Conference play is in full swing this week, as many ranked teams take to the pitch to try and establish themselves as powers in their respective conferences.
Heading into Week 6 of women's college soccer, there are only three unbeaten teams remaining in Division I. No. 1 Virginia sits atop the women's college soccer world with a record of 9-0-2 after a win against Virginia Tech and a tie versus No. 10 Duke. Central Michigan, a team that hasn't been ranked this season, is also unbeaten. The 5-0-2 Chippewas will take on Western Michigan and Northern Illinois this week to try and remain undefeated.
As for the third unbeaten team, well they're on another level — perfection. The 10-0-0 BYU Cougars are the only team in DI women's soccer without a loss or a tie, but they'll have to play their best this week against a team that has already slain one giant. Learn about BYU's match and other high profile matches below.
Oklahoma State has been on a roller-coaster ride of a season so far. The Cowgirls looked to be a fierce competitor in the Big 12 following last week's rankings, as they soared seven spots from No. 25 to No. 18 after knocking off Kennesaw State and tying SMU prior to conference play. Then came the beasts in the Big 12 and so did trouble for Oklahoma State. OSU dropped its first match against Texas Tech 1-0 and then tied TCU 1-1, causing the Cowgirls to fall back to their original ranking at No. 25. Kansas is also hoping for a bounce-back win, as it fell four spots in this week's rankings from No. 17 to No. 21. The Jayhawks are led by one of the nation's top offensive players in Katie McClure with 9 goals — second in the Big 12 and tied for 9th in the country. After their battle with Oklahoma State, the Jayhawks travel to Norman to take on the Oklahoma Sooners. As for the Cowgirls, they will host Kansas State on Sunday, Oct. 6.
Michigan is one of two teams new to the top 25 this week, and it'll get the chance to prove why it belongs there when it takes on the highest ranked Big Ten program in the country this Thursday. Wisconsin has been a mainstay for the Big Ten this season, after Penn State's disappointing non-conference performance pushed it from a preseason No. 6 ranking to out of the polls. Michigan vs. Wisconsin will give the Wolverines motivation as they look to compete in a wide open Big Ten.
Wisconsin, who lost star player Victoria Pickett for the season due to a knee injury, has had others step up in her place like Dani Rhodes (4 goals, 3 game-winners). The Wolverines have been led by a trio of midfielders this season in Sarah Stratigakis (5 goals, 4 assists and 14 points), Raleigh Loughman (4 goals, 4 assists and 12 points) and Meredith Haakenson (5 goals, 1 assist and 11 points). Michigan will host Nebraska on Oct. 6 after facing the Badgers. Wisconsin will travel to West Lafayette, Indiana to face Purdue.
When it comes to Pac-12 women's soccer, it doesn't get any tougher than when a team travels to the Bay Area to face Stanford. The Cardinal are led by do-it-all defending MAC Hermann trophy award winner Catarina Macario. The junior forward leads the nation in goals per game (1.33), points (31) and is second in total goals (12). Washington State hopes to slow down Macario and Co. as it has one of the top goalkeepers in the conference in Ella Dederick. Dederick has the sixth best goals allowed per game averages in the conference with 0.74 and has recorded two shutouts on the year.
Washington State also has one of the best ball distributors in the conference in Briana Alger, who has recorded 6 assists so far this year. Alger has had options up front, as both forward Morgan Weaver and midfielder Averie Collins have netted 5 goals so far this season. It would be a huge victory for Washington State, as a win at Stanford would solidify them in the top-tier of the Pac-12. They'll take on Cal in their next match on Oct. 6. The Cardinal will host Washington on Oct. 6 as well.
No. 4 BYU (10-0-0) at Santa Clara (6-5-0) | Oct. 5, 4 p.m. ET | Watch: WCC Network or WCCsports.com
BYU will visit Santa Clara on Oct. 5 in one of the first matches in West Coast Conference play. Although Santa Clara is unranked and has racked up several losses on the season, it does have one major upset under its belt. The Broncos knocked off UCLA 2-0 on Sept. on the back of an own-goal and a goal from Skylar Smith. Since its upset over the Bruins, Santa Clara has gone 4-2 with losses against potential upset opportunities Cal and Stanford.
For BYU, it'll be confident heading into this match as the Cougars are led by one of the nation's top goal-scorers in Elise Flake (9 goals on the year, tied for 10th in DI women's soccer) and their brick wall in the back, goalkeeper Sabrina Davis (8 shutouts this season, tied for second in the nation). Santa Clara will travel to Pacific on Oct. 9 as it continues WCC play. As for BYU, the Cougars hope to get a jump on conference opponents against Santa Clara and take that momentum into a match against Pepperdine on Oct. 9.
No. 3 North Carolina (10-1-0) vs. No. 8 Clemson (8-1-1) | Oct. 5, 5 p.m. ET | Watch: ACC Network Extra
Similar to Washington State, Clemson will hope to take down an in-conference powerhouse in North Carolina this week to prove themselves as contenders in the ACC. Although the Tigers are already ranked No. 8 in the nation and have wins over South Carolina and Virginia Tech, a win over North Carolina would really turn some heads. Clemson is led by one of the best offensive defenders in the game in Renee Guion. Guion is tied for third in the nation with 8 assists, which also puts her tied for first with Florida State's Deyna Castellanos in the ACC — some prestigious company to be in. The sophomore defender has been keen on getting the ball up-front so that forwards Mariana Speckmaier (5 goals) and Maliah Morris (4 goals), who leads the team in goals, can get the ball into the back of the net. As for the Tar Heels, well, they have one of the most cohesive units in the country.
Although no one player stands above the rest as far as statistics go, UNC is second in the ACC in goals forced (35), and tied for first in goals allowed (4). If it can get past Clemson, North Carolina will have another top 10 battle next week when it travels to Durham to play archrival Duke on Oct. 10. The Tigers will travel to Louisville to take on the Cardinals, also on Oct. 10.