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Zach Pekale | NCAA.com | September 17, 2019

Virginia rises to the top as North Carolina, Stanford drop in newest women's soccer rankings

Women's soccer plays of the week

Following losses to North Carolina and Stanford, the top spot in the United Soccer Coaches Poll was up for the taking. After wins over William & Mary and Penn State, Virginia becomes the third team to hold the No. 1 ranking this season.

The Cavaliers have steadily progressed through the rankings. They opened at No. 9 in the preseason, inching closer to the top each week. The breakthrough likely came after beating then-No. 8 Penn State, Virginia’s third win of the year against a ranked opponent. 

It’s the first time Virginia has held the top spot since the final regular-season poll of 2015.

Southern California, previously ranked third, nearly joined the Tar Heels and Cardinal in the loss column over the weekend. Instead, the Trojans survived at Seattle with a double-overtime win and move up to No. 2.

USC spent six weeks at No. 2 in 2018, but were unable to hold off Virginia for the top spot despite a 7-0 start. The Trojans last held the top ranking in the final poll of 2016, after winning the national championship.

While the Trojans and Cavaliers rise, four top-10 teams and six of the top 13 recorded losses, meaning movement in the new rankings was imminent.

Here is the full poll.

Rank School Prev points record
1 Virginia (21) 4 832 8-0-0
2 Southern California (10) 3 818 7-0-0
3 Stanford (3) 2 771 7-0-0
4 North Carolina 1 749 7-1-0
5 UCLA 5 719 5-1-0
6 Florida State 6 675 6-2-0
7 BYU 10 646 6-0-0
8 Duke 11 511 5-1-1
9 South Carolina 7 499 6-1-0
10 Clemson 20 480 6-0-1
11 Memphis 14 461 7-1-0
12 Georgetown 15 416 5-2-1
13 Rutgers 19 389 6-0-1
14 Kansas 18 381 7-1-0
15 Texas A&M 12 331 5-1-2
16 Arkansas NR 320 6-1-1
17 Vanderbilt 9 263 7-1-0
18 Virginia Tech 16 241 8-0-0
19 Iowa NR 210 8-0-0
20 Louisville NR 197 7-0-0
21 California NR 167 7-0-0
22 South Florida 25 161 5-1-0
23 Penn State 8 150 4-3-1
24 Washington State 13 133 5-1-0
25 Oklahoma State NR 126 6-0-1

Among the notable teams to drop are North Carolina and Stanford, which fell to No. 4 and 3 respectively after losing for the first time this season.

The top-ranked Tar Heels conceded two second-half goals in a 2-0 loss to Arkansas. The Cardinal, formerly at No. 2 in the poll, dropped after being stunned 1-0 by Pepperdine. 

Joining UNC and Stanford in the loss column are Vanderbilt, Texas A&M and Washington State. Of the three teams —all previously ranked in the top 13 — the Commodores and Cougars had perfect records while the Aggies were unbeaten.

However, Texas A&M was the only one to lose to a ranked team — then-No. 10 Brigham Young. The Cougars shutout victory moved them up three spots as the Aggies fell to No. 15.

WEEKEND RECAP: Arkansas ends North Carolina shutout streak in upset

Emina Ekic broke a scoreless tie in the 100th minute as Louisville blanked Vanderbilt 1-0, sending the Commodores down eight spots to No. 17.

Washington State gave up two goals in the first four minutes against Michigan, an obstacle the Cougars were unable to overcome for their first loss. WSU dips to No. 24.

Biggest risers

Clemson's win over in-state rival South Carolina paid tremendous dividends. The Tigers had the biggest jump out of any team from last week's poll, surging 10 spots to No. 10. But the largest overall jump comes from Arkansas. 

The Razorbacks were one of five new teams in the newest edition of the rankings, entering the poll at No. 16. Arkansas was not receiving votes before its win over then-No. 1 North Carolina.

The other newcomers this week are Iowa (19), Louisville (20), California (21) and Oklahoma State (25).

Dropped out

TCU (17), Tennessee (21), Wisconsin (22), West Virginia (23), Colorado (24)

Looking ahead

Newly-minted No. 1 Virginia's next match is its ACC opener. The Cavaliers, who are outscoring opponents 35-3 this season, will look to improve to 9-0 on Friday at Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons most recently received votes in the last poll.

In its loss to Pepperdine, Stanford's offense was held scoreless for just the fourth time in four years. To get back on track, the Cardinal head to Santa Clara on Sunday.  The Broncos will look to continue their winning ways against the Pac-12, already having upset UCLA on Sept. 5 in addition to a win over Arizona.

FLIPPING OUT: Women's college soccer players explain the flip-throw

Like Stanford, North Carolina was blanked in its loss to Arkansas after tallying 25 goals in its first seven matches. The No. 4 Tar Heels now open ACC play on the road against No. 20 Louisville, a team that picked up one win against the top 10 last week and could go for another ranked win on Saturday.

Brigham Young reached No. 7 in the poll after its win over then-No. 12 Texas A&M. That number could continue to rise if the BYU can knock off another ranked team. The Cougars will have that chance on Thursday when they travel to No. 14 Kansas.

Without the pressure of a perfect season, Vanderbilt can now focus its attention on competing for the SEC title. The No. 17 Commodores' first step towards a potential conference championship begins at home against Tennessee on Sunday. The Volunteers fell out of the rankings, but are still receiving votes and will look to get back in the win column after drawing its only match last week.

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