With Aussies involved in title battles and fights for at-large bids, this weekend shapes to be one of the most pivotal in some seasons. For the likes of Hofstra, Murray State, and East Tennessee State, top billing in the league is at stake, whist for Washington State, a few more wins in quick succession could see them become a lock for the national tournament. Also in the Pac-12, Colorado have reached the point where they have to win out if they are going to stay in the conversation for the national tournament, but nothing is impossible in college women’s soccer!
Hofstra (Emily Hulbert)
This week: at Northeastern – 9am, Saturday October 17
Hofstra are looking good for a national tournament berth as things stand, but they’ll have to keep winning. That’s a lot easier said than done this weekend as the Pride take on Northeastern in a clash of the top rated teams in the Colonial Athletic Association. The Huskies have won four on the trot in conference play and are favoured to take out the conference title, but Hofstra have their own share of admirers. One thing is for sure, this will be an exciting game as both teams have been exponents of the “we’ll just score more” philosophy in recent weeks. Emily Hulbert’s minutes jumped slightly last weekend as she played 40 against James Madison and hopefully that number rises again in this game.
East Tennessee State (Isabel Hodgson)
This week: at Furman – 10am, Saturday October 17; at Wofford – 5am, Monday October 19
East Tennessee State may have the second-best record in the Southern Conference, but this weekend’s games are a far cry from the likes of last week’s 8-0 smashing of The Citadel. Most notably, this is because Furman have something no other team in the Southern Conference has: Stephanie DeVita. With 10 goals in 15 games, the striker is the best attacking weapon that the Buccaneers will face in conference play, and if she is allowed space, she will destroy the ETSU defence. Wofford aren’t quite as threatening as that, but they will still provide a reasonable test. If ETSU can shut down DeVita, two wins from two is a distinct possibility this weekend as they continue to chase Samford for the conference regular season title. Injury and last week’s Senior Night have had Isabel Hodgson fluctuating between full games and restricted minutes, but that is all out of the way now and the South Australian freshman should be back playing 90 minutes every game from here on out.
Drexel (Emma Heckenberg)
This week: v William and Mary – 10:30am, Saturday October 17; v Elon – 3am, Monday October 19
It’s not been a good start to the conference season for Drexel, winning just one of their first five games. They will be well and truly up against it this weekend too, especially in their first match against third placed William and Mary. Featuring an Australian assistant coach, Vanessa Mann, the Tribe have conceded just 9 goals this season whilst banging home 26 of their own, which alone shows the situation that Drexel find themselves in. Regardless of the result in that one, the Dragons will need to dust themselves off because they have a real chance of springing an upset against Elon. The Phoenix started their season almost as well as William and Mary, but their record belied their ability slightly due to their schedule, and in conference play they are in a similar boat to Drexel. Being the second opponent of a road trip will assist Drexel, and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if they picked up a win. Hopefully Emma Heckenberg sees the same sort of playing time she did at the start of the conference schedule, but it will be more likely that she gets more of a cameo role off the bench.
Southeast Missouri State (Jenna Collingridge, Maddy Cornell, Siena Senatore)
This week: v Belmont – 10:30am, Saturday October 17; v Jacksonville State – 5am, Monday October 19
The Aussie trio at Southeast Missouri State have been seeing more and more playing time lately, and this week may be a chance for them to really show their wares in different situations as the Redhawks take on bottom team Belmont followed by fellow mid-pack team Jacksonville State. Southeast Missouri State have laboured slightly in some of their games against much lower opponents and will need to snap out of that trend or they face the distinct possibility of being burned by Belmont and putting themselves behind the eight ball before the second game of the weekend. If the Redhawks beat Jacksonville State and Belmont, they will jump the Dolphins for 4th place in the conference. But lose both games, and they could drop three or four positions depending on other results.
Colorado (Kahlia Hogg, Alex Huynh)
This week: at Stanford – 11am, Saturday October 17
To characterise Colorado’s last couple of weeks as disastrous may be a slight exaggeration, but their season is now at the point where another loss could be terminal for their national tournament hopes. 3 losses and a draw in their last four games have sunk their RPI outside the top 100 with some very tough games to play, including this one against Stanford. The good news is that if they can pull off an upset against the #4 team in the nation, it could be the start of something that eventually gets them back in the conversation. The Buffaloes will have to be at their finest though; the Cardinal are #4 for a reason, with an 11-2 record so far, scoring 24 goals and conceding 8. There’s no reason to point out a certain position Colorado will have to be strong at; the entire squad will have to be at their best. Alex Huynh will hopefully be a big part of a famous victory in this one, but it is beginning to seem less and less likely that we’ll see Kahlia Hogg return.
Alabama State (Shelbi Vienna-Hallam)
This week: at Alcorn State – 11am, Saturday October 17; at Mississippi Valley State – 5am, Monday October 19
With their squad back at full strength, Alabama State go hunting for the conference lead this week as they take on possibly the worst team in NCAA Division I Women’s Soccer before facing off against the conference leaders. Alcorn State have actually played with fewer than 11 players on the pitch in no less than three matches this season, and Alabama State beat then 8-1 last season when both sides actually had 11 players on the pitch, so that game could be a laugher (but it’s really not funny that a Division I program can’t field a full team). A win against Mississippi Valley State, however, could put the Hornets into the outright conference lead, and no worse than a tie for first depending on other results. They’ll need to be at their best to win this one though; a performance like the shock win against Howard would be ideal! Shelbi Vienna-Hallam has been playing full games at the top of an attacking trio that features Aaliyah and Ariela Lewis, so goals should not be a problem, and the defence has been finding some consistency lately, giving Alabama State plenty of reason to be confident.
