Halloween will be here before you can say “boo” – and so will the end of the NCAA women’s soccer regular season.
In the next couple weeks, league titles will be decided, conference tournament brackets will be filled out and the group of possible NCAA Tournament contenders will whittle its way down to 64.
Highlighting the closing days of the regular season is Thursday night’s showdown between No. 2 Florida State (14-1-0) and No. 5 North Carolina (10-2-1), which not only has Atlantic Coast Conference title implications, but the result will most likely factor into the NCAA Tournament seedings down the road.
The two squads head into the match with identical 7-0-0 ACC records and are both riding lengthy winning streaks into the game which kicks off at 7 p.m. in Chapel Hill. The game will be broadcast live on the ACC Regional Sports Network and ESPN3.
It is the 16th time in the last 18 meetings between the two schools that both teams are ranked in the top 10.
Florida State, winner of 10 consecutive contests, has topped the Tar Heels in four straight games – all of which have been decided with a single goal. While UNC still holds a 24-6-2 advantage in the series, with a win on Thursday, the Seminoles can become the only team in history to defeat the perennial power seven times.
“North Carolina has defined success in collegiate women’s soccer for a long time with their consistency and longevity,” said Florida State head coach Mark Krikorian. “We’re just trying to obtain similar success.”
The Seminoles rank eighth nationally in scoring with 2.80 goals per game and are led by Icelandic natives DagnyBrynjarsdottir (9 goals) and BerglindThorvaldsdottir (10 goals), who have combined for 19 goals this season with at least one of the duo scoring in each of FSU’s contests.
“They’re a good attacking pair,” said Krikorian. “They’re opportunistic and have been fortunate to finish off those chances. They are two good quality players and are being rewarded with a very good season.”
The Tar Heels look to extend their nine-game winning streak with a deep roster that has seen half of its 22 goals scored by players coming off the bench. Emily Bruder is the team’s leading scorer with four goals, all of which came in UNC’s wins over Pitt and Duke last weekend.
AROUND THE NATION
No. 10 West Virginia (11-2-2, 4-0-1) is in the driver’s seat in the Big 12 league race as the first-place Mountaineers close out the regular season three-game home stand beginning with Friday’s Oklahoma State (9-7-1, 4-1-1) contest. The Mountaineers are unbeaten in their last 12 games, including a 2-0 victory over then-No. 9 Kansas last weekend. WVU hosts Oklahoma on Sunday and then finishes off the schedule with a Halloween match against Baylor. “This is an ideal position for us,” said senior forward Kate Schwindel. “Playing at home gives us an advantage, and we’re very confident going into this weekend. We’re up for it, and it’s going to be two huge games. It’s a good feeling knowing we control our own destiny.”
Furman’s Jamie Alexander scored a record-setting flurry of goals en route to earning NSCAA/Disney National Player of the Week. Alexander came off the bench to tally four goals in span of 5:38 minutes, setting an NCAA record for the fastest four consecutive goals by the same player, as the Paladins dominated Chattanooga, 9-0, last Sunday. The Paladins have won three consecutive matches and look to stretch the streak against UNC Greensboro and VMI this weekend.
BIG EAST teams will be jostling for a spot in the league tournament this weekend, but DePaul already has a berth locked up and can finish no lower than fifth. The Blue Demons (13-0-3, 5-0-2) are one of only two remaining undefeated squads in the nation – the other is No. 1 UCLA. DePaul hosts Xavier in its final home game Saturday. Georgetown and St. John’s, who are both 5-1-1 in league action, still have a shot to claim the regular season crown if DePaul does not win out.
Buffalo heads into the weekend on a program-record eight-game unbeaten streak in Mid-American Conference action thanks to the stellar goalkeeping play of freshman Laura Dougall, who notched a pair of league shutout wins last weekend. Dougall, who has posted a program-record 10 shutouts on the season, ranks second nationally with a .921 save percentage and sixth in the NCAA with a 0.34 goals against average. The Bulls are riding their longest unbeaten streak since 1999 and are the only team without a loss in the MAC. They host Ball State on Friday and Miami (Ohio) on Sunday. The Bulls have not finished above .500 since 2011. Their only MAC title came in 2000.
SIDEKICKS: Washington moved up to No. 18 in the latest NSCAA Division I Top 25 on the merits of four consecutive Pac-12 victories. The Huskies are in sole possession of third place in the league standings behind No. 1 UCLA and No. 4 Stanford … South Carolina reentered the rankings at No. 20 after upsetting then-No. 5 Florida thanks to a pair of goals by freshman forward Savannah McCaskill … After opening the season with a 10-0-0 record, No. 14 Virginia Tech has lost four of its last six contests – all to ACC opponents … La Salle boasts a perfect 5-0-0 mark in Atlantic 10 Conference action heading into the final two weekends of play. Senior Kelsey Haycook paces the league with 29 points and 13 goals, including the game-winner that snapped Dayton’s 30-game conference unbeaten streak last Friday.
Amy Farnum Patronis covers Women's Division I College Soccer for College Soccer News. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org