It’s getting frantic in college women’s soccer as teams fight for spots in conference tournaments, and there are plenty of Aussies whose teams are right in the hunt but haven’t quite secured their spot yet. By far, the most fascinating game of the weekend will be the match between Hofstra and Drexel, where Emily Hulbert and Emma Heckenberg will face off as Emily’s Hofstra side look to secure first place in the Colonial Athletic Association, whilst Emma and Drexel just look to make the conference tournament.
Murray State (Nyomi Devine, Harriet Withers)
This week: v SIU Edwardsville – 7:00am, Saturday October 24; v Eastern Illinois – 5:00am, Monday October 26
Murray State secured a place in the Ohio Valley conference tournament last week as they moved to 7-0, and this week they continue their march towards the conference regular season title and top seed in the conference tournament. Playing two of the lower teams in the conference, the Racers look likely to pick up two more wins and secure first place this weekend. Ironically, it could be against last year’s co-champions SIU Edwardsville that the Racers claim the title. It has been a rather alarming fall from grace for the Cougars as they have won just five games this season and sit in 8th place in the conference. Eastern Illinois are having an even worse season. With just three wins all season and only one in conference play, the Panthers are rooted to the bottom of the league table and are rated as one of the lowest 20 teams in the nation. With Nyomi Devine and the Racers’ defence covering things superbly at the back, Harriet Withers and the rest of the Murray State strikeforce could have a field day in each of these games.
Wyoming (Alisha Bass, Annika Clayton, Jessie Gentle, Georgia Rowntree, Candace Sciberras)
This week: v Boise State – 8:00am, Saturday October 24; v Utah State – 6:00am, Monday October 26
It’s been a slightly lacklustre conference slate for Wyoming, but they have two eminently winnable games this weekend before their final day rivalry game against Colorado State next week. The Cowgirls need to win these games too; they are currently out of the conference tournament spots and losses to either team this weekend will mean one less team that Wyoming have even a mathematical chance of leapfrogging into a spot. As with most teams in the middle of the pack at this time of year, both of Wyoming’s opponents, as well as the Cowgirls themselves, have had a real problem with inconsistency, so it may just be a matter of who shows up on the day in these games. Expect all four Aussies who are available to play big parts in both games as they step up into roles that belie their youth in a side with no seniors on the roster.
Drexel (Emma Heckenberg)
This week: at Northeastern – 9:00am, Saturday October 24; at Hofstra – 4:00am, Monday October 26
Drexel move into their final two matches of the regular season needing wins if they are to reach the conference tournament, but they may have left their run a bit late as they face two of the toughest teams in the Colonial Athletic Association. Northeastern are defending conference champions and right in with a shot at winning again as they sit just one win off the lead coming into the final weekend. The Dragons’ second match will be even tougher, as an Aussie v Aussie matchup featuring Emma Heckenberg and Emily Hulbert sees Drexel take on conference leaders Hofstra. Ironically, if Drexel do win both of these games, they could not only reach the conference tournament, but knock Hofstra from top seed for the conference tournament. Hopefully we see Emma Heckenberg get some solid minutes this weekend, especially because it would be great to see two Aussies coming up against each other.
East Tennessee State (Isabel Hodgson)
This week: v Samford – 10:00am, Saturday October 24; v Chattanooga – 5:00am, Monday October 26
East Tennessee State slipped slightly off the pace in the Southern Conference with two losses last week, but are still right in the mix when it comes to getting a good seed for the conference tournament, which is what it’s all about at this time of year. First up, the Buccaneers take on top side Samford. This will be the biggest challenge that the side have faced in about 6 weeks, with Samford having not conceded a goal in conference play this season, comprehensively dealing with all of their opponents so far. To say Chattanooga will not be as tough is stating the obvious, but they are sitting second-bottom in the league, so East Tennessee State should have little trouble winning that one. Isabel Hodgson suffered a twinge to her knee last week but was given the all clear to carry on so expect her back playing 90 minutes this week.
