Sept. 16, 2009

By Amy Farnum

With all six Atlantic Coast Conference teams ranked in the top 10 of the NFHCA Division I Coaches Poll, every weekend of league play is bound to mean a lot, and this week’s marquee match-up is no different.

Top-ranked and defending NCAA champion Maryland will travel to No. 9 Boston College for a showdown of unbeatens in both squads’ ACC opener on Sept. 19 at 1 p.m..  The Terrapins have outscored their opponents 40-8, while the Eagles enter the contest in the midst of the program’s best start (6-0) since 1998.

Maryland leads the nation with 5.71 goals per game, but BC is not far behind at third, averaging 5.33 goals per contest.  BC senior forward Chelsey Feole paces Division I with 1.83 goals per game, while Maryland’s Katie O’Donnell is the nation’s leader with 1.86 assists per game.  O’Donnell tops the ACC with 29 points, while Feole follows with 24.  Terrapin senior forward Nicole Muracco, the reigning ACC Player of the Week, netted five goals in two games last week and leads the team with nine this season.

The BC-Maryland game is the lone match-up between conference foes in the ACC this week.  League teams are 31-1 against non-conference opponents this season.  Duke suffered the only setback, a 4-3 overtime loss to Drexel, which is currently 5-0 and ranked No. 12 in the national poll.

LAST ONE STANDING:  When Drexel makes the trip to Storrs, Conn., to face No. 6 Connecticut on Sept. 17 at 7 p.m., the game will feature a pair of 5-0 squads, the only undefeated teams remaining in their respective conferences – the Colonial Athletic Association and Big East.

Christina Mastropaolo leads Drexel with eight goals and 19 points this season, including five goals in the last two games, for the nation’s fourth-best offense (4.68 gpg).

The Huskies’ defense has been impressive this season, and has not allowed more than one goal in any contest.  UConn also packs an offensive punch with Loren Sherer, who leads the team with eight goals, including three game-winners.  Sherer has been named Big East Offensive Player of the Week three straight weeks after recording her first career hat trick in a 5-1 win at then-No. 20 Michigan on Sept. 12.

STRONG START: Northwestern cracked the most recent national rankings at No. 18 after getting off to a 6-2 start under the direction of first-year head coach Tracey Fuchs. 

A big reason for the Wildcats’ success this year is the play of sophomore Chelsea Armstrong, who has scored 12 goals in eight games this season.  The native of Perth, Australia, transferred from the University of Western Australia, and despite a position switch from defender to forward, Armstrong has been one of the top players in the nation.  Armstrong combined for six goals and 13 points in wins over Central Michigan and Miami (Ohio) last weekend to earn her second Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week award.

"Chelsea could probably play any position on the field and excel," Fuchs said. "She has great instincts and we play a similar style to how they play in Australia so she has been a big plus on and off the field for our program."

In only eight games this year, Armstrong is just the third Wildcat player since 2004 to score at least 12 goals in a season.

CARDINAL RULE: Stanford is off its best start since 2007 at 6-0, and the successful beginning has pushed the Cardinal to No. 14 in the NFCHA Division I poll – the highest ranking in school history.

The Cardinal, which returned nine starters from 2008, can match the school’s best start of 7-0 by the 1976 squad with a win against UC Davis Sept. 20. 

Stanford’s winning ways on the road have been a key in the flawless run.  The Cardinal went 3-0 on a four-day road trip, highlighted by 3-2 overtime upset of then-No. 17 Iowa.  Stanford also came home with a win over Northwestern, a team that is now No. 18 in the national poll.

"We are excited to break into the top 20 this week," said head coach Lesley Irvine. "We have had an excellent start to the season and it means a lot to our program to be receiving national recognition."