Two of the nation’s top teams meet this weekend. Top-ranked Maryland travels down to No. 3 North Carolina who had been ranked atop the polls before losing in penalty strokes in last weekend.
While that game could very well be the game of the weekend, there are other key games to watch this weekend.
No. 1 Maryland
A week ago, it looked like Maryland’s game this Saturday would be between the nation’s two best teams. Instead, it’s now a meeting of two of the nation’s top-three teams as the top-ranked Terps head to third-ranked North Carolina for the only regular-season meeting between these two power house ACC teams.
Maryland, which has won its first 10 games of the season, could find itself in a high-scoring affair on Saturday. So far this season, the Terps are averaging 5.2 goals per game (led by Anna Dessoye and Jill Witmer with seven each) and the Tar Heels scoring 4.78 goals per game (led by Nina Notman’s six). Maryland goalkeeper Natalie Hunter has only given up nine goals in nine starts (10 games) so far this season and has turned away 33 shots.
No. 2 Connecticut
Besides being the only other team to jump North Carolina in the latest poll, the Huskies are also the only other undefeated team currently in the top 20. This weekend, UConn goes to play at Providence in a Big East matchup on Saturday and then travels to No. 9 Boston College on Sunday.
In four of the past six games, Sarah Mansfield has kept UConn’s opponents from scoring a goal. In all, Mansfield – Uconn’s all-time leader in wins – has a .809 save percentage (38 saves, nine goals allowed) while playing all 651 minutes the Huskies have played.
No. 3 North Carolina
The Tar Heels will have had a week to get ready for top-ranked Maryland’s visit for Saturday’s game. They have been off since suffering their first loss of the season last Friday to Duke, which was also their first loss since a 1-0 overtime loss to Syracuse on Sept. 1, 2012. But the last time North Carolina had two losses before the NCAA tournament came in 2010 when it lost both games to Maryland. North Carolina will have a quick turnaround after the Maryland game as it hosts California on Sunday.
North Carolina has outscored its opponents 43-9 through its 8-1 start to the season. The Tar Heels have come out strong in the first half, holding a 29-4 advantage in first-half goals against their opponents.
No. 4 Virginia
The Cavaliers face two of the nation’s best teams on the road this weekend, starting with a trip to No. 5 Syracuse on Saturday. After that, it’s a trip to No. 12 Albany on Sunday – a team that has lived outside of the top 10 for most of the year. Virginia made a similar weekend trip to the Northeast last season, sweeping a pair of games from Boston College and Boston University.
Senior forward Elly Buckley, a native of Australia, leads the nation with 17 goals and 40 total points. She will face a big challenge on Sunday when she faces Albany goalie Maxi Primus, who through the end of September, led the nation in goals-against average (.88).
No. 5 Syracuse
Syracuse responded from its first loss of the season by posting consecutive wins against a pair of top-10 teams in Stanford and Princeton. The Orange look to continue that roll as they take on Virginia on Saturday and then Monmouth on Sunday. Saturday’s game will be the first time Syracuse will host a conference game as a member of the ACC.
Three players -- Leonie Geyer, Emma Russell and Alyssa Manly -- are all tied with the team lead with six goals. Geyer has the team lead with 17 points thanks to her seven assists, one more than Russell has.
No. 6 Stanford
Stanford shifts its focus to conference play this weekend as it takes on two NorPac opponents. The Cardinal (7-2, 1-0 NorPac) opens its weekend at home on Friday against Pacific, and will travel to UC Davis on Sunday. Stanford went 1-1 last weekend in New York, falling to No. 5 Syracuse 3-1 and defeating No. 11 Albany 2-1. The Cardinal found itself in a bit of unusual territory as it was outshot and managed less than 10 shots in each game.
Kelsey Harbin leads Stanford in points (11), goals (four) and is tied with Shannon Herold with three assists apiece. Harbin has recorded at least one point in three of the past four matches. The Cardinal has received offensive contributions from a variety of players with 10 scoring at least one goal and 13 recording at least one point.
No. 7 Duke
Coming off of three consecutive wins, Duke continues a four-game homestand this weekend. The Blue Devils will play host to non-conference opponent California on Friday before taking on ACC foe and 14th-ranked Wake Forest on Sunday. Duke and the Golden Bears will square off for just the fifth time in program history, with the Blue Devils holding a 4-0 advantage in the series, including a 2-1 win last season. Duke is 17-9 historically when facing Wake Forest at home, but the Demon Deacons come away with a 3-2 win in double overtime in last season’s meeting at Wake Forest.
Twelve different Duke players have tallied a point through 10 games this fall. Ten different Blue Devils have registered a goal, led by senior Emmie Le Marchand and freshman Heather Morris with six each. Le Marchand paces the squad 17 points and junior midfielder Abby Beltrani has totaled a career-best seven assists to rank sixth in the ACC in assists per game.
No. 8 Penn State
It has been a tale of two seasons for Penn State. After starting the season with losses in four of its first five games, the Nittany Lions have run off six consecutive victories. In that time, they have knocked off then-No. 3 Princeton and then-No. 16 Delaware. They will try to pick up another win against a ranked team when it hosts No. 10 Northwestern on Saturday in its lone game of the weekend. Last season, the Wildcats picked up an overtime victory against Penn State.
Taylor Herald and Ashtin Klingler lead the team with seven goals each, though Herald has the edge in points thanks to her three assists. Kylie Licata has started all 10 games in goal for the Nittany Lions, and has a 1.6 goals-against average.
No. 9 Boston College
The Eagles get the middle two of four consecutive games on the road this weekend, getting New Hampshire on Friday and UConn on Sunday. So far this season, Boston College has only played four of its 10 games on the road and has gone 3-1 with the loss coming at then-No. 14 Massachusetts.
Leah Settipane has been busy in goal for the Eagles, facing 77 shots. She has turned away 59 of them which is good for a .766 saves percentage. Emma Plasteras and Emily McCory each have a team-high seven goals.
No. 10 Northwestern
The Wildcats have moved up into the top 10 for the first time this season after defeating No. 14 Iowa and No. 19 Michigan last weekend. Saturday’s game against Penn State will be the fifth consecutive game against a ranked opponent for the Wildcats with the only loss in that stretch coming against Virginia. That streak will end on Sunday when Northwestern travels to Kent State.
In nearly 860 minutes of play, Northwestern goalie Maddy Carpenter has a 1.14 goals-against average and a .714 saves percentage. On the attack, Nikki Parsley leads the team with eight goals and 18 points.