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.
Georgetown vs Hofstra – 11:00 AM (JMU/Fairfield Inn by Marriott Invitational at Harrisonburg, Virginia)
Two clubs who have flown mostly under the radar thus far in 2012 will try to make a case for more attention on Sunday by beating the other on neutral ground. After a disappointing 2011 season and losing plenty of talent through graduation, little was likely expected of Georgetown this year. They haven’t slipped up yet though, delivering three assured performances this season, holding their opponents without a goal in each win. Granted, they haven’t exactly faced a murderer’s row of opponents, but it’s been a good showing thus far nonetheless. Hofstra will likely be their biggest test of the season thus far by a mile, with the Pride back in the limelight after a rebuilding season in 2011. The CAA contenders had been a mid-major darling in 2010 before finding itself replacing a whole lot of its best players, culminating with a drop back into mid-table in the league. A 2-0 win against Ohio State showed that Simon Riddiough’s club weren’t in rebuilding mode any more this season, and his club will be eager to rake in another big name scalp on Sunday as they push for a return to the NCAA Tournament. Always a side known for its English influence, instead it’s been a couple of Northeastern products that have fueled the offense so far, with Lulu Echeverry and Sam Scolarici netting twice for the Pride thus far. A win here for the Pride could well set them up nicely for a potential run at an at-large bid to the Big Dance if they keep racking up victories.
Stanford vs West Virginia – 12:00 PM (Penn State Invitational at University Park, Pennsylvania)
Let’s just say that this one has lost a bit of its luster after the rather calamitous start to the season by West Virginia, who have traditionally started slowly, but seldom this slowly. The Mountaineers capitulated in shocking fashion against La Salle in the opener before having to huff and puff their way past Western Carolina a few days later. WVU would fare little better on Friday, as they ended up looking shockingly feeble on offense, not netting against Central Michigan despite putting a fair number of shots on the board. The schedule over the next few weeks isn’t exactly forgiving either, meaning WVU could be in real trouble if they don’t get their game together. Not helping matters of course is the fact that Sunday’s opponent has looked formidable to say the least over the course of the opening week and a half of the season. They stared down Penn State on Friday and didn’t blink in the face of a massive crowd and an inspired opponent. They’ll want to avoid any kind of letdown at high noon on Sunday and end the weekend on a winning note. It’s really about West Virginia though. If they can get themselves together, they should at least have the faintest of chances of causing a shock. If not, it’s probably going to get ugly for the Mountaineers real early on Sunday. The exhibition against Montreal should be a good opportunity to build some cohesion, while Summer Green should be back for a big weekend in South Bend next week, which should help the offense out.
Dayton vs Northwestern – 1:00 PM
Northwestern? That Northwestern? Well, yes, the Wildcats have certainly been promising through a week and a half of the new season. They haven’t made it easy on themselves, but an upset against Kansas on opening weekend was followed up with a solid win on Friday against Miami (OH) that shows this club has some real potential to at least be competitive this year. Michael Moynihan’s club will get another test on Sunday though, heading to Dayton to play a Flyers team that should be full of energy after their nationally televised win over Boston University this past Thursday. The Flyers endured a rocky second half to score a golden goal in the dying minutes of the match to secure a priceless win that could make all the difference in November. The stakes are much higher for the home side than the visitors, as their somewhat middling non-conference schedule means every win is crucial for Dayton come Selection Monday. They’ll fancy their chances on offense against a Northwestern side that hasn’t been able to keep a clean sheet thus far. The Wildcats though are probably playing without a ton of pressure, knowing an upset over the Flyers would be another huge step forward for the surprising side from Evanston.
Florida vs Duke – 1:00 PM (Nike Carolina Classic at Chapel Hill, North Carolina)
What once looked like a marquee matchup at the beginning of the season could be a real challenge for the Gators, who have struggled mightily thus far in 2012. While the scoreboard will show that Florida drew with North Carolina on Friday, they were second best by most measures and were lucky that the Heels were unfortunate with the woodwork at multiple points. The Gators put a whopping one shot on goal the whole evening, which is an ominous sign considering they’ll be facing one of the nation’s top defenses on Sunday afternoon. Duke had a curious exhibition against the University of Montreal on Friday and eased past their opposition, giving up just a single shot (though it went in), and scoring five goals in the process. Kim DeCesare continued her electric form early this year, with two goals and an assist to pace the Blue Devils. The budding star will surely fancy her chances against a Florida defense that has looked shaky at times to say the least early on this year. Duke will surely be wary of Florida, even with their slow start. The Gators could well be a wounded animal right now, hellbent on not starting the season with a three match winless streak. Anything less than their best could leave Duke ripe for an upset come Sunday afternoon.
