(14) Washington State vs (2) UCLA – 5:00 PM
Anyone handing the Pac-12 title to UCLA right now may want to hold up, as the Bruins face a trying trip to a pair of surging Washington schools. Up first is a Washington State side that held the Bruins to a scoreless draw the last time they met in Pullman in 2011. Considering neither of the clubs’ current managers was here then though, it’s not exactly an indicator of what will be on tap on Friday, other than the usual difficult time visitors have in Pullman. The Cougars are hoping to claim UCLA as their biggest victim on their resume, and a shock result here could have the Cougars in with a faint glimmer of a chance of a top two seed. The WSU offense was purring last weekend in the Rocky Mountains, bisecting the defenses of Colorado and Utah with beautiful diagonal runs and inch-perfect passes through backlines. Whether WSU will be able to replicate that against UCLA’s ironclad back four certainly remains to be seen. With three straight wins though, the Cougars have shaken off their midseason doldrums that saw them go without a win in three to push them down the Pac-12 table. But in a purple patch of form and clicking offensively, Steve Nugent’s side will be confident in their chances of turning over the defending national champs and securing one of the biggest wins in program history.
All they have to do is beat a UCLA program that has been stomping through the Pac-12. After a draw with Arizona State and three one-goal wins, the Bruins have been destroying their league brethren. The turning point may have been the comeback win against Stanford. Since, the Bruins have scored seventeen and conceded none in four matches. While they did some of that work against the Oregon schools, they also hammered two likely NCAA Tournament qualifiers in Cal and Arizona. Sam Mewis affirmed her credentials as the frontrunner for the Hermann Trophy with her display against Oregon last week, scoring two and setting up two more as her club destroyed the Ducks, 5-0. Even without the injured Darian Jenkins and the international duty tied Rosie White, the offense is still chewing up teams. With White likely to be back in some capacity this weekend, UCLA could get even stronger in attack. The defense will face a challenge in stopping WSU’s attack, but when has that ever stopped this Bruins club? It’s a weekend that’s going to push UCLA to its limit with a trip to Seattle to play another high-flying side in Washington coming up on Sunday, but there’s business to get done in Pullman on Friday. With Amanda Cromwell’s big game record, there’s little reason to fear any letdown ahead of this big Pac-12 battle.
Other Matches to Watch
(28) Texas vs (33) Oklahoma State – 8:00 PM
Both of these sides look to be in the Big Dance but will probably wrap it up with another win. There’s still the matter of moving up the RPI and trying to lock up a home game in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament though.
(7) Florida State vs (55) Duke – 7:00 PM
Simple for Duke. Lose and the season’s over. Don’t and there’s a good chance they’ll live to play another day. Not that Florida State is about to show any empathy. The Noles will be hoping to keep apace in the race for a #1 seed while also locking up an ACC title with a win.
(45) Utah vs (25) Arizona – 3:00 PM
Utah is in freefall, with just one Pac-12 win, that coming against lowly Oregon State. They’ll be able to survive on the bubble thanks to draws with Stanford and Cal, but if they keep losing they may not end up on the bubble. Arizona has been sliding themselves, with zero wins in their last four but find themselves with a much more palatable closing stretch after being pinballed around by the league’s top teams.
(58) Oklahoma vs (16) Kansas – 8:00 PM
More teams imploding. Oklahoma has lost four in a row and hasn’t won since October 5. Beat Kansas and take a breath of relief at potentially saving their NCAA Tournament hopes. Lose and they may need a few wins in the Big XII Tournament. Kansas’ dreams of a Big XII title may have gone up in smoke, but a few more wins may be enough to see them sneak into a national seed.
(51) Colorado vs (37) Arizona State – 5:00 PM
The home side got a priceless draw with Washington to give them their first real result of any consequence on their resume last week. They still may need a few more wins to lock up an NCAA Tournament spot though. Arizona State has just one win in five but may need just one more win thanks to their earlier work against Texas A&M and UCLA.