BYU & Carlee Payne Holmoe Were Spot On Against LBSU on Thursday
BYU 1 (Holmoe PK 82′) – 0 Long Beach State
BYU dominated Long Beach State on the stat sheet for virtually the entire night on Thursday but needed Carlee Payne Holmoe’s strike from the penalty spot in the final ten minutes to ensure themselves of the win. Niki Fernandes had been upended in the box by LBSU, leading to the spot kick which was duly converted by the Cougars. Though the visitors would create a few scoring opportunities on the evening, including on a 1v1 for Nadia Link in the second half that was shot wide, they finished without a shot on goal and with just four off-target attempts for the game. It was a rather jarring comedown for a club that had scored two goals in each of its first three games. This was a very good win for BYU and one that should significantly boost their NCAA Tournament hopes come the end of the season. The finishing still has to get much better if the Cougars are to contend for a league title in the WCC, but the weapons are definitely there, with the home side peppering the LBSU goal with shots all game long. There just can’t be any letdown now with a tricky game against Colorado College coming up on Saturday night before a big two-game set against Texas and Penn State next weekend.
This was Long Beach’s first road test of the season, and it really didn’t go that well, despite the club being in it until the very end. Being outshot by a 5:1 ratio on the night was pretty ghastly, and not putting a shot on goal was just as bad, though Link did have the breakaway opportunity late in the second half. With a big road trip to Texas coming next week, the struggles here weren’t exactly the best of signs. LBSU does have a home date on Sunday though, heading back to Long Beach to face a Michigan team that will be desperate to avoid a weekend sweep on the road. While the Beach has a good looking non-conference profile thus far, a win over the Wolverines would likely be a big boost come the end of the season and the RPI.
Florida & Erika Tymrak Will Look To Knock Off Their Second Straight #1 Team on Friday
Florida State vs Florida – 7:00 PM EST
As if one of the nation’s hottest non-conference rivalries wasn’t tantalizing enough already, added drama comes in the reality that the visitors will be aiming to knock off their second straight #1 ranked team on Friday night. The Gators had begun the season in horrendous fashion, getting blown out at home by Miami (FL) in a comedy of defensive errors before playing out a dull scoreless draw with North Carolina last Friday night. It looked like Florida were sinking without a trace again early against Duke, going down 2-0 early and facing immense pressure from the ACC side. Instead, Florida would surge back after a late first half goal, sealing the shock win in extra time. Having breathed life into their season, Florida will try to push forward again as they travel to Tallahassee to face bitter rivals Florida State, who ascended to the #1 ranking due in part to Florida’s upset over Duke. The Noles have looked dominant early in the new season, having overcome a big wobble against Minnesota early to grab a priceless win on the road before dominating Marquette before weather caused the game to be abandoned. A solid win on the road against UCF represented more progress, and FSU will be looking to tighten their grip on their #1 ranking in their last really big test before league play starts in a few weeks. These two clubs have a lot to live up to on Friday though, as last year’s game in Gainesville was an absolute classic, with Florida equalizing twice before Tiffany McCarty struck with the dagger as FSU won 3-2. Given that these two rivals almost always play it close, another classic could be in store on Friday night.
Jessica Ringwood & BYU Will Look To Defend Their Turf on Thursday
BYU vs Long Beach State – 8:00 PM
Long Beach State will get a major test on Thursday night as they travel to imposing South Field in Provo to take on BYU in front of a likely packed house. It’s the beginning of BYU’s home schedule and the first of a six match homestand that sees the Cougars with plenty of opportunities to try and solidify their non-conference profile, knowing that a few wins could help them avoid last season’s unenviable fate of missing out on the NCAA Tournament. The hosts are also coming off their first loss of the season though, having fallen to rivals Utah in Salt Lake City. BYU had controlled much of the match and created many opportunities to grab a goal but endured an abject day finishing and fell to the Utes, 1-0. Such offensive struggles being repeated on Thursday could spell trouble against a Long Beach State side coming in on a roll. Three wins and six goals to open up the season have been great for the surging 49ers, but the next few weeks should bring a whole lot of challenges, with Michigan and Texas A&M to follow. But Thursday will be a challenge itself, with LBSU likely to face a large and hostile crowd in Provo and an opponent eager to get back in the win column. The Beach are coming off a great performance against Baylor and will be eager to continue their set piece excellence, having scored twice from dead ball situations against the Bears. It’s a matchup of mid-major powers and a fine way to kick off the third week of the 2012 season.
