2023 Week 12 Preview

For the teams still in with a shot at conference glory or NCAA Tournament qualification, it all comes down to this week. Talia Grossman’s USC have probably done enough to secure an at-large bid regardless of the weekend’s results, but everyone else needs at least one result, if not more, if they are to continue on into the big dance. It’s set to be a whirlwind week, with things kicking off with Emma Bates and Louisiana taking on Texas State in the Sun Belt Tournament and continuing on throughout the week.

Caitlin Le Roux gained regular season bragging rights over Molly Arens when Northwestern State knocked off Texas A&M-Corpus Christi earlier in the campaign, but the two will face off once again in a much higher-stakes battle this week. The Aussies meet in the opening round of the Southland Conference tournament, and just to add a little extra spice, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi are hosting the event. Having been outshot 22-5 in that regular season loss on the road, the Islanders will certainly be looking for an improved performance in front of their home crowd. The winner of this game will face #1 seed Lamar in the semi-finals, which will be an almighty test as the Cardinals have proven themselves to be the dominant force in the Southland over the last couple of seasons.

Meanwhile, in the Ohio Valley Conference, an Aussie v Aussie final remains a possibility as Little Rock and Morehead State sit on opposite sides of the draw. #8 seed Little Rock and their Australian quartet of Bronte Peel, Candice Kilderry, Emily Jensen, and Cameron Barreiro will take on #1 seed Tennessee Tech, with the top-seeded Golden Eagles hosting the semi-finals and final. Taking on the top team as the 8th seed is never easy, but with four wins in their last five games, the Trojans are hitting form at the right time. Moreover, that sole loss in those five games was but a narrow 2-1 defeat to Tennessee Tech, so Little Rock know they can hang with their opponents.

In the other semi-final, Natasha Tanner and Morehead State take on a Southeast Missouri State side that came through overtime in the opening round and a penalty shootout in the quarter-finals to advance to the semi-finals as the #7 seed. These teams faced off earlier in the season, with Tanner’s side grabbing a 1-0 win at home. Morehead State will undoubtedly be favourites, but will have to be wary of a SEMO team playing with house money at this stage.

One team that is not playing with house money is Aimee Benton’s Grambling State side, who dominated SWAC regular season play and come into the conference tournament as hot favourites. The Tigers will face Alabama A&M in the quarter-finals, a team they have already dispatched with once this season, rolling to a 4-0 win at home. Benton has been splitting time with Madison Covey-Taylor for much of the season, and although Covey-Taylor has seen more of the minutes of late, there may well still remain opportunities for Benton to shine in the tournament.

Lara Kirkby’s Maine outfit may have finished second in the America East standings, but the Black Bears are clearly neck-and-neck with regular season champions Binghamton as the conference heads to tournament play. However, their opponent is not yet known as they have a bye through to the semi-finals. In any event, their two potential opponents are teams with which they have had close battles this season. Maine snuck home with a 3-2 win over Vermont in September, and drew 0-0 with New Hampshire just last week. Should Kirkby and her team secure a victory in the semi-final, a trip to Binghamton for the final looks to be the most likely outcome in a repeat of a game that happened only a couple of weeks earlier. On that occasion, Maine led 2-0 early before Binghamton responded to secure a share of the points, a result that would eventually be the difference in the title race.

Courtney Butlion remains the last Aussie standing in the Atlantic 10, with their conference tournament semi-final against Dayton offering up a mouth-watering #2 v #3 seed matchup. To make things only more suspenseful, these teams did not actually meet during the regular season, allowing no direct basis for comparison heading into the game. Moreover, the teams were separated by only a point in the conference standings. What we can expect is to see Butlion involved for the Explorers, particularly after she looked threatening throughout her performance as a starter in the quarter-final win over Rhode Island. Should the Explorers pick up a win, it is highly likely they will face unbackable favourites Saint Louis in the final, although their semi-final opponents Duquesne may have something to say about that.

The Big South tournament features just four teams, but Meg Roden and High Point are one of those four teams who will make the trip to the outskirts of Charlotte this weekend. The Panthers will take on USC Upstate, a team that they lost to 1-0 at home earlier in the season. On that occasion, they outshot the Spartans 18-8 but could only test the opposition goalkeeper on four occasions. If they can produce a higher level of accuracy this weekend, a spot in the final may beckon. Roden can certainly assist in this category; 8 of her 14 shots this season have been on target as the freshman has notched two goals to this point.

Moving away from tournament play, Holly Furphy and Santa Clara fell to Gonzaga last week but can still put pressure on the ladder leaders whilst also ensuring they have an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament to fall back on should their title challenge come up short. Victory against bottom side San Diego is an absolute must, whilst a win over bubble side Portland would give the Broncos a leg-up as they look to separate themselves from the rest of the pack. Furphy has come off the bench to play cameos in recent weeks, but has certainly made an impact in those short spells, notching an assist against Loyola Marymount just two games ago and also scoring against Saint Mary’s earlier in October.

Full Schedule

Grambling State (Aimee Benton)

This week: v Alabama A&M – 2:00AM, Friday November 3 (SWAC Tournament Quarter-Final)

High Point (Meg Roden)

This week: v USC Upstate – 10:00AM, Friday November 3 (Big South Tournament Semi-Final)

Kent State (Lua Suero)

This week: @ Western Michigan – 5:00AM, Friday November 3 (MAC Tournament Semi-Final)

La Salle (Courtney Butlion)

This week: v Dayton – 10:00AM, Thursday November 2 (Atlantic 10 Tournament Semi-Final)

Little Rock (Cameron Barreiro, Emily Jensen, Candice Kilderry, Bronte Peel)

This week: @ Tennessee Tech – 8:00AM, Friday November 3 (OVC Tournament Semi-Final)

Louisiana (Emma Bates)

This week: v Texas State – 11:00AM, Tuesday October 31 (Sun Belt Tournament First Round)

Maine (Lara Kirkby)

This week: v New Hampshire or Vermont – 9:00AM, Friday November 3 (America East Semi-Final)

Morehead State (Natasha Tanner)

This week: v Southeast Missouri State – 11:00AM, Friday November 3 (OVC Tournament Semi-Final)

Northwestern State (Caitlin Le Roux)

This week: @ Texas A&M-Corpus Christi – 11:00AM, Thursday November 2 (Southland Conference Tournament Quarter Final)

Oregon State (Katie Godden)

This week: v Oregon – 1:00PM, Saturday November 4

Pacific (Libby Davy)

This week: v San Francisco – 1:00PM, Sunday November 5

Rider (Eloise Jones)

This week: v Quinnipiac – Time TBA, Friday November 3 (MAAC Tournament Semi-Final)

Santa Clara (Holly Furphy)

This week: v San Diego – 1:00PM, Thursday November 2; @ Portland – 1:00PM, Sunday November 5

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (Molly Arens)

This week: v Northwestern State – 11:00AM, Thursday November 2 (Southland Conference Tournament Quarter Final)

UAB (Abbey Burns)

This week: v Memphis – 2:00AM, Wednesday November 1 (AAC Tournament Quarter-Final)

USC (Talia Grossman)

This week: @ UCLA – 1:00PM, Saturday November 4

About Lachy 383 Articles
Founder of College Matildas. An Australian women's football fan who also happens to be a college sports fan. Often found at A-League Women or NPLW games.

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