Things Are Beginning To Heat Up Coast To Coast With A Lot Of Momentum Building Contests On Tap This Weekend

Teams are beginning to gel and settle into their rhythm. It is still early in the 2017 season but the intensity of play is picking up across the country with numerous key contests slated this weekend.  Each of the eleven games listed looks to be a momentum builder for the winner with the potential to be a springboard for the entire season. 

Indiana (4-0-0) vs. Maryland (4-0-0) – Friday - This “something has to give” NCAA Tournament like Big Ten match-up pits two of the most successful programs in the country against each other and has huge implications in regard to the Big Ten Title race as well as national standing.  

The IU attack features four different players, freshman forward Mason Toye, junior defender Andrew Gutman, senior forward Rashad Hyacenth, and redshirt junior midfielder Trevor Swartz. Each of the four have tallied two goals to date.  The Hoosier defense led by backs senior Grant Lillard, Gutman, redshirt sophomore Jordan Kleyn, and redshirt junior Timmy Mehl and freshman goalkeeper Trey Muse has only allowed one goal in four contests.   

Maryland has an explosive attack that includes forwards Gordan Wild (3g, 0a), Sebastian Elney (1g, 1a) and Eryk Williamson (2g, 2a). Midfielder Jake Rozhansky is among several other Terps who add punch to the offense. The Maryland defense that includes backs Chase Casper, Miles Stray, Johannes Bergman, and George Campbell and goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair looks to be a work in progress that will continue to improve as the season progresses. .

This contest will match a high powered Terp attack against a very solid Hoosier backline.  This one could go either way because both teams are very good. However, all things considered, it is likely that Maryland will prevail if their attack is clicking.

Wake Forest (3-1-0) vs. Louisville (3-0-1) – Saturday - Both teams will come into this marquee Atlantic Coast Conference contest off disappointing results.  Louisville tied in-state foe Kentucky 2-2 at home on Tuesday night.  Wake Forest was upset 2-1 in overtime by Georgia State. The loss terminated Wake Forest's win streak at home at seventeen games. 

Louisville topped Georgia State 1-0 on the road on September 1.  

Both teams have guys on both sides of the ball that are playmakers. Forward Mohamed Thiaw and back Tim Kubel will play key roles for Louisville. Luis Argudo, Jon Bakero, and Brandon Servania are among those who add punch to the Wake Forest offense.  It is early in the season but this will no doubt be a momentum builder for the winner. 

Syracuse (3-0-1) vs. Virginia (3-0-0) – Friday – Two of Virginia’s three wins to date have been in overtime including their most recent victory over UNCW. The Cavaliers have shown that they have the ability to come up with the big play when needed to secure a win but they also have been living a little on the edge.

A young Syracuse squad has played well but is still in the process of gelling as a team.  Both teams have the potential to be very good this year but just how good remains to be seen.  

Give Virginia the edge due to the home field advantage and the fact that they are the more experienced team but the truth is this one could easily go either way.  The contest will feature two of the best netminders in the country.

Tulsa (0-1-1) vs. Stanford ( 3-0-0 ) – Saturday – Tulsa takes to the road to face Santa Clara on Thursday before they tangle with the number one ranked Cardinal. Tulsa comes into this contest off a 2-0 loss to Missouri State in which they struggled on the offensive side of the ball. 

Stanford is the stronger team from top to bottom and should dominate the contest up-top with Foster Langsdorf and Corey Baird powering the attack. However, Tulsa head coach Tom McIntosh always fields a competitive side so don’t count out the Golden Hurricane.

Notre Dame (3-0-0) vs. Boston College (2-2-0) – Friday – Jeff Farina has scored four of Notre Dame’s five goals to date.

Boston College has been on a roller coaster ride so far this year winning their first two contests before coming out on the short end of the scoreboard with a 2-0 loss to New Hampshire and a 3-2 loss to Xavier.

If Boston College can put together a full ninety minutes of play and avoid the lapses in play that hampered them in their two losses, they have a reasonable shot of upsetting the Irish and getting back on track.  On the other hand, if the Eagles have any weaknesses the Irish will exploit them.

