As conference season begins to pick up in NCAA Division I women’s soccer, the signs are beginning to hint at which teams will be contenders in postseason play. As of Oct. 10, Stanford has snatched the top spot in the United Soccer Coaches poll from former No. 1 UCLA. The Cardinal was previously ranked at No. 2 but earned three big points over Colorado last Sunday to improve to 12-1 overall. All-American redshirt senior Andi Sullivan was called up by the U.S. women’s national team on Wednesday for a pair of friendlies against South Korea in October. This is Sullivan’s first call-up since suffering an ACL tear last year.The UCLA Bruins picked up a 2-1 win over Utah on Thursday night to improve to 12-0-2 on the year, and will rest up before facing Washington State next Thursday.
This weekend is another chance for teams to rise in the ranks and secure a top spot in their respective conferences. Here are the top three matchups to keep an eye on:
No. 1 Stanford (12-1-0, 5-0-0 Pac-12) vs. Washington (9-3-2, 2-1-2 Pac-12)
The Cardinal, ranked No. 1 in the Pac-12 and the coaches poll this week, will host the Washington Huskies. Last weekend the Huskies earned a point against Oregon State and three points against Oregon. Their defense has been solid all season, allowing only one goal in the last 915 minutes played. They are ranked No. 9 in the nation in goals-against average, led by goalkeeper Sarah Shimer. Shimer has 10 shutouts on the year so far. Similarly, Stanford has also had an impressive defensive season, only allowing two goals in their last 10 games. The Cardinal has yet to give up a goal at home at at Laird Q. Cagan Stadium.
On the other end of the field, Stanford leads the nation in goals scored per game with 4.15. Seven players on the squad have scored four-plus goals, with Catarina Macario leading the pack with nine on the season. The Huskies are led in scoring by Kimberly Keever, who has five goals so far this season. She has 21 goals over her collegiate career and recently scored her fourth game-winner of the year over Oregon last weekend.
No. 3 South Carolina (12-1-0, 6-0-0 SEC) vs. Vanderbilt (9-4-1, 4-1-1 SEC)
The South Carolina Gamecocks are the top seed in the SEC and have yet to earn anything less than three points in conference play so far. Vanderbilt is fifth in the SEC and will look to bounce back from a home loss against Florida last week.
Vanderbilt is led by forward Simone Charley, who has three goals and five assists on the season. She’ll be a threat in the match. However, one thing the Gamecocks are known for is their defense. This season they have allowed not even one goal a game. But it doesn’t stop there, up top South Carolina is is gifted with Savannah McCaskill and Elexa Bahr who each have five goals this season.
No. 13 Penn State (9-3-2, 5-1-2 Big Ten) vs. Maryland (7-6-2, 1-6-1 Big Ten)
Ranked No. 2 in the Big Ten, the Nittany Lions will travel to Maryland on Sunday for a conference showdown. The Terps haven’t earned a point since Sept. 29 against the Wisconsin Badgers, who are now No. 4 in conference standings. Maryland sits at No. 13 in the Big Ten and will look to get a big win over the Nittany Lions. Penn State and Rutgers drew to a 0-0 scoreline after double-overtime on Thursday evening. The Nittany Lions haven’t lost since traveling to Ohio State on Sept. 30.
Leading the attack for Penn State is Megan Schafer, who has five goals and three assists on the year. Charlotte Williams has been a key distributor for the team, dishing out six assists to date. For the Terps, Mikayla Dayes leads the way in scoring with three goals and two assists.