Women's College Soccer - A Few Thoughts Heading Into The Weekend

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 fall 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 



PODCAST: Bobby Muuss (Wake Forest)

Wake Forest head coach Bobby Muuss joins Adam Zundell on this edition of the College Soccer News Podcast.                                   


Wake Forest head coach Bobby Muuss joins the show this week to talk about his program emergence through the pandemic and leadership during these challenging times. The two also get down to business with this year's fall campaign that includes a tough South Division in the ACC and looking ahead what may (or may not) lie ahead. 

Get these interviews “on the go” by subscribing to the podcast. You can subscribe on iTunes, or listen on TuneIn Radio, or to download the audio portion of this interview only, click here.


The Frontrunners - The 2020 Men's Fall College Soccer Season

The unprecedented 2020 fall season with limited participation and contests skews any effort to rank the participants from a national perspective. College Soccer News takes a look at the teams that are competing in the fall and identifies the frontrunners, their strengths, and critical success factors.   

Wake Forest – 3-1-0 – Consistent and Balanced. In the business world succession planning is the process of increasing the availability of experienced and capable employees that are prepared to assume greater roles as they become available. Wake Forest under Bobby Muuss does a great job of succession planing from a player development standpoint. When a void exists due to graduation or an early departure another capable Demon Deacon is always ready to assume the responsibility that exists.

The result has been a program with more wins over the past five seasons than any team in the country. When Wake Forest losses an All-American another potential All-American emerges to fill the gap as reflected in the transition from Jack Harrison to Jacori Hayes and Ian Harkes to Jon Bakero to Omir Fernandez and to Bruno Lapa. The Demon Deacons have had a first-round MLS Super Draft selection for the past five seasons.

This year the Demon Deacons are powered on the offensive side of the ball by senior Machop Chol, junior Kyle Holcomb, and sophomores Calvin Harris and David Wrona and their defense is anchored by goalkeeper Andrew Pannenberg.

The Demon Deacons began the season with wins over Louisville, NC State and UAB before sustaining a 2-1 loss on the road to Clemson. Wake Forest has another tough contest coming up on Sunday, October 18 when they host a North Carolina team that is 2-0-0. Their dance card also includes the opportunity to have another go at Clemson in Winston-Salem a little later down the road.  

Pittsburgh 3-0-0 – There is Pitt before Jay Vidovich became the head coach and there is Pitt after Jay Vidovich became the head coach. The Panthers are still a work in progress but the bottom line is that this is a team that can now hold their own with anyone.

Pitt has a high powered multi-dimensional attack led by sophomores Veljko Petkovic (3g, 1a) and Valentin Noel (2g, 1a), freshman Bertin Jacquesson (2g, 5a) and senior Alexander Dexter (2g, 2a). The unanswered question looks to be their productivity on the defensive side of the ball. 

Pitt has a 3-1 win over Notre Dame on the road and wins at home over Syracuse 3-2 in overtime and Virginia Tech 4-2.  The Panthers have a tough contest coming up with Virginia in Charlottesville on Sunday, October 18. Last year Pitt topped the then number one ranked Cavaliers 2-0 when they faced each other in Charlottesville.  

North Carolina – 2-0-0 – It should not come as a surprise to anyone that Carlos Somoano, who ranks second in the nation in winning percentage among active Division I coaches, has the Tar Heels back on track in 2020. 

The jury is still out on how competitive North Carolina will be this year but the early returns include a gutsy 1-0 win over Clemson in Chapel Hill and a season opening 2-0 win over Duke in Durham. Upcoming matches on the road against Wake Forest on Sunday, October 18 and on Tuesday, October 27 against Clemson will test the mettle and the skill of UNC.

The Tar Heel backline of defenders graduate student Filippo Zattarin and seniors Matt Constant and Mark Salas along with goalkeeper junior Alec Smir is experienced and tough.

The unanswered question is whether or not the Tar Heel attack now has and can maintain the big play ability on the offensive side of the ball that it lacked down the homestretch last year. If they don’t, their margin for error will be very small.

Clemson 3-1-0 – The Tigers are coming off a signature 2-1 win over Wake Forest.  This is a talented group with the team-oriented focus and the grit that one should expect from a Mike Noonan coached team.