Pacific (4-0-0) vs. UNLV (1-2-0) – Friday – Pacific returns from a successful trip to the east coast during which they picked up wins over Virginia Tech and James Madison but must hit the road again to tangle with UNLV in Las Vegas. 

UNLV opened the season with a good 3-2 win on the road over Portland followed by a 1-0 loss to Oregon State in Albuquerque and a 3-0 thumping from New Mexico in a contest in which senior forward Danny Musovski was shown a red card in the early going.  

With Musovski in the lineup for UNLV the contest with Pacific had the makings of an upset but without him on the pitch that is much less likely to occur. Nonetheless this one belongs on the upset watch list.

Akron (1-2-0) vs. UCSB ( 0-2-2) – Saturday - Akron opened the season with 1-0 season losses on the road to Utah Valley and Denver. However, they returned to the friendly confines of FirstEnergy Stadium and rebounded by defeating highly regarded Washington 2-0.  

The return of redshirt senior forward Sam Gainford to the lineup in the contest with Washington helped to add additional punch to an Akron attack that didn’t score during their first two losses. Gainford joins fellow senior Stuart Holthusen to give the Zips a potent combination up-top. 

Akron picks up some more frequent flyer points with a trip to Santa Barbara where they will tangle with a UCSB squad that has had problems of their own with an offense that has produced only one goal in four games.  Nonetheless look for veteran Gaucho head coach Tim Vom Steeg to eventually sort it out and for the UCSB offense to get back in gear as the season progresses. 

Virginia Tech (2-2-0) vs. Duke (3-0-1) – Friday – The Hokies opened the season with a 2-0 win over Creighton then dropped two in a row before topping Binghamton 2-1. Senior forward Marcelo Acuna (3g, 0a) is the key to the Virginia Tech offense. 

A young Duke team opened the season with three straight wins before settling for a disappointing 1-1 tie against a packed in Presbyterian defense on Tuesday night. This looks to be a must win Atlantic Coast Conference contest for both teams.  

Columbia (1-0-1) vs. New Hampshire (4-0-0) – Saturday - Columbia opened with a 1-1 tie with Massachusetts and then topped Fordham 1-0 in their 2017 home opener.  

This contest warrants attention due to the fact that New Hampshire has rolled out consecutive wins over Colgate 1-0, Northeastern 1-0, Boston College 2-0, and Massachusetts 3-0.  Andrew Pesci has posted four shutouts in goal to anchor a tenacious Wildcat defense that includes backs Otto Sahlen, Willis Griffith and Josh Bauer.  Chris Arling and Linus Fallberg power the New Hampshire offense. 

The Wildcats should prevail and keep their win streak alive but a Columbia team that has performed well on the defensive side of the ball could make this one interesting.  

Clemson (4-0-0) vs. North Carolina State ( 1-1-0) – Friday – The Tigers feature an attack led by forwards Diego Campos and transfer Jason Wright.  Both are prime time finishers. Ximo Miralles anchors a Tiger defense that has allowed three goals in four contests to date. 

The Wolfpack come into the game with a 3-2 win over Florida Atlantic and a 3-2 loss on the road in overtime to a good William and Mary side.

This one is significant because it is NC State’s inaugural Atlantic Coast Conference contest under the direction of new head coach George Kiefer. Clemson should outgun the Pack but look for Kiefer to have his team fired up and ready to battle. 

Wisconsin (1-0-2) at Michigan (3-0-1) – The Badgers opened the season on the road with a 2-2 tie with Tulsa and a 1-1 tie with Oral Roberts before returning home to top Grand Canyon 3-1 with seniors Mark Segbers, Mike Catalano and Tom Barlow netting a goal each.

Michigan is off to a promising start with wins over William and Mary, Cleveland State and Dartmouth and a tie with Valparaiso.

Both Wisconsin and Michigan have hopes for a solid season and a berth in the NCAA Tournament.  This Big Ten opener is important for both teams since it will be a huge momentum builder for the winner and could set the pace for the remainder of the season.

