Conference play is getting started all around DI women's soccer, which means teams are trading unfamiliar opponents for the heated clashes that come with teams that they meet quite often.
FULL SCOREBOARD: Don't miss any games as women's soccer moves into conference play
Here are three ranked matchups to keep an eye on this week:
This has been a season of records and firsts for Alabama. The Crimson Tide has never been ranked higher in program history, and it welcomes the Gamecocks to Tuscaloosa for its first top-12 matchup ever. Riley Mattingly Parker has been the team’s hero on multiple occasions this season, as three of her team-high six goals have been game-winners.
The Tide is currently on a 10-game home winning streak (also a program record), while South Carolina has yet to lose this season. Sure, three ties in eight games aren’t ideal, but the Gamecocks have a good history against Alabama, with 16 wins in 20 meetings. Catherine Barry and Shea O’Rourke have each scored three goals, while Jyllissa Harris, named to the preseason Hermann Trophy watchlist, is always a game-breaking threat.
The atmosphere at Alabama Soccer Stadium will be unprecedented for this ranked SEC opener, a fitting term to describe this year’s team as a whole.
The ACC is the traditional powerhouse conference in women’s soccer (thanks mostly to Anson Dorrance and the Tar Heels, of course). This season, the conference boasts four teams — North Carolina, No. 3 Duke, No. 6 Notre Dame and Virginia — in the top 10, and that doesn’t even include No. 12 Florida State, the defending national champions.
Avery Patterson leads the Tar Heels with six goals and is supported in attack by Emily Murphy and Tori Dellaperuta, with both totaling three. Outside its 2-1 loss to No. 1 UCLA on Sept. 4, North Carolina has outscored opponents 21-2 this season with double the number of shots and shots on goal.
And yet, Virginia’s numbers are better, with 27 goals for and just one against. The Cavaliers haven’t allowed a goal since opening night, a streak of seven consecutive clean sheets. In case you’re curious, that’s nearly 11 hours of soccer in which no one has scored on Virginia.
UVA will look to defeat the Heels for the first time since a first round game in the 2014 ACC tournament. That season finished in the national championship game, where the Cavaliers came up short of the title.
Barring any upsets on Thursday night when Pepperdine travels to Long Beach State and UCLA hosts San Diego State, this Sunday afternoon clash in Malibu should be between two undefeated teams riding high into conference play. The Bruins’ nonconference success has been well-documented, while the Waves’ season has built nicely.
An interesting trend in Pepperdine’s results is the fact that they have kept a clean sheet in every win so far while tying games in which they have conceded a goal. Keeping this Bruins team off the board will be a tough task, though. Yes, Sunshine Fontes leads the team with five goals, but four other Bruins have scored at least twice, including the dangerous strike partnership of Lexi Wright and Reilyn Turner.
Six Pepperdine players have scored more than one goal, led by Carlee Giammona’s five goals and 32 shots (nearly 25% of her team’s total attempts).