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NCAA Preview Week 11: Thursday night highlighted by key conference matchups

Have any plans Thursday? If so, you might want to set your DVR.  If not, might we suggest saying in and binge-watching college soccer? This week’s lineup features several highly anticipated matchups that could have significant implications for the postseason. Here’s a quick rundown of a few matches to enjoy.

NCAA GAME OF THE WEEK

No. 1 Stanford Cardinal vs No. 6 UCLA Bruins

Stanford defeated No. 10 Georgetown, 4-0, in the Cardinal’s home opener.
(photo by Aaron Shepley, courtesy of Stanford University)

Time: Thursday, October 26, 10:30 pm ET

How to Watch: PAC 12 Network

This match has been circled in a lot of people’s calendars since the beginning of the season. Both PAC-12 powers welcomed great recruiting classes this year and seemed poised to make deep runs in the NCAA tournament.  First and third currently in the conference standings,  this game could be pivotal in deciding who is crowned PAC-12 champions.

The Cardinal is averaging over 4 goals a game, ranked first in the nation in that category. Stanford’s two leading scorers, Kyra Carusa and Catarina Macario have combined for 24 goals on the season. That’s more than about 175 Division I teams have managed. Macario, who hails from Brazil, has proven to be one of the year’s most outstanding freshman and has unlocked backlines seemingly at will. In addition to being tied for team lead in goals with Carusa, Macario has a team-high nine assists.

The Bruins come into Thursday’s contest after suffering their first loss of the season on the road against Washington State. At home, the Bruins will look to get out to a quick start against the nation’s number one team. Offensively, Hailie Mace has emerged as the team’s go-to goal scorer. So far on the season, Mace has tallied 13, while Canadian phenomenon Jesse Fleming and Ashley Sanchez have often played the role of provider.

No. 2 Duke Blue Devils  vs  No. 10 Virginia

Time: Thursday, October 26, 7 pm ET

How to Watch: WatchESPN/ACC Digital Network

In the ACC standings, it’s Duke, UNC and then everyone else. The Blue Devils come into Charlottesville riding a 16 game winning streak and are the last unblemished team in ACC play.  Senior Imani Dorsey and junior Kayla McCoy have been key for the Blue Devils’ cause. The attacking duo, who compliment each well, have combined for nearly half of Duke’s goals this season.

Virginia, meanwhile, hasn’t put up the offensive numbers they’ve traditionally recorded but have generated enough offense to grab the third spot in the ACC standings. A win Thursday won’t impact those standings but could impact how the NCAA bracket turns out. The Cavaliers are led by senior Veronica Latsko and freshman Taryn Torres, who’ve tallied 6 times apiece.

Unfortunately for Virginia, they’ll be without sophomore Zoe Morse, who’s started all but one game this season and has been an important cog in the Cavaliers three back system. Watch and see if Duke attacks that side especially give that’s where Dorsey typically lines up for Duke

No. 3  South Carolina Gamecocks vs. No. 17 Florida Gators

Time: Thursday, October 26, 7 pm ET

How to Watch:  WatchESPN/SEC+

The Gamecocks and the Gators first and third respectively right now in SEC conference standings.This game could be huge in deciding how the final standings shake out. Those standings are hugely important for the SEC tournament, the longest and most arduous conference championship format in college soccer.

Florida rebounded from a two-game skid last week with a win over then no. 11 Tennessee. Now the Gators have a chance to get back to back wins against top 20 teams in their SEC regular season finale. Key for Florida’s chances will be breaking down a well organized Gamecock backline. The Gamecocks have allowed multiple goals in a game just twice this season and have allowed just under a half a goal per game.

Deanna Rose, the Canadian freshman, could be the answer to unlocking South Carolina’s defense. Rose has eight goals and three assists on the season and has progressed noticeably over the course of the season.

For the Gamecocks, forward Savannah McCaskill is certainly the star. Known for her goal-scoring abilities, McCaskill is worth watching whether she’s on the ball or not.  Her phenomenal runs off the ball, not only set her up for goal scoring opportunities but also open up space for her teammates.

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