Georgetown (4-0-0) at Connecticut (1-2-0) – Saturday - The Hoyas are looking good with wins over American, Coastal Carolina, Cal Poly and most recently UCLA.  Forward Achara (5g, 0a) has been the key ingredient to date in the Georgetown attack while goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski has anchored an impressive Hoyas defense that has allowed only one goal in four games.

Connecticut opened the season with an unexpected 1-0 loss to Iona, followed by a 1-0 win over Quinnipiac in overtime, and a tough 1-0 loss to Notre Dame.  Abdou Mbacke Thiam has produced the lone UConn goal in what has been a less than proficient Huskie attack to date. 

Chances are pretty good that this contest will be decided by a single goal. 

Ten Teams That Are Off To A Great Start - Can They Sustain It?

It is early in the season but the following ten teams are among the programs that are off to an impressive start.  

Duke - The Blue Devils are 3-0-0 for the first time in the nine seasons to date that John Kerr has been at the helm of the program.  Duke hit the ground running with a 2-0 win over UCF, a 3-0 win over Fordham, and a 3-2 gutsy come from behind win over High Point University in overtime.  The Blue Devils will put their undefeated streak on the line on Tuesday when they host Presbyterian.  Senior Brian White, senior defender Markus Fjortoft and junior midfielder Ciaran McKenna who netted the game-winner in the win over High Point have each scored two goals to date for Duke while freshman goalkeeper Will Pulsic has anchored the defense. 

West Virginia - Senior midfielder Jad Arsian has netted four goals to date including two in the Mountaineers 4-1 win on Friday over Wright State to up West Virginia's record to 3-0-0. The Mountaineers opened the season with a 1-0 win on the road at California and a 2-0 win over Santa Clara.  Junior midfielder Jorge Quintanilla has contributed four assists in the three wins.  Junior goalkeeper Stephen Banick has anchored a solid West Virginia defense that has allowed only one goal to date.  Marlon LeBlanc praised the contribution of the younger Mountaineer players after the win over Wright State.  West Virginia looks to be well positioned  to up their win total when they host Monmouth on Monday and UCF the following Saturday.

New Hampshire - The Wildcats have not allowed a goal in their first three contests including their impressive 2-0 win on the road Friday night over a good Boston College team out of the Atlantic Coast Conference.  The win over the Eagles was the first for UNH in twenty-nine years.  Graduate student Andrew Pesci has posted the three shutouts in goal for the Wildcats who opened the season at home with a 1-0 win over Colagate and a 1-0 win Northeastern.  Freshman midfielder Linus Fallberg has scored two of the three goals that UNH has put into the back of the net in their first three contests. New Hampshire will welcome an undefeated  Massachusetts (2-0-1) team out of the Atlantic 10 Conference to Wildcat Stadium on Tuesday and Columbia (0-0-1) out of the Ivy League on Saturday.  Massachusetts and Columbia tied 1-1 when they faced each other Friday.

UNCW - The Seahawks upset nationally ranked North Carolina on Friday 1-0 compliments of a goal from  freshman defender Hjalmar Ekdal to improve to 3-0-0. The goal was Ekdal's second of the early season. UNCW opened the season with a 1-0 win on the road over Jacksonville with redshirt junior forward netting two goals and a 3-2 win over North Florida. Redshirt junior Ryan Cretens had a three save evening between the pipes to record the shutout in the win over North Carolina before a crowd of 1,778 fans at the UNCW Soccer Stadium.  The Seahawks will have the opportunity to knock off another nationally ranked team and secure another resume building win on Monday when they travel to Charlottesville to tangle with a very good Virginia team.

Army - The Black Knights improved to 3-0-0 with a 3-0 win Friday over Fairfield.  The Army attack has been powered by sophomore forward Rex Epps (4g, 1a) who has found the back of the net in each of the Black Knights three wins and sophomore forward Keenan O'Shea (2g, 3a).  Army has been rock solid on the defensive side of the ball having not allowed a goal to date while scouring a total of seven.  Sophomore Justin Stoll  has given the Black Knights a solid presence in goal.  Army opened the season with a 1-0 win over visiting San Diego State and then topped Stony Brook 3-0 on the road.  The Black Knights have a two tough upcoming contests on their dance card that will test the mettle and skill of Russell Payne's team.  On Monday they host a Fairleigh Dickinson team that also sports a 3-0-0 mark with wins over Lafayette, Manhattan, and Yale.  Army will follow that up with another difficult contest on Saturday when they travel to tangle with a high flying Air Force side that opened the 2017 campaign with victories over Missouri State, FGCU, and Drake.