Washington State (Tia Gavin)
This week: v Arizona – 1pm, Saturday October 17
Washington State are moving ever closer to securing a national tournament spot, but with still six games to play they can’t afford to stop winning. This week, they come up against another team chasing an at large bid in Arizona. The Wildcats have been in some rotten form lately though, conceding 8 goals in two heavy losses last weekend, so the Cougars will surely be eyeing off the chance to dominate this game. Besides, they really do need to keep up their good form, because a couple of wins soon could lock up an at-large bid early, but a loss or two could send them right back onto the bubble. Tia Gavin scored a peach of an effort last week and hopefully the success she has had off the bench will see the Cougars coach more likely to give the freshman some more playing time this week.
Wyoming (Alisha Bass, Annika Clayton, Jessie Gentle, Georgia Rowntree, Candace Sciberras)
This week: at UNLV – 1pm, Saturday October 17; at Nevada – 7am, Monday October 19
Wyoming make the trip to Nevada this week looking for two wins to launch them up the Mountain West conference standings. The Cowgirls have had a reasonable year, with 6 wins and 4 draws in 14 games, but the conference schedule has been less than kind so far and they currently sit at just 2-3-1 in conference play. Wyoming’s stingy defence, of which Alisha Bass has been a surprisingly large part given she played as a number 10 last season, will be the focal point here. Goals shouldn’t be a problem; Wyoming’s strike force is up there with the best in the conference and the defences of the two Nevada schools are fairly leaky. Take advantage of this, and it should be 2 from 2 for the Cowgirls and possibly a catapult into a decent spot for the conference tournament. Once again, we should see all four Aussies starting and playing the majority of minutes, except for Georgia Rowntree who will play the first half in each game as part of the goalkeeper rotation.
Winthrop (Jai Jackson)
This week: at Campbell – 4am, Sunday October 18
Winthrop suffered a loss to Charleston Southern in midweek and things aren’t poised to get any easier as they take on conference frontrunners Campbell. Winthrop have slipped to ninth in the 11 team Big South conference and their record sits at 4-7-2, a far cry from their opponents’ 10-5 for the season. The Fighting Camels (yes, that is Campbell’s nickname) have also smashed home 15 goals in seven conference games, so Winthrop’s defence will have to be in lockdown mode. Jai Jackson, however, will be more concerned with getting the ball into the net at the other end rather than keeping out, and will be hoping to have a more tangible impact this week after playing 90 minutes last week.
Creighton (Anastasia McCleary)
This week: v Providence – 5am, Sunday October 18
Creighton have put together an impressive overall record of 10-6, but the conference portion of that record reads only 2-3, which leaves them hovering around the middle of the Big East. This week, they face off against Providence, who have the exact same league record, and also a 9-6 record overall. It could be argued that Providence have compiled that record against slightly stronger opposition, but it really would be splitting hairs as this is poised to be a very close encounter, with Creighton slight underdogs. Anastasia McCleary will almost certainly feature off the bench again in what will be her second-last home regular season game.
Massachusetts (Laura Johns)
This week: v Rhode Island – 4am, Monday October 19
A midweek 4-0 win over Davidson has set Massachusetts up nicely for the weekend’s game against conference bottom-feeders Rhode Island, where a win could put the side within reach of a top four spot in the Atlantic 10 if results go their way. Laura Johns had an assist in 27 minutes of play in the win over Davidson in what appeared on paper to be headed for a close encounter between two teams next to each other in the conference standings. If the Minutewomen can keep up that kind of form in games against the lesser lights of the conference, a very good conference record is on offer for them if they’re prepared to go out there and get it.
Albany (Claire Urquhart)
This week: at Vermont – 4am, Monday October 19
After a promising non-conference slate, it’s been a tough start to the America East for Albany, with just 1 win from 4 games. It won’t be easy for them to get their next win this weekend as they take on second placed Vermont, a side threatening to break away from the chasing pack and split the top two from the remaining teams. With no goals in their last two games, the onus is really on the attackers to step things up this weekend. Without goals, the Great Danes won’t be getting wins, and dropping results is not something the side can afford right now. Claire Urquhart has seen very little playing time recently and unfortunately that looks unlikely to change.
Murray State (Nyomi Devine, Harriet Withers)
This week: at Tennessee Tech – 5am, Monday October 19
After a midweek win over Morehead State that featured a goal from Harriet Withers took the Racers to 6-0 in conference play, this weekend they take on a Tennessee Tech side that has put together a solid 4-1 conference record of their own. Murray State will still be the favourites in this one – their conference schedule so far has seen them take on more of the heavyweights than their opponents, not to mention the difference in overall schedule and record (9-4 to 6-5-3). As usual, Harriet Withers and Nyomi Devine will be vital cogs in the Racers’ machine that is running, ironically, like a finely tuned race car!