UCF vs Miami (FL) – 1:00 PM
A hotbed of great DI soccer at the moment, the state of Florida will be privy to another excellent showdown on Sunday, when UCF takes on visiting Miami (FL). The Golden Knights will be looking to bounce back after a tough defeat to Florida State on Friday despite a battling effort and holding the Noles to just a single shot on goal. UCF has always shown best when going up against more fancied opposition, a trait they’ll be eager to prove once more against a somewhat schizophrenic but very talented Miami (FL) team. The Canes surprised the college soccer world by destroying Florida on opening night but then suffered a hangover and put up a clunker against South Florida two days later. Tom Anagnost’s club crushed Morehead State on Friday in a weather shortened game and will be looking to build some consistency as we edge closer to ACC play. A well balanced Miami club has seen seven different Hurricanes score, with Ali Brennan the only player with multiple goals thus far. The real intrigue might be in goal though, as Anagnost has to choose between Arkansas transfer Emily Lillard, who started the first two matches of the season, and Colombian rookie Paulo Forero Cabrera, who pitched a clean sheet on Friday. Defense could be big for the visitors as they try to slow down a UCF offense which gave even Florida State some pause on Friday. With only so many hosting possibilities in the NCAA Tournament come November, this match could be another vital one in deciding who gets to stay at home in the opening round and perhaps beyond.
Virginia vs UNC Wilmington – 2:00 PM
If it’s not David vs Goliath, it might not be far from it, as UNC Wilmington tries to upset the odds again and get something from a clash with Virginia on Sunday afternoon. It’s not just the fact that Virginia’s a battle tested ACC squad but also that the Cavs are notorious for being a merciless mid-major smashing machine, chewing up and spitting out smaller clubs without mercy. Then again, UNC Wilmington hasn’t exactly blinked in the face of ACC opposition over the past week. We probably should have known something was up early on when the Seahawks shocked North Carolina in a friendly in early August. It may have been just an exhibition, but the result spoke volumes for a program that had morphed into a doormat last season. The club would then take Virginia Tech to extra time before falling in the opener and then fought Wake Forest to a 0-0 stalemate in another surprising result. The bad news is Wilmington didn’t score in either of those matches. The good news is that the defense did just enough to make them competitive though they were outshot decisively. Truthfully, the odds of a shock result aren’t great. But then again, the odds of Wilmington even being in the discussion for a potential upset probably weren’t great before the season started, showing just how much their stock has risen in such a short time.
UCLA vs Illinois – 3:00 PM
It’s time for a real test for UCLA, who looked wobbly against UConn in Storrs in the club’s true opener that was washed out by weather. The Bruins edged past UMass a few days later before easing by Fresno State this past Friday. Illinois might be the club’s biggest challenge to this point though, with the Illini doing their best to compensate for the loss of plenty of personnel through graduation last season along with Vanessa DiBernardo and head coach Janet Rayfield to the U20 World Cup. The Big Ten contenders have made a solid, if unspectacular, start to the new season, with a couple of 1-0 wins against mid-majors to go with a battling 1-1 draw against upstarts Illinois State on the road. It’s hardly been stuff to set the pulse alight, and the Illini will desperately be hoping to help build their reputation with a good result in this one. Illinois hasn’t exactly been spectacular offensively thus far, with just a goal in each game, and that could spell trouble considering they’ll be coming up against a UCLA team that should be strong on defense, at least on paper. The Bruins though looked very shaky against UConn in the cancelled game, while also having a moment or two against UMass. Whether a DiBernardo-less Illinois can take advantage of any slip-ups is a question well worth asking though.