Evansville - The Purple Aces improved to 3-0-0 when they escaped with a 3-2 win in overtime over Milwaukee on Saturday night with Ian McGrath netting the game-winning goal in the 104th minute of play.  Evansville opened the season with a 9-0 win over Anderson with Adam Snow recording a hat trick  and then traveled to Huntington where they topped Marshall  1-0 with McGrath netting the game-winner from fifty yards out.  The Purple Aces out of the Missouri Valley Conference will seek to keep the magic and their win streak alive when they host Northern Illinois on Monday and then travel to Phoenix to square off with Grand Canyon on Thursday. 

Loyola University Maryland - The Greyhounds (2-0-1)  remained undefeated after a scoreless tie against William and Mary in a downpour on Friday night in a contest that was halted at the end of regulation due to the poor weather conditions.  Freshman Chase Vosvick had seven saves between the pipes in the tie with William and Mary.  Loyola University opened the season with  a 5-4 goal fest win on the road in overtime against LaSalle followed by a 1-0 victory at home over St. John's with forward Nico Brown netting the lone goal and Vosvick having a two save evening.  Six different Greyhounds have contributed a single goal to date.  Loyola University Maryland will put their undefeated record on the line when they host Pittsburgh out of the ACC at the Ridley Athletic Complex on Monday night and Villanova out of the Big East on Saturday. 

Georgetown - The Hoyas have been impressive to date with a 2-0 win over American on the road,  a 3-0 win over Coastal Carolina, and a 3-1 win over Cal Poly. However the action is about to heat up with a home contest against visiting UCLA on Monday and a game on the road with UConn on Saturday.  Forward Achara has powered the Georgetown attack with four goals  attack and JT Marcinkowski has anchored a defense that has allowed only one goal in three contests.  Brian Wiese stated, "We've got a lot of good players and the young guys have been really good for us which is refreshing to see."  The next week should give Wiese a good glimpse into just how good his 2017 team is going to be.

Furman - The Paladins improved to 3-0-0 when they traveled to Denver and upset the highly regarded Pioneers 1-0 to bring to a closure Denver's thirty-seven match regular season unbeaten streak.  Junior midfielder Danny Kierath contributed the game-winner for Furman after making a good run down the center of the pitch and finishing a pass received from teammate Rocky Guerra.  Redshirt freshman Ben Hale who sat out the 2016 season due to injury has been very solid in goal for the Paladins who arrived in Denver after opening the 2017 season with wins over the College of Charleston and Georgia Southern. Whether the Paladins can keep their win streak alive remains to be seen since they have another tough contest in front of them when they tangle with an Air Force team on Sunday that is also 3-0-0 and is coming off a 2-0 win over Drake on Friday.

Omaha - The Mavericks out of the Summit League slipped past Houston Baptist 1-0 on Friday with forward Elvir Ibisevic  contributing the game-winning goal with an assist from defender Miguel Gomez to enhance their record to 3-0-0. The goal was Ibisevic's  third to date and the assist was Miguel Gomez's third to date.  Omaha will seek to win their fourth consecutive contest when they tangle with UTRGV on Sunday evening.  Jason Mims stated, "For our guys, it was good to see another good performance, especially for the first road trip with temperatures around 100 degrees at kickoff."  The Mavericks also have a 2-1 win over Grand Canyon and a very impressive 5-1 win over Virginia Tech.  Look for the action to continue to heat up as the season progresses for an opportunistic Omaha team that just begin competing at the Division I level in 2011. 

Upcoming Contests That Should Be Interesting And Perhaps Revealing

The season is just getting underway nonetheless there are plenty of intriguing and in some cases must win contests on tap this weekend as teams coast to coast seek to build momentum and create a solid foundation upon which to build.