West Virginia Pulled Off A Massive Upset Against Stanford
West Virginia 1 (Silva 83′) – 0 Stanford
West Virginia upset the odds to deliver one of the biggest regular season upsets in recent memory, as the once struggling Mountaineers breathed life into their season by being the first team to top Stanford in the regular season since Halloween of 2008. The defeat also snapped the Card’s twenty-five match winning streak and twenty-eight game unbeaten streak. Showing a stunning lack of nous in front of goal, Stanford managed just a single shot on goal despite taking seventeen shots overall, more than twice the number of their opponent. The Big XII side would land the decisive blow though, with Frances Silva lofting the ball into the upper-left corner of the goal after Stanford had just cleared off the line from a corner kick just seconds earlier. The Mountaineers defended deep and in numbers and nearly had a second goal late when Bry McCarthy intercepted a Stanford pass and forced Card goalkeeper Aly Gleason in to a good save. The Card were in the end left to rue an early spurned chance, as Natalie Griffen wasted a prime opportunity, sending a volley into orbit after a quick restart from a foul had Stanford looking likely to score. It can’t be said enough how big of a win this was for West Virginia. Never mind knocking off the #1 team in the eyes of some and ending multiple streaks, the Mountaineers finally displayed a pulse again after looking so listless for the first three games of the season. The offense fared about as well as could be expected against a club like Stanford and were opportune in taking the chance that was presented to them. WVU basically showed that they have the talent and drive to beat anyone on their day, and there can’t be any excuse for this club to underperform now. The Mountaineers will get another chance at an upset on Friday, when Penn State comes to town. WVU had seemingly blown chances at a national seed early this year, but a win over PSU would perceivably put them right back in the mix.
It’s not just the loss but the manner of the loss that has to set Stanford fans ill at ease. How many times has a club only managed one shot on goal from seventeen shots? You just got the feeling that Stanford was going to pay the price the longer the game went on without a Cardinal breakthrough. With Courtney Verloo out through injury, Stanford’s attack lacked bite to say the least, which has to be an alarming development if Verloo is out for any considerable length of time. While the return of Chioma Ubogagu from international duty and the (potential) return of Marjani Hing-Glover from injury would likely solve some of those problems, getting everyone pulling as one could take some time. The real worry now is that Stanford’s future opponents are going to watch the tape of this match and ape West Virginia’s tactics, forcing Stanford to try and break down a swath of opposing players behind the ball. If the Card can’t unlock such tactics, it could be a frustrating season. Friday against Boston College back at home might present a different challenge. The Eagles have been scoring goals for fun and may rather attack than defend, meaning the Stanford defense could be the ones under fire from a talented BC club in Palo Alto.
Laura Kane and Jess Hnatiuk of the Chesapeake Charge/Maryland Capitols defend against Lianne Sanderson of the DC United Women/All-Stars, who would score twice on the evening. (Ken Harriford)
Somewhere in Heaven in the distant future, the all-time, all-Freedom team is taking the field. Co-captains Jen Grubb and Cat Whitehill check their starting lineup one last time. Beside them on the back line are Carrie Moore and Becky Sauerbrunn; Siri Mullinix is between the pipes. Up top are Mia Hamm and Abby Wambach; while Sonia Bompastor, Steffi Jones, Lori Lindsey, and Bai Jie line up across the midfield.
The other team consists of the best their opposition has offered over the years. So many to choose from, but you have to figure the lineup includes forwards Marta and Birgit Prinz; midfielders Lori Chalupny, Kristine Lilly, and Kelly Smith; defenders Joy Fawcett, Christie Rampone, and perhaps a Danielle Slaton finally without knee problems; and of course Hope Solo in goal.
All right, the lineup for Saturday’s “Celebration of Women’s Soccer”, with the “Maryland Capitols” taking on the “All-Stars”, wasn’t anywhere near that awesome, but given that it was limited to active players who could make the match on fairly short notice, it was plenty awesome enough. Three of the players I named above were there – Sauerbrunn, Lindsey, and Whitehill – though due to US Soccer’s concerns over possible injuries, only Cat was allowed to play. Becky and Lori served as part-time coaches and also participated in a penalty kick face-off at halftime. (Lori won, 4-3, after Becky’s first attempt went off the bottom of the crossbar but out rather than in.)