Hofstra (Emily Hulbert)
This week: v Delaware – 10:00am, Saturday October 24; v Drexel – 4:00am, Monday October 26
Hofstra secured a conference tournament berth last week, and this weekend they go on the hunt for the top spot as they take on lower sides Delaware and Drexel. Delaware are the epitome of a middle of the road team, with a 7-7-2 record so far, scoring 24 goals and conceding 26. Hofstra’s strength has definitely been their attack, scoring 37 goals so far this season, which makes them the 14th highest scoring team in the nation. This means that despite conceding 21 goals, the Pride remain a solid chance to win even when they do concede. The match against Drexel will be yet another Aussie v Aussie matchup this season, as Emily Hulbert takes on Emma Heckenberg, although as that will be Hofstra’s senior night, minutes will almost certainly be limited for Emily in that game.
Alabama State (Shelbi Vienna-Hallam)
This week: v Texas Southern – 11:00am, Saturday October 24; v Prairie View A&M – 5:00am, Monday October 26
Alabama State copped a bit of a hiding at the hands of Mississippi Valley State in their last match, so they’ll be looking to bounce back against two teams who are chasing them for a top 3 spot in the SWAC. Texas Southern currently sit seventh in the league, so a win not only gives them a chance to jump up the table, it may also secure their spot in the eight-team conference tournament, so they’ll be hungrier than ever to pick up a win. Assuming Alabama State can come out with the same desire, they should still be able to deal with Texas Southern in this one. Prairie View A&M will be a slightly tougher challenge. The two sides appear on paper to be quite well-matched, with Prairie View A&M perhaps being favourites despite Alabama State’s better conference record. These sides could meet again in the first round of the SWAC tournament, so this game could be a good barometer for the future. Shelbi Vienna-Hallam picked up a goal last week against Alcorn State, and her ability in front of goal may prove pivotal this weekend against some tougher opponents.
Colorado (Kahlia Hogg, Alex Huynh)
This week: at UCLA – 12:00pm, Saturday October 24; at USC – 5:00am, Monday October 26
Colorado are out of the title hunt in the Pac-12 after other results went against them in midweek, but the Buffaloes still have pride to play for as they travel to Los Angeles for matches against UCLA and USC. UCLA were expected to be one of the favourites for the national title, but most observers severely underestimated the effect that graduating a class that included six now-NWSL players (including W-League players Sarah Killion, Abby Dahlkemper, Megan Oyster, and Caprice Dydasco) would have on the side this year, and they actually sit at 6-7-1 now, a far cry from the last two years, and a record that even sees Colorado sitting above them overall. Still, with dismal away record and UCLA’s solid home record, this will still be a tough one for the Buffaloes. They then take on USC, who are coached by Keidane McAlpine, who coached Aussie defender Rachael Doyle at Washington State. USC will be expected to win this one as they continue their march towards the national tournament, but this is the Pac-12, where every team has real quality. Besides, there’s nothing a team that’s out of the hunt loves more than playing spoiler for a big team, and hopefully Colorado can do that to the Women of Troy this weekend. Alex Huynh was a deflection away from her first goal last weekend (although she did force an own goals), so hopefully she can go one better this week whilst also keeping things tight at the back.
Winthrop (Jai Jackson)
This week: at Radford – 9:00am, Sunday October 25
With eight teams qualifying for the Big South conference tournament and Winthrop sitting in 10th place, the Eagles could really do with a win to give themselves a chance to sneak into the field. Fortunately, this week they take on bottom team Radford with a win possibly seeing them move up two or three spots in the league after a midweek loss to Liberty slipped them down the standings slightly. Winthrop have found it tough to score goals all season, scoring just 13, but Radford have given up 30 in their 16 games. This will be by no means an easy win for Winthrop, but the lure of a tournament spot against a team that has really nothing to play for should be enough for the Eagles to get them over the line. Look for Jai Jackson to continue to play the majority of minutes, if not the full 90, as her role within the Winthrop side has grown in recent weeks.
