the action continues to heat up. eleven very interesting and competitve contests coming up.
Vermont (8-3-1) at New Hampshire (12-0-1) – Saturday 7 p.m. – This looks to be an interesting America East Conference contest. Vermont began the season with five consecutive wins but they have had a bit of an up and down season to date. In addition, the Catamounts have not fared well recently when playing on the road as reflected in road losses to America East foe Stony Brook, Harvard out of the Ivy League and Syracuse out of the ACC. Nonetheless Vermont will come into this America East contest with the momentum that accompanies a three-game winning streak. Vermont is 3-1-0 in America East Play. New Hampshire is 4-0-0 in America East play. New Hampshire has a very productive multi-dimensional attack but they uncharacteristically had trouble finishing their scoring opportunities resulting in a 1-1 tie with Yale on Tuesday night.
Vermont will likely have a difficult time containing New Hampshire’s Tola Showunmi (7g, 2a), Linus Fallberg (5g, 3a) and Paul Mayer (4g, 4a) but if they can an upset is not out of the question.
Clemson (9-3-0) at Duke (9-2-0) – Friday 7:00 p.m. – Duke is exceeding expectations but they come into this ACC contest off a 3-2 loss on the road against Pittsburgh. It will be interesting to see how Duke responds to the loss to Pitt. Sophomore Thorleifur Ulfarsson (9g, 1a) has emerged as a force on the offensive side of the ball for Duke. Senior goalkeeper Eliot Hamill and senior back Ian Murphy anchor a Blue Devil defense that has only allowed a total of six goals with three of them coming in the loss to Pitt.
For comparison purposes, Clemson lost to Pittsburgh 2-0 at home and the Tigers are coming off a disappointing 2-0 loss at home to Notre Dame. Clemson began the season with seven straight wins before losing three out of their last five contests and appear to have lost the edge that they had in the early going.
A win in this one would be huge for Clemson and could serve to get the Tigers back on track. A win over Clemson would give Duke another signature win that would further validate the talent as well as the grit of this young Blue Devil team. A Blue Devil loss at home to Clemson could signal the beginning of a downward trend.
Virginia Tech (8-1-3) at Wake Forest (7-4-1) – Saturday 7 p.m. -It will no doubt take a total team effort on both sides of the ball to prevail in this ACC contest but the outcome could very easily come down to Wake Forest’s ability to contain Virginia Tech forward Jacob Labovitz (7g, 3a) and Virginia Tech’s ability to contain Wake Forest forward Kyle Holcomb (5g, 3a).
It is tough to win on the road in the ACC so give Wake Forest the edge in that regard since this one will take place Winston-Salem but this is a battle tested Virginia Tech team with a ton of grit that is having a very good season. Wake Forest has not had the season to date that many thought they would with home losses to VCU, Liberty and Clemson and a 3-0 loss on the road to Louisville.
Virginia Tech has shown a tendency to put together one dominant half. The Hokies will likely need two solid halves of play to leave Winston-Salem with a win over a Wake Forest team that appears to be gaining momentum.
This one could easily go either way. More than likely it will be a low scoring match.
Loyola Marymount (9-1-1) at UCLA (7-4-0) – Thursday 7 p.m. – The Bruins out of the Pac-12 are coming off a solid 1-0 win in overtime against San Diego State. UCLA is a team that looks to be gaining momentum but remains a work in progress with a small margin for error. A win in this one would be a nice step in the right for the resurgence of the program at UCLA. The Bruins are led on the offensive side of the ball by redshirt freshman midfielder Tucker Lepley (4g, 2a), sophomore defender Tommy Silva (4g, 2a) and senior forward Kevin Diaz (4g, 2a) and on the defensive side of the ball by senior goalkeeper Justin Garces.
Loyola Marymount out of the West Coast Conference is having a banner season but they could have trouble getting past the Bruins. Junior midfielder Noel Caliskan is a key ingredient in LMU’s offense while goalkeeper Jacob Jackson anchors a Lion defense that has 0.54 goals against average.
Look for defense to rule in this one. Both teams will seek to find the right balance that will enable them to apply pressure and counter attack without leaving themselves vulnerable on defense in this non-conference matchup.
James Madison (10-2-0) at UNCW (7-4-1) – Saturday – 7 p.m. – This Colonial Athletic Association contest will take place in Wilmington, North Carolina.
There is much to like about a deep James Madison team that is currently at the top of the CAA standings with a 4-0-0 mark in conference play. The Dukes have a possession oriented and often explosive attack that is averaging 2.08 goals per game led by redshirt junior forward Luca Erhardt (9g, 1a) who has scored a total of six goals in the last four games and playmaker midfielder Rodrigo Robles (1g, 8a). The JMU defense that features redshirt junior back Melker Anshelm among others has been very hard to score on with the exception of a 6-1 season opening thumping from Marshall.