A Record Crowd Watched Penn State & Stanford Put On A Classic
Penn State 2 (Weber 19′, Nairn PK 83′) – 3 (Doll 23′, Sy. Payne 63′, Nogueira 88′) Stanford
Stanford outlasted Penn State in front of a packed Jeffrey Field in a very entertaining match that could be set for an encore in November or December on the evidence from this night. Penn State would strike first in somewhat fortuitous circumstances, as a Christine Nairn shot from range took an awkward deflection right into the path of Mallory Weber, who used Aly Gleason’s slight hesitation in goal to beat the keeper to the ball and shoulder it beyond her, though Gleason did get a hand to it before it eventually rolled across the line. The Cardinal would strike back shortly after though, with a long ball nodded on by Courtney Verloo towards Alex Doll. Doll would beat her marker to the ball before firing across Erin McNulty’s body to knot the match up at 1-1. A cheap giveaway early in the second half almost let Stanford take the lead, with Natalie Griffen’s quick effort from the edge of the area clanging off the bar. Penn State would then almost strike themselves after a beautiful long diagonal ball from Nairn set Weber away. The freshman would round Gleason but saw her shot cleared off the line by Laura Liedle, and a follow-up effort saved by the keeper. The visitors would finally break the deadlock when a criminally unmarked Sydney Payne was allowed time to cut inside before ripping a shot from twenty yards that sailed into the left side of the goal, giving McNulty no chance. While the action percolated, things began to really pick up with ten minutes to play, and Penn State so nearly had the equalizer as Kori Chapic’s header was saved in jaw dropping fashion by Gleason. The chance would come soon enough though, as Rachel Quon hauled down Tani Costa in the area, netting the home side a penalty which Nairn dispatched into the left side of the goal. Just as it appeared that extra time was going to be in the cards, Stanford would come up trumps from a corner kick. Taylor McCann’s delivery forced Mariah Nogueira to run back to the ball, but the defensive midfielder got there and unleashed a powerful flicked header that snuck inside of the left post and out of the reach of McNulty. A late comeback against Notre Dame helped act as the catalyst for Stanford’s national title run last year, and so it could be again this year with a potentially momentous win against Penn State on the road. There were some defensive hiccups along the way, but Stanford never backed down and scored three great goals to win it. Alex Doll continues to show signs of great improvement for the club, while Aly Gleason grew into her starting role as the night rolled along, making a massive save in the second half to keep Stanford in it. Special mention of course has to be made of Mariah Nogueira, who has been immense as the club’s defensive midfielder thus far while proving why she’s one of the best aerial threats in the nation in Stanford’s two wins. A reeling West Virginia team should be dealt with if the Card are focused, setting up an immense Friday night showdown back in Palo Alto against Boston College next week.
It’s definitely been a while since Stanford’s been tested to that degree in the regular season, and Penn State could hardly be disappointed about their effort in a fabulous match. Christine Nairn had some outrageous passes that showcased her skill, while freshman Mallory Weber continued to look like a handful up front for the Nittany Lions. When you consider that this club is still missing its top two offensive threats, the possibilities are mouthwatering down the line for this club. While PSU may have been initially ticketed to mount a challenge to reach the College Cup, the first few weeks have shown that the bar should perhaps be set even higher. Now it’s just a matter of not looking ahead and past a talented Central Michigan team coming off a huge win of their own on Friday.
Kaely Schlosser & Central Michigan Aim At More History on Sunday Afternoon
Penn State vs Central Michigan – 2:30 PM (Penn State Invitational)
If Central Michigan’s win against West Virginia was one of the biggest in recent club history, what on Earth would you call a victory over Penn State on Sunday? The odds are certainly stacked against the visitors, as Penn State will be coming out eager to forget Friday’s heartbreaking defeat as soon as possible, as the Nittany Lions proved match for Stanford for ninety minutes before falling late to a Mariah Nogueira goal. By contrast, the thought of CMU even having a remote possibility at springing an upset here seemed farfetched as recently as early Friday, as the Chippewas seemed like the consummate close but no cigar team as far as big name surprises went. And then Neil Stafford’s side went out and promptly stunned West Virginia on neutral ground, a victory that not only got some to sit up and take notice of the MAC club but which also could prove very valuable should the team need an at-large bid come November. They could well all but punch their ticket if they manage to spring another upset on Sunday, with the Nittany Lions overwhelming favorites to win the Big Ten this season. PSU will undoubtedly be looking to make a statement come Sunday afternoon, though Central Michigan has certainly proved that they aren’t about to roll over for anyone, no matter the pedigree.
