NCAA Women's Soccer: 5 Things You Need To Know
When Messiah College goalkeeper Audra Larson recorded the 60th shutout of her career in Tuesday's win against Eastern University, she not only broke the NCAA all-division career record but set a high bar for notable accomplishments during the week. Thankfully, college soccer cleared it. For that matter, so did Larson, who extended the record with another clean sheet Friday.
What else do you need to know to stay up to speed on the road to the College Cup?
1. Notre Dame and the soccer equivalent of an organic chemistry exam
Notre Dame can look on the bright side. It didn't have to play the United States women's national team this past week. So there's that. Actually, the Fighting Irish have plenty of reasons to feel optimistic as a new week begins, almost as many reasons as they have to feel tired.
No team this season, at least until the ACC tournament, will face a week like that endured by No. 16 Notre Dame, one that began with a double-overtime 2-1 win on the road against No. 1 Virginia and concluded a little more than 60 hours later with a 1-0 loss at home against No. 3 Florida State. Tough weekends are nothing new in the ACC -- Florida State's stop in South Bend was one of two games against ranked opponents, and the Seminoles face a Virginia Tech-Virginia road swing in late October -- but playing the top-ranked team and its possible successor in one weekend is usually the stuff of the College Cup.
To emerge from that bit of scheduling with a win and a loss, as well as even on goals scored and conceded, says considerably more about Notre Dame than its current 1-2-0 conference record. Goal production is the question for the team, at least in terms of whether it can score enough to compete for a title or merely stay in games against the contenders, but Anna Maria Gilbertson provided plenty of finishing with two goals in Charlottesville, including the winner in the 104th minute. Her individual battles with Virginia's Emily Sonnett were worth the price of admission on their own.
2. Florida State makes its case
The ACC held the top three spots in last week's top 25, with No. 2 North Carolina appearing to hold a healthy majority of second-place votes ahead of Florida State in third. The Tar Heels still haven't lost this season and followed a 3-1 win at home against Syracuse on Thursday with a 1-0 win at Wake Forest on Sunday in which they led for more than 70 minutes and didn't face a shot on goal or a corner kick. That's a typically sturdy résumé from the team in Chapel Hill.
Florida State hasn't had what would presumably be its entire first-choice lineup for even a game this season, with injuries and international commitments to blame. On Sunday, it was versatile midfielder Isabella Schmid missing after she played limited minutes off the bench the previous two games. It hardly matters. Unless the situation reach critical mass, as in a 0-0 draw at Duke a week ago in which it was without five regulars and barely had Schmid, Florida State just plays its style with whomever it has on hand.
So just when it seemed the Seminoles were accumulating a whole lot of possession without much substance against Notre Dame, Kaycie Tillman sprayed the ball wide to Megan Connolly, who crossed a ball that touched off Berglind Thorvaldsdottir as Notre Dame's defense collapsed on her in front of goal and left Elin Jensen wide open at the far post to finish the game's only goal.
A typical Florida State goal from three freshmen and a redshirt junior off the bench.
3. Don't leave Auburn games early
It was a wild week in the SEC generally. No. 4 Texas A&M lost both ends of a road trip, not so surprisingly at No. 17 South Carolina but very surprisingly at previously one-win Georgia. A tough out but not a prolific scoring team this season, Missouri went to Lexington and scored three goals in regulation for the first time all season in a win against No. 22 Kentucky.
And then there was No. 13 Auburn. What kind of week was it for the Tigers? When Casie Ramsier scored the game winner against No. 9 Florida on Sunday with 25 seconds remaining, it wasn't even the latest game winner she scored in a 48-hour period. It was that kind of week.
Despite giving back second-half leads against LSU and Florida, Auburn won both games in dramatic fashion to set itself up for a run at an SEC title and perhaps even an NCAA tournament seed. That's getting ahead of things, especially with a trip to South Carolina looming on Oct. 8 after a rivalry game against Alabama this week. But while Auburn has been good enough to be an NCAA tournament regular in recent seasons, missing once since 2006, it hadn't beaten either Florida or any top-10 team since before any of the current players were on campus. When Ramsier scored her fourth goal of the week off a corner kick in the 90th minute Sunday, it had both in one easily celebrated package.
Auburn won as a team that didn't concede a goal in its first six games. It won as a team that needed to keep scoring until the final whistle. But the constant to this point has been winning.
4. Oklahoma, Northwestern and Pitt keep winning
It isn't a trio grouped together very often in anything, least of all women's college soccer.
Those three programs have just five NCAA tournament appearances among them, the only two wins the product of a nice Northwestern run in 1998 that ended against eventual champion Florida. Yet they woke up Monday morning with a combined record of 24-6-4 and with each in either first or second place in the early going in its respective conference.
Northwestern (9-1-2): In-state rival Illinois broke Rutgers' season-long scoreless streak in a win Thursday, but Northwestern didn't let the visitor from New Jersey regroup. Stingy in their own right with just four goals allowed this season, the Wildcats earned a 1-0 overtime win against the Scarlet Knights to sweep a week that also included a 2-0 win against Maryland. Test on the horizon: Penn State, Oct. 4.
Oklahoma (6-4-1): The Sooners have added the most to this group's losses, but they also have the most impressive résumé. Two of the losses were in overtime on the road, against South Carolina and Stanford. Most recently, a week after wins against both Tulsa and Arizona State, Oklahoma earned a quality 0-0 draw against No. 15 Texas Tech and a 3-0 win against Iowa State. Test on the horizon: West Virginia, Oct. 9.
Pitt (9-1-1): The Panthers didn't have quite as much to tout this past weekend as the other two, but ACC wins are ACC wins. A 2-1 overtime victory against Wake Forest on Thursday and a 1-0 win at Louisville on Sunday moved Pitt to 3-0-0 in conference games, which is exactly one more conference victory than it had in its first two seasons in the ACC combined (2-21-0). Test on the horizon: at Florida State, Oct. 3.
5. English regain control of Big Apple
It was a good run since 1783, but England is back in charge in New York. Well, maybe just the women's soccer side of things with Rachel Daly of St. John's and Leah Galton of Hofstra.
Carrying on what their national team started this summer in the World Cup, the transplanted Englishwomen are in as rich a vein of form as any two strikers in this country at the moment.
Daly scored two goals in her team's win against Seton Hall on Sunday to open Big East play. This was the second week in a row that the Red Storm played just a single game, but that hasn't slowed Daly. In her past three games, going back to Sept. 13, she has totaled six goals and an assist. She is now tied with Adriana Viola for the program's career record for goals.
But she is not the undisputed NCAA leader in goals scored this season by someone from Harrogate, England, or who previously played for Leeds Ladies FC in that country. She shares those distinctions with Galton. Five goals away from matching Hofstra's career leader, Galton added three to her total in important conference road wins for the Pride this past week, a 2-1 win at William & Mary and a 2-0 win at Elon.