No. 1 California at No. 3 Stanford
When: 10 p.m. ET Tuesday
Why: Cal earned its first AVCA No. 1 ranking two weeks ago. The Golden Bears have four relatively easy matches at home this weekend before turning their attention to Pac-12 play, and it’s a doozy of an opener. The yearly matchup betwen Stanford and Cal — a series known as the Big Spike — has become one of the premier series in the nation and this year will be no different. The Golden Bears swept last year’s matches against the Cardinal for the first time since 1979 en route to a national runner-up finish. The winner here gets an early leg up on the brutal league schedule — five Pac-12 teams are currently ranked in the national top 10 — that lie ahead.
No. 2 Old Dominion at No. 5 Syracuse
When: 2 p.m. ET Saturday
Why: The Lady Monarchs are off to their best start since 1999 as they posted a 4-0 record to open the season. All four victories came against top-10 teams, helping ODU jump past defending national champion Maryland — the then-No. 1 team in the country when Old Dominion won last week 4-0 — into the No. 2 spot in the coaches’ poll. ODU is led by senior Emma Batten, who has earned the past two CAA Player of the Week honors by leading the team with 13 points and six goals. Batten is playing her only season in the U.S. with the Lady Monarchs after spending the past three years guiding the University of Bath in her native United Kingdom, including serving as a captain last year.
No. 1 Messiah at No. 3 William Smith
When: 11 a.m. ET Saturday
Why: Top-ranked Messiah is off to a strong start, opening the season with a pair of wins by a combined 11-0 advantage. The challenge gets tougher in the next week as the Falcons go on the road to play three consecutive games, including top-five matchups with William Smith and Williams. Goalkeeper Autumn Reilly hasn’t been tested much as the Messiah defense has allowed just two shots in 180 minutes of action. William Smith has been equally as impressive, allowing just three shots on goal — and no scores — in three matches. Whitney Frary leads the way with four points on two goals, one of five Herons with multiple points already.
No. 1 Adams State, No. Western State
When: Saturday at Vigil Invitational
Why: Adams State is the three-time defending Division II national champion and has been atop the USTFCCCA standings for 27 consecutive polls. The Grizzlies will have a stiff early test on their home course as the Vigil Invitational will include preseason No. 2 Western State. The teams have finished 1-2 at the national meet each of the past three seasons with Adams State coming out on top each time. Before the run in the top spot, ASU finished second for four consecutive years, including tying with Western State in 2007. The Vigil Invitational women’s race includes two of the top four teams in the country as the ASU women are No. 2 and the WSU women are No. 4.
No. 8 Boston College at No. 2 Maryland
When: 7:30 p.m. ET Friday
Why: Two of the nation’s top teams square off in the league opener as Maryland plays host to BC. The Terps are 4-0 behind a potent offense that has led to a 12-2 scoring advantage. UM is looking for its first perfect start through five matches since 2004. In Maryland’s 2-1 win last weekend against Radford, the Terps gave head coach Sasho Cirovski his 300th career victory. Forwards Casey Townsend (8) and Patrick Mullins (7) have combined for 15 points but will need to be on target Friday as the Eagles’ defense has allowed less than one goal per game, including shutting out its past two opponents by a combined 7-0 score. Three Eagles have recorded at least eight points with Amit Aburma leading the way with 11.
|Northern Iowa at Stephen F. Austin|
|All stats are season totals|
No. 3 Northern Iowa at No. 12 Stephen F. Austin
When: 7 p.m. ET Saturday
Why: UNI is making its first trip to the state of Texas since 2005, when it defeated Texas State in the FCS playoffs to reach the national semifinals. The Panthers hope for some of the same results as they take a No. 3 ranking to the Lone Star State this weekend. Northern Iowa is coming off a heartbreaker, losing to in-state rival Iowa State 20-19 last weekend. Northern Iowas will be trying to improve on a 28-23 all-time record against ranked FCS opponents, but for the Panthers to avoid an 0-2 start, they’ll need to be solid in every phase. Stephen F. Austin comes into the contest ranked in the top 10 in both total offense (second, 668 yards) and total defense (fifth, 128 yards) after Week 1. The Lumberjacks put up the lofty numbers by scoring 82 points in the opener against McMurry, the most points by any team in any division this season.
No. 6 Christopher Newport at No. 2 Washington-St. Louis
When: 4 p.m. Saturday
Why: Second-ranked Washington-St. Louis set up a schedule that will prepare it for postseason play and this weekend is the prime example. The Bears are playing host to four matches in two days, including three against top-25 squads. The highlight comes Saturday when the Bears face off against Christopher Newport, the mid-point of a stretch of six consecutive ranked opponents before heading into league play. Washington U. has yet to drop a set this season and in fact, only twice in 15 sets has an opponent scored more than 16 points. CNU opened the year with a 4-1 record last week, losing 3-2 to unranked Coast Guard to slip two spots from its preseason ranking.
No. 6 UC-Santa Barbara vs. No. 7 UC-Irvine
When: 3 p.m. ET Saturday
Why: Who can resist watching any sport that includes a matchup between the Gauchos and Anteaters? UCSB opened 2011 action with dominating performances last week, topping La Verne 23-2 and Pomona-Pitzer 16-4 behind a pair of youngsters – freshman Chase Racich and sophomore Matt Gronow. The duo scored 10 times — five goals apiece — on opening weekend, pulling head coach and three-time Olympian Wolf Wigo just three wins shy of No. 100 in his career. UCI has a countermeasure, though, as senior Trent Baxter nearly matched the young tandem’s total with nine goals of his own in two matches last weekend.
|Florida Tech at Lenoir-Rhyne|
|Shots on Goals-Attempts||22-60||9-13|
|Shots per Game||20.0||13.0|
|Goals per Game||2.33||2.0|
|All stats are season totals|
No. 3 Florida Tech at No. 7 Lenoir-Rhyne
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Why: Florida Tech hits the road for the first of five consecutive road matches as the Panthers look to improve on their 3-0 record. FT has averaged 20 shots per game, nearly tripling its opponents, who have scored just once in 270 minutes against goalkeeper Mist Eliasdottir. Carly Hunt leads the Panthers’ offense by collecting a pair of goals and an assist for five points. Lenoir-Rhyne only has one match under its belt after rain forced the cancellatoin of a mid-week match. The Bears eased by Georgia College 2-1 in a defensive struggle in the opener with Carley Griffin and Laura Linehan getting into the scoring column.