Creighton (Anastasia McCleary)
This week: at Xavier – 4:00am, Monday October 26
Creighton fell out of contention for the Big East conference tournament with a midweek double overtime loss to Butler, but the side can still finish on the right side of .500 if they finish with wins this week against Xavier and next week against Georgetown. The Bluejays should have little problem dealing with Xavier if they play to their ability, although both sides have managed just two wins each in conference play, and one of those was against Villanova, a side who appear to be challenging the NBA’s 76ers for the title of worst team in Philadelphia. Creighton’s non-conference record was far better though, and it is probably more a case that Creighton are the best of the teams that have dropped away from the pack in the Big East. Anastasia McCleary had 44 minutes against Butler in midweek and hopefully that continues as the Aussie senior looks to finish her college career on a high.
Massachusetts (Laura Johns)
This week: at VCU – 4:00am, Monday October 26
A midweek loss to Duquesne put Massachusetts dangerously close to the cut line for the Atlantic 10 tournament, and things aren’t poised to get easier for them this week as they take on second-placed VCU. The Minutewomen will almost certainly have to pick up at least two wins to reach the conference tournament, which considering their final three opponents will mean two upset wins. It wouldn’t be their first upset win in conference play, though, as they have already defeated La Salle earlier in the season, who now sit two places above them in the league standings. However, VCU are the equal top scoring team in the conference, so it will be up to the Massachusetts defence to stymie their attacks. Laura Johns has come off the bench regularly, but has played as many minutes as some starters, so it will hardly be a bad thing if she starts on the bench again in this match, as has been common this season.
Albany (Claire Urquhart)
This week: v Maine – 5:00am, Monday October 26
With Stony Brook playing UMBC this weekend, Albany are guaranteed a conference tournament spot, but there is still massive incentive for the Great Danes to get a win in this game against Maine. A win will send Albany above Maine in the conference standings, and potentially into 2nd spot and a bye into the semi-finals of the six team tournament. It won’t be easy though, especially as Maine themselves could clinch top spot if they win and other results go their way. The game is in Albany though, where the home side have won 4 of 6 games this season. Maine, on the other hand, have won just 2 of 7 away. It could be a frantic final day in the America East conference, and this game will be just one to watch. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear as though Claire Urquhart will feature.
Southeast Missouri State (Jenna Collingridge, Maddy Cornell, Siena Senatore)
This week: v Tennessee Tech – 5:00am, Monday October 26
Top spot in the Ohio Valley conference will not belong to Southeast Missouri State as it did last year, but they are well and truly in the hunt for second spot with two games to play. A win this weekend against Tennessee Tech will put the two sides even on points, but they will still be relying on other results if they are to still be in the hunt next weekend. One thing is for sure: if Southeast Missouri State win this game, they are in the conference tournament. A loss won’t be devastating to their hopes, but it will leave them sweating a bit. Neither side in this one has remarkable records at home or away, and the Redhawks are coming off a draw against a similarly rated team to Tennessee Tech in the form of Morehead State in midweek, so expect this one to be tight. Maddy Cornell has been the surprise starter of the Aussies recently, with Jenna Collingridge still coming off the bench, but Siena Senatore’s appearances have been limited lately.
Washington State (Tia Gavin)
This week: v California – 7:00am, Monday October 26
Washington State came within a minute of snaring a draw against #4 ranked Stanford in midweek, and for their weekend fixture they face the team from the other side of San Francisco Bay as California come to town. The Golden Bears stuttered early in conference play, losing their first two games (including against Aussie-laden Colorado), but rebounded to win five in a row and be firing on all cylinders at the right end of the season. Another performance like the one they put in against Stanford would put the Cougars right in the mix in this one though, and a win would not be surprising at all as the Cougars try to put themselves in position to jump California in the back end of the season. Tia Gavin had 29 minutes and almost scored against Stanford (a teammate reached the deflection to put it home just in front of Tia), which is a lot more than the 3 she had in the Cougars’ last game as she continues to be an impact player, which will no doubt continue to be the case against California.