Week 5 Women’s College Soccer Games of the Week 9/13 thru 9/16
The gauntlet of conference play begins in the ACC and several other conferences this week. Thursday night the road to the ACC Championship kicks off with a bang with arguably the game of the year right out of the chute with the high flying Duke Blue Devils heading down to Florida State to take on a confident Seminole squad. Virginia and North Carolina will meet up in Charlottesville this week-end as both teams will get some reinforcements back from the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, including Cavalier Head Coach Steve Swanson. Washington and BYU will also meet in an intersectional matchup that could go a long way in helping both teams in their quest to a high seed and hosting in the postseason.
The Blue Devils are coming off an excellent weekend, scoring nine goals and thumping a top ten Marquette squad with relative ease. Gilda Doria and Laura Weinberg were huge in the Duke Nike Classic as they combined for six goals and one assist. The offense for Duke (5-1-0) is the best in the country at 4.14 goals per contest so the Seminole defense will have to be in top form on Thursday night. Florida State (6-0-0), on the other hand, has been getting it done defensively instead of their usual offensive fireworks. The Seminoles have only allowed three goals in their first six games, and offensively they have scored 12. This ability to defend at an elite level will serve them well on Thursday night and in the postseason when teams are apt to lock down teams offensively. Tiffany McCarty has been rock solid for Florida State with three goals so far in 2012. This game should provide an opportunity for the Seminoles to score a little bit and get rolling and to be able to stay up with Duke’s pace in its attack. I would expect this match should have both teams scoring a couple of times, creating a 2-2 or 3-2 type of match if both attacks are able to get rolling.
Washington at BYU, (9:00 P.M. EDT, Saturday at South Field - Provo, Utah)
These two teams have been two of the more pleasant surprises so far in the 2012 women’s college soccer non-conference season. The Huskies (7-0-0) head into the final non-conference weekend playing excellent, lock-down, championship caliber defense, having allowed just two goals overall. They also have done a nice job of not being intimidated playing on the road and are 4-0-0 overall away from Seattle while dominating Notre Dame last Sunday 3-0. Junior midfielder Lindsay Elston leads the attack for Washington with five goals and four assists. Kari Davidson’s senior leadership in goal has helped the Huskies’ backline gel into a very difficult unit to score chances against. BYU (6-1-0) has been the giant-killer on its home field so far in 2012 with wins over highly ranked teams such as Long Beach State and Penn State. BYU dominated Penn State by a score of 3-1 Saturday to vault their way into national conversation as a team to be reckoned with and a team that could make a deep NCAA tourney run. They get great fan support in Provo. On the field the Cougars have a lot of balance in their attack as three players have at least three goals on the season led by Michelle Murphy with four. The altitude and the BYU crowd will be huge challenges for Washington. It will be interesting to see how they approach the match; will they try to get a quick goal and then try to lock down the Cougars from there. For BYU it will come down to how well they continue to press forward and get behind the Husky defense to create chances and finish them enough to get a result. This could be a very fascinating match if both teams are rolling on Saturday night but the Cougars should be able to ride home field advantage and get another win over a ranked squad.
The Cavaliers (7-1-0) finally slayed the curse of Carolina in the regular season in 2011, getting a golden goal from Caroline Miller in the 105th minute to propel Virginia to its first ever win over the Tar Heels in program history. It was a type of win that really sent the message to that Cavalier squad and the rest of the ACC that while Carolina is extremely formidable, they are beatable if you play well. Returning to the Virginia squad are Head Coach Steve Swanson and national player of the year candidate, sophomore midfielder, Morgan Brian. The team is off to a solid start led by Assistant Coach Ron Raab and utilizing the experience of Caroline Miller. Miller is off to a solid start with three goals. She is complemented nicely by another super freshman sensation, Makenzy Doniak, who is pacing the Virginia attack with seven goals and three assists. She is arguably the front runner at this point in the season for National Freshman of the Year honors. The Tar Heels return Kealia Ohai up front, Crystal Dunn along the backline, and Bryane Heaberlin in the goalkeeping mix to help add to an offense that seems to be gaining plenty of confidence heading into ACC play. Summer Green has been the key to this offensive surge. She was the Madness National Offensive Player of the Week after racking up four goals during dominating wins over Marquette and San Diego. When these two teams get together, they arguably play some of the best styles of soccer in the game. The Cavaliers will come at the Tar Heels with their up-tempo, attacking, possession game and Carolina will counter will their high pressure, attacking approach. The pressure will be on the defenses of both sides. Danielle DeLisle has stepped up nicely in the goalkeeping role for Virginia and this will probably be her biggest test to date. And for the Tar Heels, the key will be to not allow the Cavalier forwards to get in behind their backline too many times. Look for execution on set pieces to be a game changer in this contest for both sides. Thus, whoever can win the set piece battle will probably score three points on Sunday afternoon.