Virginia Tech faces Pacific on Friday and Binghamton on Sunday

Virginia Tech had a mixed opening weekend of play in Omaha.  On one hand the Hokies looked very good in their season opening 2-0 win over Creighton on Friday in which they handed the Bluejays their first season opening loss since 1995. However, the wheels came off the wagon when they took to the pitch to face Omaha on Sunday.  A very porous Hokie defense was exploited by Omaha forward Elvir Ibisevic who scored three goals in the first eleven minutes of play to cruise to a 5-1 win over a Virginia Tech squad that looked to be shell shocked.    

The big question mark is which Virginia Tech will show up this weekend when the Hokies seek to get back on track when they host Pacific on Friday and Binghamton on Sunday in the JMU Invitational in Harrisburg, Virginia.  Pacific will arrive in Virginia with a 2-0-0 record after opening the 2017 campaign last weekend with a 2-0 win over Sacramento State and a 5-2 thumping of CSU Bakersfield. Senior forward Tristan Blackmon powers a Pacific attack that could present problems for the Hokies should they have the type of lapses in play that they displayed in the contest with Omaha.

Binghamton also arrives in town sporting a 2-0-0 record with opening wins over George Washington 4-0 and Colgate 2-0. The Bearcats are off to their best start since 2009 with a young team that has been doing a good job of finishing the scoring opportunities that have come their way.

UCLA travels to the east coast to tangle with Maryland in College Park on Friday and Georgetown in the nation’s capital on Monday.

The Bruins opened the season last on Saturday with a 5-3 win on the road against San Francisco. The five goals were impressive but the fact that the Bruins allowed the Dons to score three times in the second stanza of play raises questions about their effectiveness on the defensive side of the ball as well as their focus.

Things clearly don’t get any easier for the Bruins who will have to contain a Maryland side that topped Santa Clara on the road last Friday 4-2 and Hofstra at home on Monday 2-0. The Terps have a high-octane attack that features forwards Gordon Wild, Sebastian Elney and Eryk Williamson among others. 

A Georgetown team that is seeking to get back on track after being AWOL from the NCAA Tourney field last year is off to a solid start that includes a 2-0 win over American and a 3-0 win over Coastal Carolina.

The season is young but nonetheless the results of the contests with Maryland and Georgetown should provide a good early indication of just how competitive the Bruins will be in 2017. A win over UCLA would be a good resume builder for Maryland and Georgetown.  

Coastal Carolina hosts UNC Greensboro on Friday.

The Chanticleers opened the season with a 2-1 loss to George Mason and a 3-0 loss to Georgetown. Coastal Carolina needs a little momentum so a win over UNCG is crucial for the program to have something upon which they can build.

A win against the Spartans would give the Chanticleers new life but a third loss in a row could begin a downward spiral considering the fact that their dance card after the contest with UNCG includes contests with very competitive Charlotte and Radford teams.

Portland hosts Seattle on Friday and Cal State Fullerton on Monday.

The Pilots were ranked as the number twenty-four team in the country in the College Soccer News Preseason Poll but they were upended 3-2 by UNLV in their season opener. However, they bounced back strong to top Fairfield 6-0 with sophomore forward Benji Michel contributing a hat trick.

Seattle will arrive in Portland with a 1-0 win over Loyola Marymount and a 1-0 win over New Mexico under their belts. The Redhawks were tenacious on the defensive side of the ball in both victories. Both Portland and Seattle are hungry to make their presence known on the national scene. A win in this one will be a nice step forward for the winning side.

Cal State Fullerton traveled cross country to open the season with a 2-0 loss to Clemson and a 1-0 win over Wofford in which forward Samuel Goni netted the game-winning goal in the 117th minute of play out of a corner kick served in by teammate Diego Sanchez.  Give Portland a slight edge in this one but only if they keep their foot on the gas and avoid lapses in play.

Connecticut will welcome Notre Dame to Joseph J. Morrone Stadium on Saturday.

The Huskies were shocked by Iona 1-0 in overtime at home in their season opener and then slipped past Quinnipiac 1-0 in overtime with Abdou Mbacke Thiam netting the game-winner.

