The chase for perfection continues
Several unbeaten teams face tough tests this weekend
Who: Michigan State at No. 1 Illinois
When: 8 p.m. ET Saturday
Why: On paper, this seems like a cakewalk for the Illini. After all, Illinois has won seven of the last eight matches over MSU, including three in a row, while owning a 43-22 advantage over the Spartans in the all-time series.
However, consider two things. First, when these two teams met a little more than a year ago, the Illini squeaked out a five-set thriller in East Lansing. Secondly, Michigan State head coach Cathy George will be appearing in her 800th career match as a collegiate head coach on Saturday, so you have to figure the Spartans may have a little extra motivation.
Incidentally, George boasts a record of 478-320, going 113-96 as a Spartan. During her time at MSU, the Spartans have appeared in the tournament in three of her six seasons, including an NCAA Regional Semi-final appearance in 2007.
Who: No. 18 Union Dutchmen at No. 1 Saint Lawrence Saints (DIII)
When: 4 p.m. ET Friday
Why: Led by goalkeeper Brian Abernethy, No. 1 St. Lawrence has not allowed a goal in its last seven games and nine of its 11 matches this season. The undefeated Saints have challenges on consecutive days including Friday's matchup with No. 18 Union, which has only dropped one game this year.
If the Saints are to remain unbeaten, they'll have to figure out a way to stop junior Sebastiaan Jansen. Jansen has nine goals and eight assists for 26 points so far this season.
Who: No. 2 Mount Union at Heidelberg
When: 1:30 p.m. ET Saturday
Why: You mean other than the fact it features one of the greatest nickname matchups in recent memory - the Purple Raiders against the Student Princes?
|Mount Union at Heidelberg|
Seriously, No. 2 Mount Union has been hardly tested this fall other than a 14-6 victory against Ohio Northern two weeks ago. The Purple Raider defense has allowed more than seven points only once in the first five games and has given up only three total touchdowns in the past four games. Saturday, the Purple Raiders head to Heidelberg for Homecoming. They'll face a Student Princes' squad that has won three consecutive games, including a 31-24 victory against Franklin & Marshall last week to take the Battle for the Conestoga Trophy.
Heidelberg moved back on campus for the first time in 64 years late in the 2009 season and this is Mount Union's first on campus visit since 1942 -- The Student Princes won that game 20-12.
The Student Princes have the OAC's No. 2 scoring offense, passing offense and total offense. Sophomore Germany Woods, an All-OAC second team pick a year ago, issecond in the OAC in rushing with 624 yds. (124.8 yds/game) with three touchdowns.Freshman Michael Mees is at quarterback and he has almost 1,100 yards passing with12 touchdowns to just three interceptions. His top targets are junior Mario Escalante (15rec., 310 yds., 1 TD) and senior CJ Powell (15 rec., 257 yds., 5 TD's).
Who: No. 1 Stanford at Arizona State
When: 10 p.m. ET Friday
Why: The Cardinal, 13-0-1 and looking to maintain its Pac-12 lead, travels to Tempe to face the Sun Devils.
Stanford holds an 8-3-3 lead in the all-time series, which began in 1997 with a 2-2 draw in Tempe. Stanford has won the past three - including 3-0 on the road last season - but has had its troubles in Tempe. Stanford all-time is 2-2-3 at ASU, but has won only one of their past five meetings there since 1999.
Stanford also comes into the match riding several streaks, including:
• 56-match regular-season unbeaten streak (last loss, 1-0 at UCLA, Oct. 31, 2008)
• 25-match Pac-12 winning streak (last loss, 1-0 at UCLA, Oct. 31, 2008)
• 25-match road (non-neutral) unbeaten streak (last loss, 1-0 at UCLA, Oct. 31, 2008)
• 14-match unbeaten streak (last loss, 1-0 vs. Notre Dame, Dec. 5, 2010)
• 13-match road Pac-12 winning streak (last loss, see above)
• 11-match winning streak (last non-win, 0-0 at Maryland, Aug. 26, 2011)
Who: No. 1 Concordia-St. Paul at No. 20 Minnesota State (DII)
When: 8 p.m. ET Friday
Why: The Golden Bears (19-0, 10-NSIC) have one of their toughest road trips of the season ahead of them as they travel to take on No. 20 Minnesota State (11-6, 4-5 NSIC). The Mavericks are one of two teams to take a set from the Golden Bears the season. Concordia swept SMSU earlier this season.
