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Pat Ralph | Excelle Sports | September 8, 2017

9 ranked matchups headline exciting weekend of field hockey

  No. 1 Duke begins conference play this weekend with matchup against No. 10 Virginia

With the third weekend of the college field hockey season set to tip off on Friday, here are the 10 best matches to check out this weekend as conference play gets underway.

Friday, September 8th

No. 1 Duke vs. No. 10 Virginia: With North Carolina accumulating an early season loss already, its in-state rival is the new No. 1 team in college field hockey. Off to a 3-0 start this season, Duke has yet to give up a goal this year in its three games. Over the holiday weekend, the Blue Devils defeated former rival and No. 11 Maryland, as well as No. 14 Northwestern, at the Big Ten/ACC Cup. Before returning home next weekend, Duke will spend this weekend playing a pair of games in the Commonwealth of Virginia against the No. 10 Cavaliers and No. 15 James Madison on Sunday. Virginia (3-1) has captured wins over Fairfield, Columbia, and Monmouth so far this year, but lost a close 4-2 game against No. 3 Penn State at home last weekend. After facing Duke on Friday, the Cavaliers will face Michigan State on Sunday. The Blue Devils and Cavaliers is the first of three big ACC matchups this weekend, as conference play starts to heat up.

No. 4 North Carolina vs. No. 19 Wake Forest: The second of three ACC showdowns this Friday pits the Tar Heels and Demon Deacons against each other. Formerly the preseason No. 1 team in the country, North Carolina lost its top spot after losing its season opener to No. 7 Michigan. But the Tar Heels have bounced back to win three straight and not allow a score in their three road wins over No. 17 Iowa, No. 12 Princeton, and Penn. North Carolina continues its early-season road trip this weekend when it heads to Winston-Salem to take on the Demon Deacons in its first conference game this year, before traveling to Appalachian State on Sunday. Wake Forest, which was previously ranked No. 15, slid down the rankings after having lost three straight games. After opening the season with a win over Iowa, the Demon Deacons have lost to Michigan, unranked Indiana, and Penn State. The Big Ten has not been kind to Wake Forest, as it failed to put the ball in the goal last weekend against the Hoosiers and Nittany Lions. However, Wake Forest is hopeful a return home will help get the team back to its winning ways.

No. 5 Syracuse vs. No. 8 Boston College: The third ACC showdown features a pair of top 10 teams when the Orange and Eagles get together for a Friday night date in Boston. Standing at 5-0 on the season and having yet to allow a goal, Syracuse is rolling. However, the Orange’s five wins have all come against unranked teams. Now, Syracuse will face its toughest test of the season thus far when it opens conference play against Boston College and then travels to No. 21 Albany on Sunday. This weekend will serve as a good barometer for where the team is right now. On the other hand, BC has faced its fair share of competition to begin the year. After opening the season with a win over Quinnipiac, the Eagles have run off three straight wins against top 25 teams to improve to 4-0 on the year. BC first took down Albany on the road in double overtime, and it followed that up with a pair of wins over Northwestern and Maryland at the Big Ten/ACC Cup last weekend. Friday night’s game will be BC’s home opener before it plays host to Providence on Sunday.

No. 9 Louisville vs. No. 20 American: While the Cardinals may be an ACC team, it won’t be facing a conference foe this weekend. Instead, Louisville will hit the road and face the American Eagles. After losing to No. 23 Ohio State 2-1 last Friday, the Cardinals bounced back to defeat Kent State 5-1 on Sunday. Louisville got its season off to a great start with a pair of home wins over defending national champion and No. 6 Delaware, as well as Indiana. Following its clash against American, the Cardinals will face No. 11 Maryland in College Park on Sunday. On the other side of the field, American comes into Friday’s game on a two-game win streak after a pair of shutout wins over Michigan State (1-0) and Central Michigan (6-0) last weekend. After Louisville, American will face Towson in College Park, Maryland as part of the Terrapin Invitational on Sunday.

No. 12 Princeton vs. No. 22 Rutgers: The unofficial battle of New Jersey will commence on Friday night when Rutgers makes the short drive down the turnpike to face Princeton. After starting at No. 8 this year, the Tigers fell down the polls after opening its season last weekend with a pair of defeats against North Carolina and Delaware. While Princeton has yet to find its winning ways this season, its Garden State counterparts are undefeated at 4-0 on the season. Rutgers’ most notable win came last weekend against No. 23 Old Dominion, which helped propel the Scarlet Knights into the top 25 for the first time this year. After facing Princeton on Friday, Rutgers will continue down the turnpike to face St. Joseph’s on Sunday. As for the Tigers, the weekend will only get harder after its date with Rutgers. Princeton will play host to No. 3 Penn State on Sunday afternoon.

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Sunday, September 10th

No. 2 UConn vs. No. 18 Harvard: The Huskies moved up from No. 4 in the rankings this week after a big 2-1 at Michigan last weekend to improve the team to 3-0 on the young season. While it was the first game that the Huskies allowed an opponent to score this season, UConn has already beaten three top 15 teams this year. And the Huskies will be looking to make it four straight wins against ranked opponents when the team travels to Cambridge to face Harvard on Sunday. The Crimson moved up in the polls from No. 20 this week after a 2-1 start to the season last weekend. Harvard defeated UC Davis and Pacific before falling to No. 13 Stanford, so the Crimson will be looking to spring the upset and grab its first win this year against a ranked team.

No. 3 Penn State vs. No. 12 Princeton: As was mentioned earlier, the Princeton Tigers face another tough early season test when it welcomes in the undefeated Nittany Lions on Sunday. Sitting at 4-0 and having jumped from No. 7 in the polls, Penn State snagged a pair of shutout wins at home last weekend. First, the Nittany Lions defeated Temple 5-0, before it dispatched Wake Forest 6-0. Penn State’s win over Wake Forest was its third over a ranked opponent this year, so the Nittany Lions will be looking for its fourth win over a ranked team this season when it faces Princeton this weekend.

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No. 9 Louisville vs. No. 11 Maryland: The Terps will be hosting the Terrapin Invitational this weekend at home, with its first game coming against local rival Towson on Friday. But the marquee matchup that fans will be most excited for over the weekend comes on Sunday afternoon, when Maryland will face Louisville after the Cardinals take on American on Friday. Maryland will hope that playing in its friendly confines will bring about winning vibes after struggling last weekend at the Big Ten/ACC Cup in Pennsylvania. After starting the season with a home win over St. Joseph’s, the Terps lost both to former conference foe Duke and Boston College last weekend to drop the team to 1-2. As a result, Maryland fell from No. 6 in the rankings. But what makes this non-conference showdown even more intriguing is the unique relationship these schools have with each other, as Louisville unofficially replaced Maryland in the ACC when the Terps left for the Big Ten.

No. 23 Ohio State vs. No. 19 Wake Forest: After hosting UNC on Friday, the Demon Deacons will step back out of conference play to take on the Buckeyes of Ohio State at home. Sunday will be Wake Forest’s fifth game this season against a Big Ten school, with three of the previous four games ending in defeat. Ranked in the top 25 for the first time in five years, the Buckeyes are 2-1 on the season. The win that all but moved the Buckeyes into the rankings was its 2-1 upset over Louisville last weekend, as well as its 4-0 win over Lehigh to begin the year. Before traveling to Winston-Salem on Sunday, the Buckeyes will play at Miami (Ohio) after losing to Kent State this past Tuesday.

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