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Natalie Bode | NCAA.com | September 7, 2021

These are the 4 must-watch matchups in women's soccer this week

5 NCAA women’s soccer players to watch from the preseason top 25

Week 3 of women's soccer is here, along with a slate filled with ranked matchups. This week, we will be looking ahead to the four games we anticipate the most excitement from, and the players to keep an eye on for each side ahead of kickoff. 

No. 3 Virginia vs. No. 14 Penn State, Thursday at 8 p.m. ET

Headlining the must-watch matchups for the week is the No. 3 ranked team in the country, the 6-0 Virginia Cavaliers, taking on Penn State. Virginia has looked very impressive so far, racking up six straight wins against opponents such as last year's national champion Santa Clara. To no one's surprise, junior forward Diana Ordoñez is once again making a huge impact for Virginia. Last season Ordoñez tallied a team-leading 29 points, including 12 goals and five assists. Once again in 2021, Ordoñez is the team's point leader through seven games, with 10 total points and five goals. On the other hand, Penn State is 4-1 and ranked No. 14. Penn State suffered its only loss to the then-No. 18 UCF, 2-1. One game prior, the Nittany Lions pulled off their most impressive win yet, beating then-No. 13 West Virginia, 2-0. Payton Linnehan will be the player to watch for Penn State, as she leads the team with a team-high 12 points (five goals and two assists). 

MAC HERMANN AWARD: 2021 watch list revealed

No. 4 UCLA vs. No. 8 Santa Clara, Thursday at 10 p.m. ET

UCLA comes into this meeting having won four straight and carrying lots of momentum with the home-field advantage. UCLA's offense has seen sophomore forward Reilyn Turner and junior forward Mia Fishel lead the team in goals, with Turner scoring four and Fishel scoring three through the first four matches. Redshirt junior Madelyn Desiano has notably picked up a team-leading five assists. Reigning national champion Santa Clara has seen some adversity so far this season, picking up two ties in August and a recent 1-0 loss to No. 3 Virginia. Despite returning offensive star Kelsey Turnbow and defensive leader Alex Loera, Santa Clara has dropped six spots since the first set of preseason rankings were released. This will be an important game for both sides, as each look to improve on the season and stake their claim to being among the top teams in the country.

BELL'S RETURN: UNC's Maycee Bell is coming off ankle surgery and ready to make an immediate impact

No. 12 South Carolina vs. Clemson, Thursday at 6 p.m. ET

South Carolina and Clemson will face one another on Thursday, with the Gamecocks coming in at 5-0 and the Tigers coming in at 3-2, with losses to a pair of SEC teams in Texas A&M and Georgia. Corinna Zullo and Eveleen Hahn are the point leaders and top scorers for South Carolina with three goals each and seven and six points, respectively. Sophomore and MAC Hermann Trophy watchlist member Megan Bornkamp continues to be Clemson's biggest threat, with a team-high 11 points and five goals so far. South Carolina will look to remain undefeated and continue its success, while Clemson will try to avoid its third loss in just as many weeks.

No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 10 Auburn, Sunday at 3 p.m. ET

Although No. 1 Florida State has had the top spot locked down since preseason, No. 10 Auburn could be the team to make an upset. The Tigers are 5-0 so far this season, and have already upset one team, defeating then-No. 12 BYU 2-1. Although Florida State returns many impressive stars from last season, including gold medalist Gabby Carle and MAC Hermann award winner Jaelin Howell, they narrowly escaped with a win against Texas A&M in its first game this season. This game will be a must-watch, as Auburn will most likely come to this game with something to prove while taking on soccer powerhouse Florida State.

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