The end of the regular season is drawing ever near as some teams play out the string and others gear up for the conference and NCAA tournament season. Here’s a look at three matches that include programs in the latter category.
NCAA GAME OF THE WEEK:
No. 10 Florida Gators vs No. 16 Florida State Seminoles
Time: Thursday, October 12, 6 p.m. EDT
How to Watch: SEC Network/ SEC+(WatchESPN)
Typically, a non-conference match of this caliber would take place in early September rather than mid-October. Hurricane Irma caused this match, originally scheduled for September 8th, to be pushed back a month. This comes after the game between these two sunshine state rivals last year also had to be canceled due to a hurricane. Needless to say, it’s definitely a match many women’s soccer fans have been anticipating. In addition to being in-state rivals, this game features two legendary coaches and program known for their proclivity to send players to the next level.
The Gators and the Seminoles have pretty similar goal against averages (.62 to .75) and identical goals per game (2.08), so it could be a pretty tight game. Each side has its share of players capable of winning or saving a game. For the Gators, keep an eye on Gabby Seiler, who is listed as a midfielder but can line up just about anywhere on the field. She’s second on the team in goals with 6 and her 7 assists lead the team. Meanwhile, Deanne Rose has 8 goals on the season and has recorded a point in 5 of the last 6 contests for the Gators.
The Seminoles’ offense has been dominated by Deyna Castellanos who’s 10 goals are more than double what the next highest scorer has managed for Florida State. She’ll be the one to watch as Florida State attempts to win its first game this season against a top 10 team. Cassie Miller, one of four players on NCAA MAC Hermann watch list slated to appear in this game, may be called upon to make a game-saving save or two.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights vs No. 13 Penn State
Time: Thursday, October 12, 7 p.m. EDT
How to Watch: Big Ten Network
Rutgers, the hosts, find themselves in a position they didn’t expect to find themselves in at this juncture in the Big Ten season. After being the last team in Division I to concede a goal, the Scarlet Knights have dropped two conference contests and are fifth in the Big Ten standings. This weekend will be huge as Rutgers plays two teams ahead of them in the standings.
First up are the Nittany Lions, who are also in a different place than many anticipated at this point in the season. Penn State was initially slated as a front runner for the national title after welcoming back a strong contingent from last year’s U-20 World Cup. In truth, Penn State has struggled at times against top-tier opponents. One player that’s contributed less than expected so far this season is Senior Frannie Crouse, who is well off the usual pace with just 2 goals on the season. In each of her first three seasons in State College, she’s tallied at least ten times. Widely considered a high prospect for the NWSL 2018 draft, Crouse could certainly improve her stock with a solid performance against one of the nation’s toughest defenses.
No. 3 South Carolina Gamecocks vs. Vanderbilt
Time: Sunday, October 15, 5 p.m. EDT
How to Watch: SEC Network/ SEC+(WatchESPN)
The third game this week features another SEC powerhouse and a team seemingly on the rise in the conference. The Gamecocks are currently number one in the conference standings and have yet to drop a point in the conference. Vanderbilt is fifth currently. Given SEC’s crucible of a conference tournament, every game can make a difference in those all-important final regular season standings.
For the Gamecocks, Savannah McCaskill has played the role of provider more often than scorer this season, with Elexa Bahr being one of the main benefactors. Bahr and McCaskill have both scored five times this season to lead the team in that category. While a lot SEC teams are known for their offensive prowess, the Gamecocks calling card is their defense. The Gamecocks have allowed just over half a goal a game this season.
Vanderbilt meanwhile is led by dual-sport star Simone Charley. The forward leads the team in points with 3 goals and 5 assists. She’ll be the main target the Gamecocks will look to shut down. Graduate student Stephanie Amack, a former U-20 USWNT and Stanford defender will be tasked with trying to limit McCaskill’s influence on the game.