and Australian Jessie Gentle definitely has the firepower to score goals if required. Expect to see all four available Aussies get plenty of playing time as they all cement themselves as starters.
Murray State (Nyomi Devine, Harriet Withers)
This week: at Belmont – 8am, Saturday October 10; at Jacksonville State – 5am, Monday October 12
Sitting pretty at the top of the Ohio Valley Conference standings, Murray State have every reason to be confident of returning to Kentucky with two victories from this away trip. Belmont have won just two games all year, scoring just 7 goals in 12 games. Nyomi Devine and the rest of the Murray State defence has been a bit leaky at times but they should face little problem in keeping a clean sheet in this one, whilst Harriet Withers and the rest of the Racers’ attack should be licking their chops at the prospect of facing a team that’s given up multiple goals on seven occasions this year, although the defence has been a bit more secure recently. Jacksonville State won’t be quite the cupcake that Belmont should be, and despite their similar record to Murray State they have played a lot more teams which sit at the bottom of the national RPI rankings, so Murray State should be able to deal with them as well.
Colorado (Kahlia Hogg, Alexandra Huynh)
This week: v Washington – 8am, Saturday October 10; v Washington State – 6am, Monday October 12
Colorado fell heavily in the RPI rankings, going from an outside shot at a national tournament berth at #55 to well and truly on the outside looking in at #107. Repairing that number has to start this weekend, and if they can pull off wins against the Washington schools this weekend, it’ll be a big boost to the Buffaloes’ CV. It’s going to be very tough though as both teams are amongst the top in the nation this season. Perhaps Colorado’s best chance of victory this weekend will be to keep things tight at the back and make keeping clean sheets priority number one. Fortunately, they have one of the top goalkeepers in the nation in the form of Kate Scheele and Aussie centre back Alex Huynh at the back which would make things tough for any attack. In the second match of the weekend, we may see a direct Aussie v Aussie battle as Alex may face off against Washington State’s Aussie freshman striker Tia Gavin. Hopefully this weekend we also see Kahlia Hogg back from her extended absence from the side.
Washington State (Tia Gavin)
This week: at Utah – 9am, Saturday October 10; at Colorado – 6am, Monday October 12
Washington State started the season with a bang usually reserved for Sydney’s New Year’s Eve fireworks, but have stumbled slightly since then. In a league as competitive as the Pac-12, the Cougars will have to string together a few wins if they are to keep themselves in the hunt for a Pac-12 title. They’ll have their chances to do just that this weekend as they take on a couple of teams that they will be expected to win, albeit on the road. Utah have compiled a reasonable 5-4-3 record, but they do have a win against highly rated California earlier in the year, so they have already proven that they can defeat teams of Washington State’s calibre. Colorado, on the other hand, were looking like making a run at the national tournament until last week’s Oregon road trip that saw the side take two losses after they had also knocked off California. Tia Gavin has been coming off the bench regularly, and hopefully we’ll see her get an extended period on the field, especially against Colorado where she could face off against fellow Aussie Alex Huynh.
Winthrop (Jai Jackson)
This week: at Coastal Carolina – 9am, Saturday October 10
Winthrop sit just the wrong side of the middle of the Big South conference, and things aren’t poised to get any easier for the Eagles this weekend as they take on top side Coastal Carolina. Winthrop’s biggest issue recently has been goalscoring, failing to find the net in three of their last 3 games. Couple this with Coastal Carolina’s stingy defence and it may be a case that Winthrop have to ensure their own defence is also in lockdown mode as they attempt to keep this one low-scoring and catch the Chanticleers on the break. Jai Jackson has become an integral part of the midfield despite coming off the bench, as she plays 60 minutes or so each game. Her ability to control the midfield may be vital in this one as they attempt to prevent Coastal Carolina from seeing too many open chances.
Drexel (Emma Heckenberg)
This week: at Delaware – 10am, Saturday October 10
Drexel are in real danger of falling away from the pack in the Colonial Athletic Association, so really need a win here against Delaware, a team that will jump them if they win this game. Both teams are in patches of bad form, too. Drexel have won just one of their last five, whilst Delaware have just two draws in their last five. Drexel shouldn’t have too much trouble finding goals in this one as Delaware have given up 24 goals so far this season. This could perhaps be a chance for Emma Heckenberg to make a statement – her minutes have been up and down all season, but a game against a leaky defence could give her the opportunity to make an impact if given the chance.
East Tennessee State (Isabel Hodgson)
This week: v Mercer – 10am, Saturday October 10; v The Citadel – 4am, Monday October 12
East Tennessee State remain one of two perfect teams in the Southern Conference at this point, and this weekend they’ll have a chance to put a real gap between themselves and the chasing teams. They play third placed Mercer in the first game of the weekend, and a win here could put them 2 games ahead of third place depending on other results. Following the game against Mercer, the Buccaneers take on bottom placed team The Citadel in a game that you could almost write the result in for now. Rated 320 of 333 Division I teams, The Citadel have just one win this year, over 327th ranked Francis Marion. To lose this game would be incredibly detrimental to East Tennessee State’s chances at a conference title as it would put them behind Samford in the most unexpected way. Isabel Hodgson had her minutes reduced slightly last weekend after her rib injury, but if she’s fit she will be expected to play 90 minutes.
Alabama State (Shelbi Vienna-Hallam)
This week: v Southern – 10am, Saturday October 10; v Jackson State – 5am, Monday October 12
Alabama State were hurt last week by the absence of the Lewis sisters through suspension last week, and they dropped a tight one to Arkansas-Pine Bluff after sneaking by Grambling State. This week, the Hornets are back to full strength and they’ll need to be against Jackson State. Southern shouldn’t pose too much of a problem, with the Jaguars having only scored three goals all season, but Jackson State have long been a force to be reckoned with in the SWAC. Both teams will be desperate for the win as the loser could really fall away from the top side Prairie View A&M, but a full strength Alabama State side should be able to see them off. Shelbi Vienna-Hallam has been moved up front more in the conference season, and got her first goal of the weekend which will hopefully give her the confidence to go on and repeat the exploits of last year’s conference season.
Massachusetts (Laura Johns)
This week: at George Washington – 4am, Monday October 12
Massachusetts have played just two conference matches so far, but have tallied a win and a draw in those games. This weekend, they take on George Washington, whose record is even better with three conference wins and six on the trot altogether. They haven’t been huge victories though, so write the Minutewomen off at your peril. Massachusetts will have to improve their goalscoring though – they have only scored 10 goals in their 10 games this season, whilst their opponents this weekend have banged in 20. Laura Johns has forced her way into the starting side this season, but hopefully her minutes can increase this week as she has only played 50 minutes or so in the last few games despite starting.