A few things to know as the womens FALL season begins to really heat up and Conference races in the ACC, Big 12, SEc and Sun Belt begin to take Shape
Arkansas State – Talented and Hungry. Those two words describe Arkansas State to date in 2020. The Red Wolves who are coming off a 2019 season in which they were 11-6-4 and advanced to the Sun Belt Conference Championship contest for the first time in program history.
The hunger to accomplish more this year is linked in part to the fact that their 2019 season came to a disappointing end with a 5-1 loss to South Alabama in the Sun Belt Conference championship game in which they didn’t play to their potential from the get-go. South Alabama has won the Sun Belt Conference Tournament six times out of the past seven seasons. When Arkansas State and South Alabama faced each other during regular season play in 2019 South Alabama prevailed 2-1 with the game-winning goal coming with thirty-one seconds remaining in the second overtime period.
The talented part is a reflection of their 6-0-0 season to date during which they have scored a total of fifteen goals and allowed only one. Arkansas State’s attack has been powered by senior forward Sarah Sodoma (5g, 4a) and senior midfielder Hailey Furio (3g, 1a) and the defense has been anchored by senior goalkeeper Megan McClure and the likes of senior backs Victoria MacIntosh and Olivia Smith (2g, 0a), junior Hannah Maupin and freshmen Rachael Kutella and Lauren Shah. Add in the contribution of other newcomers like freshman midfielder Abigal Miller (1g, 0a) and you have a very balanced team with the potential to take another big step forward in 2020.
The Red Wolves will put their undefeated record on the line on Saturday, October 10 when they travel to face a Texas State team that they defeated 2-0 when they faced each other on September 27 in Jonesboro.
The Sun Belt Conference is divided into West and East Divisions. Arkansas State is currently atop the West Division with a 5-0-0 mark in conference play. Georgia State which is 4-1-1 in league play is currently sitting at the top of the highly competitive East Division just ahead of South Alabama and Coastal Carolina who are 4-1-0.
North Carolina and Florida State were ranked in the number one and two spots respectively in the Atlantic Coast Conference Preseason Coaches’ Poll and are the number one and two teams in the United Soccer Coaches Top 25. So far, they have lived up to expectations.
The Tar Heels are 4-0-0 with wins over Wake Forest 4-1, Virginia Tech 1-0, Duke 2-0, and Clemson 2-0. UNC’s game with Virginia which was scheduled for October 8 has been cancelled which means that their next contest is on Thursday, October 15 on the road against Syracuse followed by a match with Boston College on Sunday, October 18 in Chestnut Hill.
Syracuse is 0-0-3 with losses on the road to Pitt, Louisville, and Notre Dame. Boston College is also 0-3-0 with loses to Notre Dame, Louisville and Pitt all also on the road. While the Heels will be prohibitive favorites in both of those contests, wins on the road in ACC play are always tough to come by but even more so during this shortened conference only season.
Florida State is also 4-0-0 with wins over Notre Dame 5-0, Louisville 1-0, Virginia Tech 4-0 and Wake Forest 4-0. This is an explosive FSU team that is also extremely tenacious on the defensive side of the ball. FSU one of only four teams in fall season play that has not allowed a goal so far. The Seminoles dance card includes contests on the road with Pitt on Thursday, October 15 followed by a game with Virginia on Sunday, October 18. Pitt is 7-2-0 and Virginia is 4-1-1. FSU should prevail but both Pitt and Virginia have the potential to pull off an upset if the Noles don’t bring their normal A game.
North Carolina and Florida State do not face each other during the fall 2020 regular season. They could meet in the ACC Tournament in November.
Georgia – Experienced and Deep. The Bulldogs are off to a very promising start with a 1-0 win over South Carolina at home, a 1-1 come from behind tie with Florida in Gainesville, and a 1-0 win at home over Tennessee. So far, no team in the SEC East has won on the road. Georgia will seek to halt that when they travel to Lexington to tangle with Kentucky on Sunday. The Wildcats are 0-3-0 but will be playing at home for the first time this fall.
The Bulldogs are off to their best ever start in SEC play which is great. They have demonstrated the grit to win the close contests but nonetheless remain a team with a small margin for error due to their lack of productivity on the offensive side of the ball. The Bulldogs continued success will hinge in part on their ability to finish more of the scoring opportunities that come their way.
Georgia’s experience and depth have helped them hit the ground running in a shortened SEC only season in which learning curves are more costly than in the past. This group has shown the confidence to both apply pressure in order to create problems for their opponents as well as to remain organized on the defensive side of the ball when placed under pressure.
Junior midfielder Abby Boyan (2g, 0a), sophomore forward Chloe Chapman (1g, 0a), senior forward Mollie Belisle (0g, 1a) and senior midfielder Ashley Anderson look to be among the keys on the offensive side of the ball. Junior goalkeeper Emory Wegener and defenders seniors Kayla Bruster and Caroline Chipman and juniors Cecily Stoute and Hale Otto and sophomore Mallie McKenzie (0g, 1a) are part of what has been a very solid Georgia defense so far.
Arkansas – Moving on up. The Razorbacks have momentum with a 2-0 win over LSU, a 4-1 win over Kentucky, and a signature 2-1 win over Texas A and M that propelled them upward in the national rankings. Arkansas sits atop the SEC West with a perfect 3-0-0 record and looks to be the team to beat to date in the SEC.
The Razorbacks travel to Tuscaloosa to face an Alabama team on Sunday that is 1-1-1. Forwards sophomore Anna Podojil (2g, 3a), the 2019 SEC Freshman of the Year, and senior Parker Goins (2g, 0a), a 2019 All-SEC First Team selection, are a key part of what has been a balanced Arkansas attack. Forwards Taylor Malham and Ava Tankersley add an additional dimension to the attack.
Netminders redshirt junior Alexis Bach and redshirt senior Taylor Beitz have been splitting halves in goal to anchor what has been a bend but don’t break Razorback defense.
If the Arkansas attack gets in gear, they are capable of rolling over the Tide. However, Alabama matches up well with the Razorbacks and could pull off the upset if Arkansas does not put in a full ninety-minute shift.
Baylor – Defense Rules. The Bears are 0-1-3 with scoreless ties with TCU, Texas Tech, and highly regarded Oklahoma State and a 1-2 loss to Iowa State. They host highly regarded Kansas on Friday with a chance to again shake things up a little in the Big 12 race. The bottom line is that Baylor’s effectiveness on the defensive side of the ball makes them a challenging and potentially frustrating team to play.
Their defense led by goalkeeper Jennifer Wandt and backs Kayley Ables, Chloe Japic, Tara Sumer and Sarah Hornyak creates a potentially hazaradous stuation for opponents. Kansas should prevail but the fact that Baylor contained a high-powered Oklahoma State attack means that the potential exists for them to do the same to Kansas.
Oklahoma State (3-0-1), Kansas (3-0-0) and West Virginia (3-1-0) are the frontrunners in the Big 12 Conference with TCU (2-0-1) among the teams that could surprise as the season progresses.