Conference play in the ACC begins today when defending national champions Florida State host Boston College.
The defending champs are just one team to keep an eye on this year in what might be the country's most talented and competitive conference. The ACC currently has seven teams in the top 25 and multiple players who are in contention for the MAC Hermann trophy.
Here's everything you need to know before ACC play kicks-off:
Virginia's offense is one of the best in the country so far
If there is one team who should be holding their heads the highest walking into conference play, it is the Virginia Cavaliers. Not only do the Hoos lead the ACC in goals (35), assists (25) and points (95) behind the likes of offensive break-outs Diana Ordonez, Megan McCool and Alexa Spaanstra, but they are also in the upper-echelon of nation-wide offensive efficiency. The Cavs are second in the country in points per game with 11.88, only 0.26 points behind Stanford. Virginia is also second in the country in total points, falling behind Louisiana Tech — a team that has racked up an incredible 104 points through nine games. UVA will hope to continue its dominance in conference play as the undefeated, and newly ranked No. 1 Hoos travel to Winston-Salem to play Wake Forest in their first ACC match Sept. 20.
The ACC will feature loads of MAC Hermann-level talent
The ACC led all conferences with 12 players on the preseason MAC Hermann trophy watch list. For the ACC, this list continues to grow, as talent such as Virginia forwards Diana Ordonez and Megan McCool emerged as leading goal-scorers. Goalkeepers Mandy McGlynn (Virginia Tech) and Gabrielle Kouzelos (Louisville) have emerged as top-tier goal stoppers. McGlynn and Kouzelos rank one and two in goals-against average, save percentage and rank in the top three in shutouts and shutouts per game average. McGlynn leads all of the ACC with 6 shutouts, with Kouzelos just behind her with 3. Kouzelos is top in the conference in goals-against average (.136), save percentage (.929) and total goals allowed (1). With these offensive and defensive dominant players joining the likes of stars Deyna Castellanos (Florida State), Alessia Russo (North Carolina) and Alexa Spaanstra (Virginia), there will be plenty to watch in the ACC this year.
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Despite dropping two early games, defending ACC and national champs Florida State still looks strong
Florida State came into the 2019 season ready to repeat as ACC champions and national champions, and they looked like it too. FSU knocked off two power 5 teams in TCU and nationally ranked Wisconsin to start the season, but things took a turn when the Seminoles headed west. They dropped the next two against a pair of Southern California schools in USC and UCLA. Losing each game by one goal (2-1 versus UCLA and 3-2 against Southern Cal), FSU came back to Tallahassee motivated as they won their next three, including wins against archrival Florida and at the time No. 24 Colorado. Florida State enters ACC play 4-2 after crushing Villanova 5-0 in Philadelphia. Behind their do-it-all forward Deyna Castellanos, the Seminoles will try to navigate a competitive ACC as they open up against Boston College on Sept. 19.
Mark your calendars for Sept. 26: Virginia vs. Virginia Tech will be a rivalry match you won't want to miss
From North Carolina vs. Lousiville to Duke against NC State, early play in the ACC offers plenty of intriguing matchups, but nothing compares to the Commonwealth Clash come Sept. 26. Hosted by Virginia the Hokies-Cavs matchup will feature one of the country's best offenses against one of the country's best defenses. Virginia, second in the nation in goals per game, will face the ACC's toughest defense. Virginia Tech's backline has only allowed 2 goals all season. The Hokies also feature one of the best goalkeepers in the conference in McGlynn. She has the second-best save percentage in the conference at .929 and has racked up the most shutouts with 6. This current No. 1 vs. No. 18 matchup also has the chance to feature two undefeated teams as Virginia (8-0) has to get past Wake Forest (5-2-1) and Virginia Tech (8-0) faces Miami (3-2-1) before the in-state battle.
Big 10 preview: The essential guide to the conference season
Clemson is rising in the rankings
After jumping out to a 6-0-1 record with wins over likes of in-state rival South Carolina, Georgia and Nebraska, the Tigers have jumped 10 spots in the newest United Soccer Coaches rankings. Clemson is led by sophomore defender Renee Guion. Although Guion is listed as a defender, she plays more of a distributor role as she is tied for tops in the ACC and the country in assists with 7. Originally not ranked in the preseason top 25, the Tigers' climb has been consistent and their play has been strong, especially when they needed it most against No. 9 South Carolina. The win came on the back of freshman Maliah Morris, who rocketed in the Tigers' sole goal of the game in the 44th minute. It was their first victory over South Carolina since 2015. Clemson will start ACC play on Sept. 20 when they host Notre Dame. They will then have another big test when they welcome Florida State to town Sept. 26.