Long Beach State vs Baylor – 4:00 PM
This most intriguing of non-conference showdowns should tell us much about these two fast starting clubs. The Beach haven’t really skipped a beat since last season’s Elite Eight run, but then again, they haven’t really been challenged thus far, with games against Baylor, BYU, Michigan, and Texas A&M likely to test the mettle of the Big West title contenders. Needing extra time to dispense of Arizona isn’t really the best of signs, but Mauricio Ingrassia’s club has made great use of newcomers, including transfers, to fortify the ranks and ready the club for another deep run this year. Baylor has barely put a step wrong all season thus far, topping a couple of very dangerous mid-majors in Rice and Cal State Northridge. While the Bears were down early on Friday against Northridge thanks to an own goal, they kept their composure and ended up running out as convincing winners, 2-1. Alex Klein and Kat Ludlow have netted braces for the Bears in their three games thus far, and the deceptively potent Baylor offense will be looking to make a statement on Sunday. Another win here would surely put Marci Jobson’s side in good stead in the RPI given the quality of the wins and could add to Baylor’s resume should the Bears be in position for a potential national seed down the line.
Cal vs Missouri – 6:00 PM
Cal’s surging start to the season was dampened by an impotent display in front of goal Thursday against Santa Clara, but the Golden Bears will get another shot at a big name scalp on Sunday as they square off against a high flying Missouri side. The home side was scoring for fun on the opening weekend of the season, including a brace from midfielder Betsy Hassett, fresh off her experience at the Olympics with New Zealand, to go along with a hat trick against San Jose State from Grace Leer. They were firing blanks against Santa Clara though and will be hoping that their aim is true come Sunday afternoon. Getting into an offensive shootout against Missouri might not be the wisest of ideas given the Tigers’ explosive start to the season, first blowing away Memphis in a 5-1 stunner before easing by UC Santa Barbara. The duo of Alyssa Diggs and Taiwo Adeshigbin were red hot last weekend, with the former netting three goals and the latter a brace as they drowned their opponents under a tide of offense. The Golden Bears are likely Mizzou’s toughest non-conference opponent on paper, and a victory for the visitors could make a perfect non-conference season a real possibility with three more games to play before SEC play starts.
Ohio State vs Maryland – 6:00 PM
Call it one last chance to make a national impact for both of these sides after some serious hiccups to begin the new season for each. The home side has had it much worse, being shut out by Hofstra and Rutgers to open the new season before then coming back to Columbus and topping Northeastern in rather easy fashion on Friday. After some defensive woes coupled with a toothless attack on opening weekend, the 3-0 win over the CAA side was likely a big relief for head coach Lori Walker, whose side needed the win in the worst way. Opponents Maryland are still unbeaten, but their draw last Sunday against Villanova was illuminating, and not in the way the Terps would have liked. Despite controlling the run of play, the Terps only put six of their twenty shots on goal, finishing without a goal in a uninspiring scoreless draw. While everyone likely expected some growing pains with so many young new pieces, Maryland probably didn’t feel better about falling short against Nova when they lost to Drexel on Friday. That result also likely had some bad effects on the Terps’ RPI both in the short and long-term, and the club will be looking to claim a big boost with a win on the road. These two foes will be looking for consistency on Sunday evening, with both knowing defeat here would heap on the pressure as league play approaches.
Boston University vs Boston College – 7:00 PM
This derby is almost always one of the closest and most hard fought in the nation, and little figures to change this season as BU hosts their city rivals on Sunday night. The Terriers will be looking for their first win over their nemesis since 2006, knowing that they need wins in the worst kind of way without an automatic bid to fall back on this season if they want to qualify for the NCAA Tournament once more. BU left Dayton brokenhearted on Thursday after falling to Dayton on national television in the waning moments of a closely fought match. The Terriers have precious little wiggle room in their fight to end up high enough in the RPI to warrant an at-large bid. The club will likely need a big scalp along the way, and Boston College certainly counts. How much Alison Foley’s Eagles have left in the tank could certainly be up for debate. They have one less day of rest and were pushed to the limit in a 4-3 win over UConn that saw BC need three equalizers to be in position to win it late. The Eagles probably can’t get away with such lax defending in two straight games and will be looking to tighten things up considerably on Sunday night. There’s been little wrong with the offense thus far though, blasting four past UConn after three goals downed Providence in the opener. A convincing win here could set up a huge showdown next week against Stanford, but getting there unscathed won’t be easy for the ACC side.