The start of the women's soccer season entailed several nail-biters and rain delays on Thursday before a top-10 clash on Friday. Though most of the United Soccer Coaches Top 25 poll earned wins, there were some thrillers. Here's a recap of the first days of the regular season — and what to look forward to the first weekend of the women's soccer season.
The first Top-10 matchup of the season did not disappoint as No. 3 Stanford inched past No. 6 Penn State, 2-1, on Friday. After 13 minutes of dominant possession by the Nittany Lions, Catarina Macario deceived multiple defenders to put the Cardinals on the board first. The Penn State equalizer came off the right foot Kate Wiesner, whose shot squirmed past the diving Stanford goalkeeper.
The Cardinals opened the second half more aggressive, as did Macario, who scored the game-winning goal (her second of the night) in the 49th minute.
On Thursday, No. 15 South Carolina opened with an intense victory over No. 21 NC State in front of a standing-room only crowd. The Wolfpack got on the board first during the 21st minute via Krissi Schuster's knock in. The Gamecocks, who allowed 12 goals all last season, wouldn't respond until the second half with Tatum Milazzo's header goal off a corner kick. Four minutes later at the 53rd minute, Elexa Bahr put South Carolina in front for good, 2-1.
Down at South Florida, the possibility of a major upset remained as each minute ticked by during No. 18 South Florida's match against Auburn. Pressure was high, but the Bulls got it done within the final seconds of regulation, outlasting the Tigers 2-1.
BEEF UP YOUR 2019 SOCCER KNOWLEDGE: Essential things to know this season
Entering the second half tied at one, Auburn remained headstrong in front of South Florida's heavy-shooters. At the 67th minute, the Bulls were outshooting the Tigers 12-4. An exhale was not made, though, until the final 20 seconds, when Sydney Nasello placed the ball just overhead of Auburn's goalkeeper.
Here's how Nasello's miraculous game-winner found the back of the net:
Late-game craziness continued in Austin, Texas, once Gonzaga pushed No. 19 Texas to the brink. With about 23 minutes left after trailing 3-1, Gabriela Mass tied the game at 3-3 off a free kick. Cyera Hintzen responded by placing the ball inside the left post to put the Longhorns ahead 4-3.
When the end seemed near, the Bulldogs kept threatening. With five seconds left, Gonzaga was awarded a penalty kick. Texas' valiant goalkeeper Savannah Madden dove low toward the right post and saved a near game-tying goal for the Longhorns' third straight season-opening win.
Reigning national champions Florida State looked strong again in its 2-0 win over TCU. Heather Payne scored her first collegiate goal in the first half, and Deyna Castellanos' goal in the 58th minute cemented the victory.
No. 22 Texas Tech steamrolled San Diego State 6-1 in a game that might've been overlooked. But freshman forward Marisa Weichel began her Red Raiders career with a bang.
The only early upset on Thursday came at the hands of Villanova, as it defeated No. 24 LSU at home.
No. 12 Texas A&M narrowly escaped an upset of its own, trailing No. 13 Santa Clara 2-1 with a little over 30 minutes remaining. The Aggies drew even in the 59th minute thanks to junior midfielder Addie McCain. But it was Jimena Lopez's go-ahead goal off a penalty kick in the 81st minute that secured Texas A&M's comeback.
Notable weather delays extended the night for No. 2 North Carolina vs. Indiana, No. 10 Tennessee vs. Fordham and No. 7 Georgetown at James Madison. All three still won.
Only two days of the season are done, but a busy weekend is ahead.
Games to watch this weekend (all times ET)
The Mountaineers ended the 2018 season in heartbreaking fashion. Tied 2-2 against Wake Forest in the second round of the NCAA tournament, No. 2 seed West Virginia's dreams were stunted as the Demon Deacons won in penalty kicks. West Virginia's first match of the season, Friday's 2-0 win over Duquesne, should set it up well for a Top-15 matchup with Stanford.
On Thursday, the Wolfpack fought deep into their 2-1 loss to South Carolina. Their second game of the season shouldn't be any different as they take on the 2019 NCAA tournament semifinalist Hoyas. Georgetown opened its season against James Madison on Thursday.
The Seminoles' first trial of the season is expected to take place Sunday against the Badgers after they shut out TCU on Thursday. This will be Wisconsin's second Florida opponent in as many games, after the Badgers beat UCF 1-0 Thursday.
STARS TO WATCH: Three players who could win the Hermann Trophy
How sweet it is to have two Top-10 matches in one weekend, especially when the Blue Devils and Tar Heels are set to square off? The ACC matchup should offer good insight into Duke's 2019 capabilities when it comes to competing for a national title, as UNC seems to be one its two top competitors.
The smell of an in-state rivalry always conjures up excitement and frequent trash talk, which makes the Gators-Bulls match a must-see. Though Florida received 70 votes in the United Soccer Coaches poll, six shy of No. 25 Virginia Tech, expect a Top 25-like atmosphere at Corbett Soccer Stadium in Tampa. After all, the Bulls aren't strangers to in-state rivalry matches and the importance these might have for the postseason. They lost to Florida State in the second round to end their 2018 playoff run.