Top 10 Preview
Maryland faces tough challenges both in and out of conference
The season’s first RPI ranking came out earlier this week, and this weekend provides plenty of opportunities for teams to move up – or slip down the ranking.
Conference play pits a couple of the top ACC teams against each other while some marquee non-conference matchups this weekend include Maryland playing Massachusets, Syracuse hosting Stanford and Princeton going to Connecticut.
No. 1 North Carolina
Top-ranked UNC will continue Atlantic Coast Conference play Friday when it hosts No. 13 Duke. The Tar Heels are 8-0 overall and 1-0 in ACC play. The Blue Devils are 6-2 overall and Friday's game will be their conference opener.
UNC leads the overall series 69-10-1 and the Tar Heels have won the previous nine meetings. Friday's game features a family faceoff, with sisters playing for opposing teams. Tar Heel freshman goalkeeper Shannon Johnson’s older sister Aileen is a sophomore midfielder for the Blue Devils.
No. 2 Maryland
The Terps face a pair of tough road tests this weekend, traveling to No. 9 Boston College on Friday and No. 9 Massachusetts on Sunday. Last year against the Eagles, the Terps fell behind 3-0 in the first 26:34 of the match in College Park before scoring twice in the first half and five consecutive in the second half for the win. Maryland had an easier time with Massachusetts last season, picking up a 5-0 win.
In their seven games of the season, 15 different Terrapins have scored and 11 have scored two goals or more. Senior Jill Witmer recently earned her way on to Maryland's career scoring list. She sits at No. 10 with 55 goals scored in her four years. Twelve Terps have notched an assist. In all, Maryland has 35 assists on 45 goals scored so far this year.
No. 3 Connecticut
Ranked No. 1 in the RPI poll, the Huskies host Villanova on Saturday and Princeton on Sunday. At 7-0, the Huskies are one of four remaining unbeatens in the country along with Maryland, North Carolina and Albany.
UConn leads the Big East, and is fourth nationally, with a .82 goals against average. The linchpin of the defense is goalkeeper Sarah Mansfield, who earlier this year set the school record for career wins. This year, Mansfield has made 32 saves compared to six goals allowed. She has also posted three shutouts.
No. 4 Virginia
Virginia (9-1, 0-1 ACC) plays a pair of weekend road contests beginning on Friday when it takes on No. 15 Wake Forest (6-1, 0-1 ACC) in Winston-Salem, N.C. Virginia closes out the weekend by playing at Liberty (4-3) on Sunday.
Wake Forest trails 19-16 in the all-time series despite winning 14 consecutive meetings from 1999 to 2008. Virginia earned a 4-0 victory last season in Charlottesville. Sunday will be the first-ever meeting between Liberty and Virginia.
Freshman Caleigh Foust is 18th in the nation with 0.89 goals per game and 37th with 1.78 points per game. Foust, with eight goals, trails only teammate Elly Buckley in the ACC rankings for goals-scored.
No. 5 Syracuse
The Orange only play one game this weekend when it plays No. 6 Stanford on Saturday in Albany, N.Y. Those two teams met last season in Amherst, with Syracuse edging then-No. 13 Stanford 4-1.
In last season’s game, the Cardinal jumped out to a 1-0 lead but the Orange tied it before the half on a Alyssa Manley goal. The Orange scored three second-half goals (two by since-graduated Kelsey Millman and one more from Manley) to pull out the win.
Manley is tied for third on the team this season with five goals, with Lauren Brookes leading the way with seven. Jess Jecko has started all eight games this season, making 16 saves and giving up 11 goals.
No. 6 Stanford
Stanford will look to continue its six-game winning streak this weekend, heading to Albany, N.Y., to take on No. 5 Syracuse on Saturday and No. 11 Albany on Sunday.
The Cardinal holds advantages against opponents in shots (118-29), penalty corners (63-13) and goals (19-5). Stanford is tied for ninth in the nation with 9.00 penalty corners per game, while nine different Cardinal players have recorded at least one goal.
Kelsey Harbin leads the team with 10 points on four goals and two assists, followed by Courtney Haldeman and Hope Burke who have tallied three goals apiece.
The Stanford defense, backed by goalkeeper Dulcie Davies, has allowed five goals in seven games and holds a 0.69 goals-against average, which ranks first in the country. During its four-game shutout streak, Stanford has held opponents to nine shots and five penalty corners.
No. 7 Massachusetts
The Minutewomen enter their game on Saturday against New Hampshire in the opposite spot as last year. When Massachusetts ventured to New Hampshire last season, it was the Wildcats who were ranked (No. 18) but UMass was able to pull out a 2-1 victory. This season, New Hampshire lost its first three games of the year before rallying to win three of its past four.
The weekend doesn’t end for the Minutewomen after New Hampshire. On Sunday, Massachusetts hosts No. 2 Maryland – the nation’s highest scoring team at 5.63 goals per game. Last season, then-No. 3 Maryland cruised by then-No. 10 Massachusetts 5-0.
No. 8 Penn State
The Nittany Lions head to Bloomington, Ind., for a pair of games this weekend. On Saturday, Penn State plays Miami (Ohio) and then open Big Ten Conference play on Sunday when it plays Indiana. The Nittany Lions did not face the Red Hawks last season, but did pick up a win against the Hoosiers in 2012.
After opening up the season 1-3, the Nittany Lions have won four consecutive games with three of them being shutouts. Key to that shutout streak has been goalkeeper Kylie Licata, with 12 of the 15 goals she has given up this season coming in those first four games.
No. 9 Boston College
Boston College is looking to improve on a three-game winning streak when the Eagles (7-1, 1-0 ACC) host No. 2 Maryland (8-0, 1-0) on Friday. A win against the Terps and then the Eagles will look for a four-game winning streak when it plays at Northeastern on Sunday. The Eagles have yet to earn a win against the Terps in the 10 meetings between the two squads while BC picked off then-No. 10 Northeastern last season.
Emma Plasteras and Eryn McCoy each are tied for the team lead in goals with six though Plasteras has a clear advantage in points with six assists compared to McCoy’s none. Goalkeeper Leah Settipane has faced a total of 62 shots in eight starts, blocking 50 of them.
No. 10 Princeton
Princeton returns home to host its Ivy League home opener versus Yale on Friday and then hits the road for a meeting with No. 3 UConn (7-0) on Sunday. Princeton owns the all-time series versus Yale 37-2-3, including an 18-2-1 record at home. Last season, the Tigers handed the Bulldogs an 8-0 loss with current sophomore Maddie Copeland adding a pair of goals. In last season’s win against UConn, the Tigers defeated the Huskies 4-1 with current junior Sydney Kirby scoring the game-winner.
On Friday, the Tigers raise their banner commemorating their national title last year. In their quest for a second consecutive title, Teresa Benvenuti leads the team with six goals and four assists.