Senior Kimarni Smith and junior Grayson Barber are explosive finishers. The midfield which includes junior Luis Felipe Fernandez-Salvador, senior Callum Johnson and sophomores Philip Mayaka and Alvaro Gomez looks to be very good. Backs sophomore Oscar Agren, senior Justin Malou, and junior Charlie Asensio and junior goalkeeper George Marks are part of what should be a very solid Tiger defense.

You can bet the farm that Clemson will continue to improve as the season progresses but like everyone else in the highly competitive ACC their margin for error remains small. However, they will always have an edge when they play in Historic Riggs Field where they are undefeated in their last nineteen contests.

Clemson will host a steadily improving Duke team on Friday, October 16. 

Kentucky 3-1-0 – After a season opening 1-0 loss to Notre Dame in South Bend the Wildcats rebounded to top Duke at home 3-0, Louisville at home 3-1, squeaked past Central Arkansas at home 2-1 in a contest that required extra time to determine a winner, and topped Mercer 3-1 at home on Wednesday night. Kentucky looked good in the wins over Duke, Louisville and Mercer but they came out flat in their contest with Central Arkansas which is problematic.

This is a team with a lot of talent but they need to take it one game at a time and consistently put in full ninety-minute shift in order to play to their potential.

Daniel Evans (2g, 1a) and Eythor Bjorgolfsson (2g, 2a) are keys to the attack up top while Kalil ElMedkhar (2g, 2a), Bailey Brouse (2g, 0a) and Marcel Meinzer (0g, 1a) are the pace setters in the midfield. Redshirt senior defender Aime Mabika (2g, 1a) anchors the defense and adds another dimension to the offense. 

Kentucky has contests remaining with UAB on Saturday, October 17 and a return match on Friday, October 30 with Duke on the road. If they play to their potential, they should run the table but if not, they are vulnerable.

Virginia 1-0-1 – The Cavaliers are coming off an outstanding 2019 season and are capable of another great season but at this point there are several unanswered questions due to the gaps that must be filled.

Last year Virginia had an explosive offense in addition to a very solid defense. The return of All-American goalkeeper Colin Shutler and defenders Andreas Ueland and Bret Halsey and the addition of transfer back Oliver Gerbig from Coastal Carolina should give the Cavaliers another stout defense.

Offensive productivity remains a key unanswered question. Senior Nathaniel Crofts and sophomores Axel Gunnarsson and Philip Horton look to be the go-to guys up top in the attack with much depending on their ability to convert the scoring opportunities that come their way.

George Gelnovatch has a lot of talent to work but this is a team that will experience a learning curve. The learning curve will be reduced by the fact that Gelnovatch is as effective as anyone in the country at making the adjustments that are needed to maximize the talents of his players.

Virginia did not begin play until October 9 due to cancellations. That showed in their season opener against a Louisville team that had already played several contests. Nonetheless the Cavaliers did what they needed to do to secure a 2-1 win over the Cardinals in overtime. The Cavaliers followed that up with a 1-1 tie with Virginia Tech on the road Wednesday night with graduate student midfielder Jean Gibert Fuertes contributing the Cavalier goal out of a set piece.

Virginia will continue to get better as they settle into a rhythm and system of play but the fact remains that they are a work in progress. The Cavaliers have a big contest coming up on Sunday, October 18 when they host a very good Pitt team that will test their defense.

Coastal Carolina – The Chanticleers opened the season with a 1-0 win at home over previously undefeated Georgia State. Coastal Carolina warrants recognition under the often utilized but sometimes misleading early season logic of “I beat you so I must be better than the teams that you beat.” Georgia State came into contest with Coastal Carolina with a 5-0-0 record that included wins over Mercer, South Carolina, UAB and Georgia Southern.

This is a new look Coastal Carolina team with a twenty-five member 2020 recruiting class that included eighteen freshmen and seven transfers.  Freshman back Mael Couteau netted the game winner in the season opening win over Georgia State and senior transfer Tor Saunders from Akron recorded the shutout in goal for Coastal Carolina.  

The Chanticleers have back-to-back contests on their dance card coming up with Central Arkansas on Friday, October 16 and Sunday, October 18 in Atlanta. 

Pitcure from Clemson Athletics