UNCW is coming off a 4-3 loss in overtime to Elon during which they placed themselves in a big hole when they uncharacteristically allowed the Phoenix to score three unanswered goals in a 20-minute span. UNCW will have to up the level of their play on the defensive side of the ball and avoid a similar lapse in play in order to have a chance at topping JMU. Chances are pretty good that UNCW will not experience a similar lapse and that they will tighten up on the defensive side of the ball.
Look for both teams to come into this one prepared and fired up. This contest has the makings a back-and-forth contest with momentum changes early on but with one team eventually settling in and taking control of the match. It could go either way depending on which team gets hot.
UCF (6-4-0) at SMU (6-2-2) – Saturday 7 p.m. – SMU is 3-2-0 in AAC play while UCF is 4-1-0 in AAC play. It is always a battle when these two teams face each other with several momentum shifts and no prisoners taken. SMU was undefeated in their first seven contests but have since sustained heartbreaking losses in overtime on the road to Tulsa 2-1 and Memphis 3-2 with a 2-0 win at home over Temple sandwiched in between.
UCF followed the same pattern in 2021 that they did in the 2020 season with a sluggish start. The Knights inexplicably opened the 2021 season with losses in three of their first four contests before rebounding to win five out of their next six matches. UCF comes into this match off a 3-0 loss to Memphis and a 3-2 win over Tulsa.
Chances are pretty good that SMU midfielder Gabriel Costa (7g, 6a) and UCF forward Lucca Dourado (10g, 1a) and midfielder Nick Taylor (2g, 8a) will have an impact on the outcome of this one on the offensive side of the ball. SMU back Brandon Terwege and UCF defender Yanis Leerman will likely be among those who factor into the outcome on the defensive side of the ball.
This one is a must win game for both teams.
Bowling Green (9-2-1) at NIU (10-1-0) – Saturday 8 p.m. – Both these teams are having banner seasons to date in conference play and are making their presence known on the national scene. Both need a win in this one to enhance their standing in both areas. Bowling Green is 2-0-0 in MAC play with wins over Georgia State and Georgia Southern. NIU is 2-0-0 in MAC play with wins over Western Michigan and West Virginia.
A productive NIU offense that has scored a total of 32 goals to date is powered on the offensive side of the ball by Nick Markanich (12g, 3a). NIU’s defense anchored in goal by stalwart redshirt junior goalkeeper Martin Sanchez has been spectacular allowing a total of only three goals while posting nine shutouts.
A Bowling Green attack that has produced a total of 25 goals is led by midfielders Alberto Anaya (4g, 4a) and Kyle Cusimano (2g, 8a) and defender Jacob Erlandson (4g, 3a). Junior netminder Logan Kowalcyk anchors a BGSU defense that has allowed a total of only 7 goals.
This one looks to be a fasten your seatbelts something has to give contest. Both of these teams have playmakers. It all comes down to which team is able to make the big plays they need to secure the win. Give NIU the advantage of playing at home. The key for both sides in this one is to stay focused on the task at hand and do the things well that have gotten them to this point.
Indiana (8-3–1) Penn at State (8-4-1) – Sunday Noon – It is a little difficult to get a handle on both of these teams at this point. Both are talented and are going to win a lot of games but both have lost contests that they were expected to win.
Indiana is 3-2-0 in Big Ten play with unexpected conference losses to Rutgers and Michigan and wins over Northwestern, Michigan State and Ohio State. The Hoosiers didn’t play to their potential in the early going with unexpected and frankly rare losses at home to Creighton 3-0 in a non-conference match and Rutgers. However, the Hoosiers look to be a team that is beginning to settle into a rhythm and getting back on track.
Penn State is 4-0-0 in Big Ten play with wins over Northwestern, Michigan State, Rutgers and Michigan. Their losses have been to non-conference opponents West Virginia 3-1, Pitt 1-0, Princeton 1-0 and most recently a 2-1 loss on the road to Akron on Wednesday that halted a three-game Nittany Lion winning streak.
Both of these teams had high preseason rankings but neither are currently ranked by the United Soccer Coaches or College Soccer News. Give Penn State a slight edge going into this one but it would be foolish to ever count Indiana out of it. It just depends on which team settles in and plays to their potential. Both have players that are capable of getting hot and taking over a contest.