Connecticut can get back on track with a win over the Irish but to do that they are going to have to pick up the level of their play. Notre Dame opened the season with a 2-0 win over San Diego and a 2-1 win in overtime against Cal Poly. Forwards Jon Gallagher and Jeff Farina give the Irish a very solid one-two punch up top. Connecticut traditionally is solid on the defensive side of the ball.  The question is whether or not the Huskie attack led by Thiam will be able to finish the scoring opportunities that come their way. 

SIUE travels to face Lipscomb in Nashville on Saturday and host Memphis on Monday.

The Cougars had a great chance last weekend to make a real splash on the national scene with home games against Michigan State and Syracuse. They played well but came out of the weekend with a 0-2-0 record after losing 1-0 to Michigan State on Friday and Syracuse 2-1 on Sunday.

The contests with Lipscomb and Memphis provide the opportunity for SIUE to get into the win column. Anything else would be a huge setback for a team that has the potential to be very good.  

North Carolina travels to Wilmington to square off with in-state foe UNCW on Friday and UNCG in Greensboro on Monday.

The Tar Heels looked really good in season opening victories over Providence 4-2 and Rutgers 6-1. Redshirt sophomore forward Jelani Pieters added another dimension to an already multi-dimensional UNC attack with a three goal and one assist weekend.

UNCW opened with a 2-0 win over Jacksonville and a 3-2 win over North Florida in which the Seahawks allowed North Florida to score two goals in the final four minutes of the contest. UNCG tied UAB 0-0 on the road and then were topped by High Point University 2-1 at home.

The Tar Heels are prohibitive favorites in both contests but they could have their hands full should they look past either opponent and not put together a full ninety minutes of play. A good crowd should be on hand at both venues and you can count on both UNCW and UNCG being fired up in regard to the opportunity to upset the Tar Heels. It should be noted that UNCW topped UNC the last time the two teams squared off in Wilmington.  

Providence travels to tangle with Rhode Island on Saturday and hosts Bryant University on Monday.

The Friars took to the road last weekend and came away with a 4-2 loss to North Carolina and a 4-1 loss to Wake Forest. No school in the country had a more challenging season opening slate than Providence.

Rhode Island opened the season with a 3-0 win over Boston University and then were thumped 4-0 by Albany. The Rams looked solid in their victory over BU but they fell apart in the second half in the loss to Albany.  Bryant began the 2017 campaign with a 1-0 loss to UMBC and a 2-0 loss to Delaware.

Providence is the best 0-2-0 team in the country right now but they clearly need to get back into the win column and create a little momentum and excitement of their own.  

Duke hosts High Point on Friday followed by Presbyterian the following Tuesday.

The Blue Devils opened the season with a 2-0 win over UCF and a 3-0 win over Fordham in which they had an 18-4 advantage in shots.  The two shutouts matched the total number of shutouts Duke recorded in 2016.  Senior back Markus Fjortoft and freshman Will Pulisic anchored a very sound Duke defense.

High Point out of the Big South Conference is 2-0-0 with a 1-0 win over Howard and a 2-1 win over UNCG. Presbyterian also out of the Big South Conference is 1-1-0 with a 2-1 loss to Davidson and a 3-1 win over USC Upstate on Wednesday night.

Wins over High Point and Presbyterian would build momentum for a Duke team that features several young players in key roles and would help prepare them for their ACC opener on September 8 with Virginia Tech followed by an always spirited rivalry match with North Carolina on September 16. 

Akron hosts Washington on Friday .

The Zips began the season with tough 1-0 on the road losses to Utah Valley and Denver.  Akron played well but was unable to come up with the big plays they needed on the offensive side of the ball to prevail.

Washington will arrive in  Akron with a 2-0-0 recored after securing a 2-1 win over New Mexico and a 2-0 win over Loyola Marymount. Akron's back is to the wall as they seek to get into the win column, prevent a three loss start, and remain in the national rankings. A win over Akron would be a nice resume builder and huge confidence builder for Washington as well.  This key early season contest should be a dandy.