BYU & Jaiden Thornock Will Look To Extend Their Dominance Over Utah on Saturday
Utah vs BYU – 3:00 PM
A new chapter will be written in one of the fiercest collegiate rivalries in all the land, as Utah hosts BYU in Salt Lake City. The past half decade in this rivalry has been one that the Utes would like to forget, with the club having not beaten their eternal rivals since the regular season of 2007. Last year was perhaps a low point for Rich Manning’s side, as they were humbled in Provo, 4-0. The Utes would recover to do well in Pac-12 play though and will carry newfound confidence into Saturday’s showdown. After a tough 1-0 loss at Rio Tinto Stadium against Utah State to open up the season, Utah got back on the winning track Thursday with an easy 4-0 win over Southern Utah in which Baylee Nielsen netted a brace and an assist. Replicating that feat against BYU would make her a cult heroine in Salt Lake City, but against a strong Cougars club, that’s going to be quite difficult. BYU’s been in two tough battles on the road thus far, with scrappy wins against UC Irvine and Arizona to show for it. The spearhead of the offense thus far in Provo has been sophomore Jaiden Thornock, who has impressed with a pair of goals and an assist, though BYU’s offense has liked multi-dimensional thus far. BYU will be favored to extend their winning streak in this series, but taking anything for granted in such a fierce rivalry would be foolish, with the 2012 meeting between these teams promising to be another match to watch.
Sarah Jackson's Strike Was Enough for SCU on Thursday
Cal 0 – 1 (Jackson 30′) Santa Clara
Sarah Jackson scored near the half-hour mark for Santa Clara with the club’s only shot on goal all afternoon, as the Broncos completed a smash and grab victory over Cal in Berkeley on Thursday. Jackson would net the decisive goal as she waved around a few defenders at the top of the box before hitting a shot beyond goalkeeper Emily Kruger at the left post. From then on, it was really the Andi Tostanoski show for Santa Clara, as the Broncos rookie netminder made nine saves to keep Cal off the board, an impressive display considering she had been shelled in the second half just a week earlier. The win wasn’t exactly a thing of beauty for the Broncos, but they likely didn’t care coming off a traumatic defeat at the hands of Stanford, with this also being a road game against talented opponent. The offense is probably just going to have to make do until Sofia Huerta and Julie Johnston get back, while the defense did well to tighten up and hold Cal off the board, though they did put a lot of shots on frame, which could be a worry with some tough opponents coming up. With that hard fixture out of the way, UC Riverside at home on Sunday should be winnable enough before a huge date at Notre Dame next week.
After last week’s fireworks, the Golden Bears came up firing blanks on this occasion, a theme that may have extended from last season’s second half, when Cal had problems scoring against the big teams at times. While Neil McGuire’s side can be happy that they controlled much of the game against the visiting Broncos, the lack of a cutting edge in front of goal in this one has to be frustrating to no end. Grace Leer, who had a hat trick just a game ago was held without a shot, only underlining some of the inconsistencies of the offense at the moment. The defense will have to be razor sharp on Sunday against Missouri, as it’s unlikely this squad can win a shootout with the high octane Tigers.
Christine Nairn & Penn State Will Try To Take Down Stanford on Friday Night
Penn State vs Stanford – 7:30 PM (Penn State Invitational)
Many have tried, none have succeeded since the beginning of 2011 to take down a Stanford program that has stood steadfastly against every challenge thrown up against it, conquering challenger after would be challenger, often in devastatingly convincing fashion. Their mettle will again be put to the test on Friday night, with potentially one of their most dangerous tests to date in the form of Penn State. Then again, that’s what a lot of people were likely saying before last Friday’s opener, where Santa Clara went into the break with a 1-0 lead and went home with a 6-1 defeat. The Nittany Lions certainly looked good on the first weekend of the season as well though, topping Virginia, 3-1, before pummeling an overmatched St. John’s (NY) team, 5-0. When you consider the club was without a pair of injured players in Lexi Marton and Jackie Molinda and a pair of players on the U.S. U20 World Cup squad in Maya Hayes and Taylor Schram, those wins become even more impressive. Stanford’s an entirely different animal though, and one that didn’t have trouble piling on the goals despite also being without their top goal getter in Chioma Ubogagu, also in Japan at the U20 World Cup. The Card’s defense will surely be put to the test here though, as even without some weapons, Penn State showed that through the likes of freshman Mallory Weber and junior Tani Costa, they’ve still got enough firepower to trouble any college club. PSU will also likely have a large crowd backing them on Friday night in front of a national television audience as they try try and deal Stanford their first regular season defeat since 2008.