Wisconsin (7-2-3) at Michigan (5-5-2) – Friday 6 p.m. – Wisconsin is 7-0-1 in their last eight games with a 3-0-1 mark in Big Ten play that includes a tie with Michigan State and wins over Rutgers, Maryland and Ohio State. The Badgers flew under the radar earlier in the season but this is a team that has continued to improve as the season has progressed and is playing very well on both sides of the ball. The Badgers have been particularly effective on the defensive side of the ball with 0.42 goals against average. Forward Andrew Akindele (3g, 3a) and midfielder Inaki Iribarren (4g, 1a) have been the key ingredients for Wisconsin on the offensive side of the ball. In order for Wisconsin to prevail over Michigan they will need to take advantage of the limited number of scoring opportunities that will likely come their way while continuing to play solid team-oriented defense.
Michigan has been plagued by injuries which has hampered their ability to jell as a team. The Wolverines are 2-1-1 in Big Ten play with conference wins over Northwestern and Indiana, a tie with Michigan State, and losses to Penn State and Maryland. Michigan has played everyone close but they have had trouble at times coming up with the big play needed to secure a win in several close contests. It has been offense by committee at Michigan with Kevin Buca (4g, 1a), who had a hat trick in the Wolverines 3-1 win over Northwestern, the leading goal scorer to date.
The margin for error in any Big Ten contest is small which means a single lapse in play on the defensive side of the ball or a big play on the offensive side of the ball could prove to be the difference in this one. A win in this one will be a huge building block for both teams.
Oral Roberts (8-1-1) at Omaha (4-5-1) – Saturday 7 p.m. – This Summit League game matches an Oral Roberts team that is 2-0-1 in conference play with an Omaha team that is 2-0-0 in conference play. Denver currently sits atop the Summit League standings with a 3-0-0 mark in conference play. The winner of this one stays in contention for the Summit League regular season title. Both Oral Roberts and Omaha have contests coming up on their dance cards with Denver.
Oral Roberts has a much better record but Omaha’s record is a little misleading with four of their losses 1-0 contests against Tulsa, Creighton, Indiana and Bradley. The good news for Omaha is that they have 0.70 goals against average. The bad news is that they are also only averaging 0.70 goals per game.
If Oral Roberts led by graduate student forward Dante Brigida (6g, 1a) among others is able to find the back of the net early and take command of the contest they will prevail. However, an upset is possible should Omaha score first and force Oral Roberts to have to chase the contest.
UCSB (8-3-3) at Cal Poly (5-5-2) – Saturday – 7 p.m. – This one is an event as well as a good college soccer contest. The Blue-Green Rivalry match which is among the top college soccer rivalries, if not the top, in the country is slated for Alex G. Spanos Stadium on Saturday at 7 p.m. with a sellout crowd expected to be on hand.
UCSB sits atop the Big West Conference standings with a 4-0-1 mark in conference play while Cal Poly is in the number two spot with a 3-1-1 mark in conference play. A Cal Poly win would tie them with the Gauchos. A UCSB win would keep them in sole possession of the number one spot in Big West play.
UC Santa Barbara prevailed 2-0 behind two second half goals from Finn Ballard McBride when the two teams squared off back on September 25 before a crowd of 8,000 fans in a match that was considered a non-conference contest.
The Gauchos are unbeaten in their last seven games and looking good but still appear to be a team that is trying to sort out the right combination between offensive pressure and defensive stability.
Cal Poly comes into the match off a 1-0 loss on the road to conference foe UC Irvine, a team that UCSB tied 1-1, and a 2-0 win at home over Big West opponent Cal State Fullerton. Cal Poly has not been particularly productive on the offensive side of the ball managing a total of only 13 goals to date while allowing 11. UC Santa Barbara can be explosive with an attack that has found the back of the net a total of 32 times while allowing 13 goals.
UCSB had a 14 to 5 advantage in shots but only a 4 to 3 advantage in shots on goal when these two teams faced each other back on September 25. This one is going to come down to whether or not the Gauchos led by Ballard McBride (7g, 5a), Thaabit Baartman (6g, 3a) and Ameyawu Muntari (5g, 4a) can create quality scoring opportunities and finish them or whether a Cal Poly defense anchored in goal by Carlos Arce-Hurtado can contain UCSB and their attack led by senior midfielders Neil Boyal (1g, 5a) and Emmanuel Perez (2g, 0a) and freshman defenders Jacob Glass (4g, 0a) and Conor Leber (2g, 2a) can find a seam in UCSB’s defense that they can exploit. Look for the play out of set pieces to be a factor in this one. Both teams will seek to settle into a tempo that best fits their style of play.
Picture from UC Santa Barbara Athletics