Sixty four teams begin their quest this week to earn a spot in Cary, North Carolina, where the NCAA DI women's soccer champion will be crowned. Here are our picks for the seven best first-round games to watch this weekend as the NCAA women's soccer tournament begins.
No. 4 Duke vs. Rutgers (November 9, 2018, 7 p.m. ET — Koskinen Stadium, Durham, North Carolina)
Duke holds a No. 4 seed in the tournament and will bring five All-ACC honorees to the field on Friday, but its first match against Rutgers won't be easy. The Scarlet Knights will aim to take down the Blue Devils behind the efforts of point leader Amirah Ali, who has already recorded 10 goals and totaled 23 points this season. Rutgers also tied the unique NCAA record of most overtime games in a season, totaling eleven. The Scarlet Knights are a gritty team with endurance prepared to play into extra minutes if necessary, making their matchup against the Blue Devils, and the program's winningest senior class in program history, an exciting contest.
Texas Tech vs. Princeton (November 9, 2018, 7 p.m. ET — John Walker Soccer Complex, Lubbock, Texas)
Princeton, the Ivy League champions, will be a tough defensive opponent for the Raiders, as they have only let in three goals in the last nine outings. The Tigers advanced to NCAA quarterfinals last year and will hope to do the same this year, though their first round match will be a challenge. The Red Raiders dropped in the Big 12 conference tournament to Baylor, and while they have strong offensive power in top points scorer Kirsten Davis, they are also going to need to rely on their goalkeeper Marissa Zucchetto if they want to hold off Princeton.
N.C. State vs. Northwestern (November 9, 2018, 7 p.m. ET— Dail Soccer Field, Raleigh, North Carolina)
Northwestern will travel to Raleigh, North Carolina to take on the Wolfpack after failing to advance to the Big 10 tournament, despite an early season hot streak and a win against Penn State. The Wildcats will be relying on goals leader Brenna Lovera as well as the combo of centerbacks Kayla Sharples and Hannah Davison. N.C. State, one of 10 ACC teams to make the tournament, will hope better its 2016 tournament run when it advanced to the Round of 16, but it will need an ace performance from goalkeeper Sydney Wootten as well junior midfielder Tziarra King.
Memphis vs. Wisconsin (November 9, 2018, 8 p.m. ET — Mike Rose Soccer Complex, Memphis, Tennessee)
Memphis earned its bid to the tournament this year after winning the AAC conference championship with a shutout upset against No. 1 seed South Florida, and the Tigers will carry their efficient playmaking and impeccable defensive into the NCAA tournament. Wisconsin has three players who have scored double-digit points this year including points leader Lauren Rice as well as Dani Rhodes and Cameron Murtha, but it will face stiff competition from Memphis’ Clarissa Lariesy, the AAC tournament's most outstanding player
Texas A&M vs. North Texas (November 9, 2018, 8 p.m. ET — Ellis Field, College Station, Texas)
An in-state contest, North Texas will travel to College Station to take on the Aggies after winning the Conference USA tournament for the automatic bid. Texas A&M, however, will be a tough opponent for the Mean Green, as the Aggies average 2.3 goals a game and have experience in tight games against ranked opponents. North Texas can compete, but it will rely on dependable goalkeeper Kelsey Brann and hope she can stop Texas A&M’s Ally Watt and the rest of the Aggie attack.
Kansas vs. Saint Louis (November 9, 2018, 8 p.m. ET — Rock Chalk Park, Lawrence, Kansas)
Saint Louis brings a 14-game winning streak and a conference tournament title, an honor that Kansas missed out on this year after falling to Texas in the the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals. Katie McClure and Grace Hagan lead the Jayhawks with 19 and 17 points respectively, while the Billikens are anchored by Hannah Friedrich and Maddie Pokorny, who have 30 and 26 points each. The winner of this game will face the victor in the North Carolina vs. Howard matchup in Chapel Hill.
Clemson vs. Ole Miss (November 10, 6 p.m. ET — Historic Riggs Field, Clemson, South Carolina)
The Tigers have an impressive roster made up of four 2018 All-ACC players including defensive player of the year Sam Staab, Mariana Speckmaier, Sandy MacIver and Miranda Weslake, and this year's NCAA bid will mark the fifth consecutive tournament appearance for the program. The last time Clemson took on the Rebels, however, in the NCAA tournament in 2015, Ole Miss took down the Tigers in Clemson and advanced to the Round of 16.