Make sure you keep an eye on Ashley Murtha. Murtha had career highs in kills and digs on Tuesday night as Concordia (19-0, 10-0 NSIC) swept Bemidji State (4-14, 1-9 NSIC). Murtha led the way with 15 kills and nine digs. Murtha also tied her career high in blocks with two. Incidentally, Murtha's brother Lydon plays for the Miami Dolphins.
The nation's top four teams -- Concordia-St. Paul, Tampa, Cal State-San Bernardino and Minnesota-Duluth -- are still unbeaten. If the top-ranked Golden Bears are to stay that way, they'll have to beat two top-20 teams this weekend.
Who: No. 18 Metro State at No. 1 Fort Lewis (DII)
When: 5:30 p.m. ET Friday
Why: The 12-0 Skyhawks got a bit of a scare on Wednesday night, as they needed a goal from Derek Freeman in the 63rd minute to squeak by 3-10-1 Colorado Mesa.
The Roadrunners (7-5) should provide a steep challenge of their own. What's more, they'll likely have a point to prove after dropping a heartbreaker to Regis on Wednesday. Metro State recovered from a hafltime deficit to take a second-half lead, but gave up two goals in the final 21 minutes to fall 3-2
Who: No. 10 Hillsdale at No. 23 Ferris State; No. 10 Hillsdale at No. 20 Grand Valley State
When: 2 p.m. ET Saturday; 2 p.m. ET Sunday
Why: Hillsdale faces one of the toughest schedules in Division II this weekend as the Chargers take on a pair of ranked teams in Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference action. Hillsdale features one of the top players in the country in 2010 first-team All-American Ashlee Crowder, who was the GLIAC Player of the Week on Monday after posting 26 kills and 26 digs last weekend. She helped the Chargers to their seventh consecutive sweep, as they have not lost a set since Sept. 3. Much of the Chargers' success has come on the defensive end where it holds opponents to .146 hitting while piling up 2.9 blocks per set.
While both opponents will provide troubles, Hillsdale also has to deal with the venue as it is just 2-23 at Ferris State and just 14-48 overall against the Bulldogs. Grand Valley State will counter with Stacey Catalano, who is averaging more than 4.0 kills per set and is one of two players with double-figure aces, helping the Lakers average 1.5 aces per set.
Who: Heidelberg at Otterbein
When: 2 p.m. ET Saturday
Why: If you've missed the first 19, make sure to catch the 20th edition of the Rhine River Classic -- the annual Ohio Athletic Conference rivalry game between Heidelberg and Otterbein -- which commemorates the first collegiate football game played on German soil. That initial contest ended in a 7-7 tie between the Student Princes and Cardinals on Sept. 19, 1992, in Frankfort, Germany.
This year, the teams enter with identical 1-1 records, including 0-1 in the OAC. Otterbein is averaging more than 370 yards of total offense and 30 points per game, including falling by a point to No. 12 Ohio Northern 34-33 in overtime last weekend. The weekend before, the Cardinals won by a point 28-27 against Galludet, with both games on the road. The Student Princes have a freshman quarterback, so they are leaning on sophomore RB Germany Woods, who has put up 128.5 rushing yards per game to help Heidelberg average 171.0 rushing yards per contest.
Before the first Rhine River Classic in 1992, the student-athletes from both universities attended a German civics lesson at Germany’s Heidelberg University, took a historical cruise on the Rhine River, went on an educational visit to the Black Forest and met with several dignitaries and political leaders of Germany and their host city, Frankfort. To celebrate the 20th Rhine River Classic, both universities are having alumni who played in that first game serve as honorary captains. After the game, student-athletes from both teams, in addition to the 1992 alumni student-athletes, will join for a “Taste of Germany” picnic, featuring knockwurst, brats and sauerkraut, German potato salad and cream puffs.
Who: Xavier at No. 18 Dayton
When: 5:30 p.m. ET Friday
Why: Dayton returns to the field for the first time after dealing Kentucky its first loss of the season with a 2-1 victory last weekend. UD senior Josie Grant scored the first goal of the match in the 31st minute on a header from junior Alysha Mallon’s cornerkick. Dayton sophomore Juliana Libertin scored her fourth goal of the season -- one that proved to be the game winner -- on a penalty kick in the 50th minute. The Flyers will have their work cut out for them as Xavier freshman goalkeeper Katie Markesbery has 57 saves, four shutouts and a .48 GAA this season.
Game information compiled from and photos courtesy of respective athletic department websites.