The importance of putting in a full ninety minute Shift is huge in Key contests across the country this Weekend. The Margin for error remains small as teams begin the Home stretch in regular season play.
North Carolina – The Tar Heels began the Fall season as the number one ranked team in the country and nothing has occurred to change that. North Carolina will place their undefeated record on the line when they host Duke on Friday, October 23. The Tar Heels defeated Duke 2-0 back on September 27.
The question in the upcoming match is whether or not Duke can contain a North Carolina attack led by juniors Rachel Jones (3g, 3a) and Briana Pinto (3g, 1a) that has produced a total of 14 goals and had a dominant 107 to 32 advantage in shots in their six matches to date.
In addition, a rock-solid Tar Heel defense anchored by backs senior Emily Fox, sophomores Maycee Bell and Julia Dorsey and freshman Abby Allen has only allowed a total of two goals. This is a very balanced North Carolina team. The strength and organization of the Tar Heel defense enables UNC to aggressively push forward to apply pressure in order to obtain a numbers advantage that they can exploit.
Duke – This is a stronger Blue Devil team than the one UNC faced back on September 27 which could make this one interesting. Duke has won four straight contests since the loss to the Tar Heels during which time they scored eight times and did not allow a goal.
Nonetheless, Duke’s fate in this contest will hinge to a large degree on the ability of senior backs Caitlin Cosme, Taylor Mitchell and Mia Gyau, junior back Delaney Graham who may also be utilized up top, and freshman back Emily Royson along with sophomore netminder Ruthie Jones to keep the Tar Heel attack in check in this rivalry ACC match.
Florida State – The Seminoles are also 6-0-0 and ranked nationally as the number two team in the Fall season. This is a run and gun FSU team that has scored a total of twenty-two goals to date while only allowing a total of four with a dominating 113 to 16 advantage in shots over their opponents. Nine different players have scored in FSU’s high powered multi-dimensional attack that has been paced so far by sophomore forwards Jenna Nighswonger (3g, 3a) and LeiLanni Nesbeth (4g, 0a).
Last weekend the Seminoles attack was in full gear in a 4-3 win over a Virginia team that has been a bit of a nemesis for FSU in the past. It was a good on the road win but the three goals the Noles allowed could indicate a potential vulnerability on the defensive side of the ball. This is an extremely talented FSU squad that can score in multiples but allowing three goals in ACC play has the potential to be hazardous to a team’s win loss record.
FSU will host Duke on Thursday, October 29 and Clemson on Sunday, November 1.
TCU and Kansas face each other in Lawrence at Rock Chalk Park on Thursday, October 22 in a key Big 12 Conference contest. TCU is currently in the number two spot in the Big 12 standings behind West Virginia while Kansas is in third place.
TCU comes into the match with a 4-0-1 record having won four in a row after opening the season with a 0-0 tie with Butler.
Kansas comes into the contest with 4-1-0 record and the momentum that goes with a 1-0 win over a highly regarded Oklahoma State team in their last game. The only blemish on the Jayhawks record is a 2-0 loss to Butler.
This one is going to be influenced by whoever is able to get the best of the run of play in the middle third and able to put together two solid halves of play.
The play of midfielders senior Yazmeen Ryan (2g, 0a), junior Payton Crews (0g, 2a) and sophomores Michelle Slater (0g, 1a) and Gracie Brian (0g, 2a) will play an important role for TCU. The play of senior midfielders Ceri Holland (2g, 0a) and Kathryn Castro (1g, 1a) and junior Rylan Childers (0g, 1a) will set the pace for Kansas.
Both teams have very talented and experienced goalkeepers. All four of Kansas’ wins have been 1-0 shutouts. TCU has also been productive on the defensive side of the ball allowing a total of only one goal in their five contests. Senior Emily Alvarado, a four-year starter, anchors the TCU defense. Junior Sarah Peters, a three-year starter, anchors the Kansas defense.
Don’t look for there to be a lot of scoring in this one. A single goal could determine the winner.
South Carolina – The Gamecocks are 4-1-0 with four consecutive wins since a 1-0 season opening loss on the road to Georgia.
The Gamecocks have shown a lot of grit to date coming from behind to top Missouri 4-1, a 2-1 double overtime win over Vanderbilt, and an impressive 2-1 win on the road over a highly regarded Arkansas team.
If they take it one game at a time and don’t look past anyone, they have a good shot of running the table in their three remaining regular season contests. The Gamecocks host the University of Florida on Sunday, October 25 and Mississippi State on Friday, October 30. They then travel to face Tennessee to close out regular season play on Friday, November 6.
Several of the younger players are making significant impacts but it will likely be the play and pace set by the seniors that will determine the ceiling for South Carolina this year.
Auburn – The Tigers are 2-0-1 under head coach Karen Hoppa and coming off an unexpected 1-0 win on the road over Georgia. Auburn’s immediate dance card has them hosting Kentucky on Saturday, October 24 followed by a road trip to Fayetteville to tangle with Arkansas on Friday, October 30.
This is a very young team with freshmen goalkeeper Maddie Prohaska from West Chester, Ohio, defender Madeline Moore from Winter Haven, Florida, midfielders Anna Haddock from Bowling Green, Kentucky and Mallory Mooney from Broomfield, Colorado in the starting lineup. Midfielder Jolie Baltzegar from Evans, Georgia is among other freshmen that have earned minutes. It is a big plus that the freshmen are contributing.
Rookies in key roles can be problematic in terms of the consistency of play. It remains to be seen how Auburn will fare as the season progresses. Look for the veterans like senior defenders Alyssa Malonson and Sarah Houchin to add stability and focus.
Arkansas – Arkansas’ loss to South Carolina in what was a rematch of the 2019 SEC Tournament title game was only their second loss at home in the last three years. During that contest the Razorbacks had trouble finishing the scoring opportunities that came their way.
This is a talented Arkansas soccer team with an attack powered by sophomore Ana Podogil (3g, 3a), seniors Parker Goins (2g, 0a), Taylor Malham (1g, 1a) and Kayla McKeon and freshman Ava Tankersley (2g, 1a) and a defense anchored by senior Haley VanFossen among others.
The Razorbacks are now 4-1-0. Chances are pretty good that the loss to South Carolina will serve as a wake up call of sorts for the Razorbacks who will seek to get back in the win column when they travel to Oxford to face Mississippi on Sunday, October 25.
Picture from University of North Carolina Athletics