(Featured Image Credit: Jonathan Heisler, Hofstra University)
Six conference tournaments featuring Aussies kick off this weekend, with those players set to have varying degrees of impact on their teams’ fortunes. Undoubtedly, the two tournaments to watch this week are the Southern Conference and Colonial Athletic Association tournaments, both of which feature multiple teams for whom Aussies have played integral roles in getting them this far.
In the Southern Conference, both Isabel Hodgson’s East Tennessee State side and Kate Swartwout’s Western Carolina outfit have both earned spots in the tournament, with both teams earning byes to the quarter-finals as the 3rd and 4th seeds. Hodgson and the Buccaneers will face 6th seeded Mercer in their first game, whilst Swartwout’s Catamounts side face a Furman side that is usually among the contenders but has slipped to 5th this season. Although both sides come in as the higher seeds, neither of these games will be easy and coming in to the game in top form is an absolute must if both Hodgson and Swartwout are to advance.
Meanwhile, in the Colonial, a Hofstra team featuring Monique Iannella and Grace Watson-Carr will be hoping to go back-to-back, whilst Emma Heckenberg and Drexel are looking to go a couple of steps further than last year’s semi-final defeat to Northeastern. Both Iannella and Heckenberg have played vital roles to this point, and with Hofstra and Drexel on opposite sides of the draw, don’t bet against an Aussie v Aussie final in what has been a tight conference all season.
Ashleigh Lefevre is one more player we may see a bit of this week as Illinois head into the Big Ten tournament, where they will face Wisconsin on the road in the first round. Used occasionally off the bench, how much time Lefevre sees in these crunch games remains to be seen but the freshman certainly has done a job when called upon in past games. Siena Senatore, Claire Urquhart, and Caitlin Cantrill have also reached their respective conference tournaments with Southeast Missouri State, Albany, and LSU, but given the events of the season to this point, unfortunately it is unlikely that the trio will see any playing time this week.
Shelby Milton and Saint Francis may have knocked off Sam Roff and Fairleigh Dickinson last week, but both teams remain right in the mix for spots in next week’s Northeast Conference tournament. In a league with a four-team tournament, the teams form part of a three-way tie for second place on 13 points, with fifth-placed Mount St. Mary’s two points back. Both teams have a real chance to pick up a win in this last week of league play to cement their spots in the tournament, with Fairleigh Dickinson taking on Sacred Heart and Saint Francis facing Wagner. Saint Francis are also the only team in the league to play two games this week, but that additional game comes against league leaders Central Connecticut State, who have been all but untouchable in conference play to this point.
Amazingly, the Mountain West Conference league title could be shared between four teams this season, and Aussie-laden Wyoming are one of those teams. One of three teams sitting three points behind league leaders Boise State, a win against arch-rivals Colorado State on their home patch combined with other results could see the Cowgirls snag an unexpected share of the regular season title.
Whilst the Pac-12 does not feature a conference tournament, that doesn’t mean the premier conference in the nation isn’t building to a thrilling conclusion. Isobel Dalton and Colorado may have had their slender hopes of a conference title crushed by Beattie Goad’s Stanford side with a 7-0 loss last week, but the Buffaloes remain a decent chance of picking up an NCAA Tournament berth, but they’ll have to navigate a tough path to do so. Dalton’s side face national heavyweights UCLA and USC this week, and will almost certainly have to pick up at least one result to retain their at-large hopes before facing Utah in their final game of the regular season next weekend. Meanwhile, Beattie Goad and Stanford are sitting pretty tied atop the standings with USC with a game in hand and a favourable run home. The Cardinal travel north this week to face mid-table Washington as well as Washington State, who have lost five games on the trot to all but destroy any hopes the Cougars had of reaching the NCAA Tournament after winning their first ten games. Finally, Teagan Micah and UCLA may be out of league title contention, but can still nab a national seed for the NCAA Tournament with a good finish to the season. Their game against aforementioned Colorado will be a chance to put another decent win on the board, and with Micah back to her best after her recent concussion scare and Hailie Mace and Jessie Fleming back from US and Canadian national team duties respectively, the Bruins will be heavily favoured, although Dalton and Colorado will be desperate to bounce back from last week’s loss to Stanford in what will be a crucial game for both sides for different reasons.
Akron (Freyja Murray)
This week: @ Buffalo – 6am, Friday October 26
Albany (Claire Urquhart)
This week: v New Hampshire – 10am, Friday October 26 (America East Tournament 1st Round)
Chicago State (Sarah Clark)
This week: @ UMKC – 5am, Sunday October 28
Colorado (Isobel Dalton)
This week: v USC – 8am, Friday October 26; v UCLA – 7am, Monday October 29
Drexel (Emma Heckenberg)
This week: v Charleston – 4am, Saturday October 27 (CAA Tournament First Round)
East Tennessee State (Isabel Hodgson)
This week: v Mercer – 4am, Monday October 29 (Southern Conference Tournament First Round)
Fairleigh Dickinson (Sam Roff)
This week: v Sacred Heart – 4am, Monday October 29
Grand Canyon (Sandra Hill)
This week: @ Cal State Bakersfield – 11am, Saturday October 27
Hawaii (Kiri Dale)
This week: v UC Riverside – 4pm, Friday October 26; v Cal State Fullerton – 11am, Monday October 29
Hofstra (Monique Iannella, Grace Watson-Carr)
This week: v Delaware – 4am, Saturday October 27 (CAA Tournament First Round)
Illinois (Ashleigh Lefevre)
This week: @ Wisconsin – 4am, Monday October 29 (Big Ten Tournament First Round)
LSU (Caitlin Cantrill)
This week: @ Mississippi State – 11am, Friday October 26; TBD (SEC Tournament)
Marshall (Laura Farrelly)
This week: @ Western Kentucky – 11am, Saturday October 27
Nicholls State (Tessa Calabria, Tenille Harberger, Kristy Helmers)
This week: @ Southeastern Louisiana – 11am, Saturday October 27
North Dakota State (Lauren Featherstone)
This week: @ South Dakota – 7am, Saturday October 27
Old Dominion (Gaby Bentley)
This week: v Charlotte – 10am, Saturday October 27
Southeast Missouri State (Siena Senatore)
This week: v Belmont – 4am, Saturday October 27 (Ohio Valley Conference Tournament First Round)
St. Francis University (Shelby Milton)
This week: v Central Connecticut State – 6am, Saturday October 27; v Wagner – 3am, Monday October 29
Stanford (Beattie Goad)
This week: @ Washington – 11am, Friday October 26; @ Washington State – 7am, Monday October 29
Texas Tech (Demi Koulizakis)
This week: v Texas – 11:15am, Friday October 26
UCLA (Teagan Micah)
This week: v Colorado – 7am, Monday October 29
Western Carolina (Kate Swartwout)
This week: v Furman – 10am, Sunday October 28 (Southern Conference Tournament First Round)
Wyoming (Indianna Asimus, Annika Clayton, Jessie Gentle, Caitlin Pickett)
This week: v Colorado State – 8am, Saturday October 27