Week five of D1 Women's Soccer saw a pair of massive league upsets, as well as two standout displays at opposite ends of the pitch for Big Ten programs.
MORE: D1 Men's Soccer Wrap
Offensive Performance of the Week: Minnesota
Admittedly, this was not really the week for blow away offensive performances for D1 Women’s Soccer clubs. But it’s hard to look beyond Minnesota, who came out of their toughest league weekend of the season with four points after a draw with defending national champs Penn State and a victory over Ohio State in resounding fashion, 3-0.
The display against the Buckeyes at the end of a grueling Friday-Sunday cycle was a big statement from the Gophers, as they look to be one of the favorites for a league title after the first week of league play. Simone Kolander is the brightest light in Minnesota’s arsenal and netted in both games, but the offense as a whole has hummed for much of the season and could fire it to a first major trophy under manager Stefanie Golan.
Defensive Performance of the Week: Northwestern
OK, this is kind of a 'three weeks’ achievement award,' but Northwestern deserves kudos for pitching six straight clean sheets. The Wildcats are currently one of just three remaining teams to leave week five with a perfect record intact. Keep in mind that the Wildcats also have conceded just one goal all season (to DePaul). One! That’s an astonishing number, even for a side with Big Ten level talent.
If things were going to get harder for the defense during league play, it didn’t show on the opening weekend of the Big Ten slate. Indiana was handled with relative ease on Thursday, before the Wildcats finished the weekend out right with a confident 2-0 win over Purdue to begin the conference campaign with six points from six. Things get harder with the next three matches on the road, but these Wildcats look like a potential Big Ten title challenger.
Match of the Week: West Virginia 0 – 1 Georgetown
Sometimes, you don’t need an end-to-end five-goal thriller to bring the drama, and there was plenty of it Sunday in Morgantown as West Virginia hosted Georgetown.
The Hoyas were looking for another big win to add to their resume after having toppled Virginia and Rutgers before, while West Virginia was looking for another big win on their resume after having previously beaten the likes of Clemson, Duke, and Ohio State.
Arielle Schechtman and her fellow Hoyas defenders pitched a shutout Sunday. (Hoyas Athletics)
Georgetown keeper Arielle Schechtman was up to a pretty stern task on Sunday afternoon, making eight saves and generally doing her very best to keep West Virginia’s dangerous attack at bay.
The Hoyas saw their talisman Rachel Corboz held without a single shot on the afternoon, but the other big threat, Grace Damaska, found pay dirt in extra time, after a great individual effort for the golden goal.
It was a win that could well lead to a potential No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament for the Hoyas at season’s end.
Upset of the Week: North Carolina State vs North Carolina
How remote were the odds of NC State beating North Carolina? Consider:
- The Wolfpack had beaten North Carolina just one other time in their history, in 2002
- NC State came into this match on the back of a twenty, yes twenty, match losing streak in the ACC having lost every league match in 2014 and 2015
- Jackie Stengel, the club’s top offensive option was out injured
But the Wolfpack did it, etching their name into program legend. Kia Rankin netted in the sixty-seventh minute, while the defense battled heroically to hold onto the 1-0 lead on enemy turf. NC State suddenly finds itself at 7-2-0 overall and with a big win to seriously boost their hopes of making the ACC Tournament, once again capped at eight teams.
More importantly though, the Wolfpack have a marquee win to tout on their resume for a potential NCAA Tournament berth, something that would’ve seemed outlandish just a month ago.
When you beat your second top-5 ranked opponent at home your AD celebrates in style. pic.twitter.com/fv6dsmI6Te
— Razorback Soccer (@RazorbackSoccer) September 17, 2016
Somehow, Arkansas may have one-upped N.C. State’s big upset.
How big of a win was it for the Arkansas program? Big enough for AD Jeff Long to take a belly flop through the standing water, suit and all (video, left).
The Razorbacks had never, never, beaten Florida in their long history, and were probably seen as a massive underdog when this fixture was announced at the beginning of the season considering Arkansas’ brutally bad 2015 season.
But the Fayetteville side had already made with defying expectations early this year when they stunned Duke in the non-conference season.
With enough rain falling to delay the match for a few hours, the conditions favored the chaos that Arkansas thrives on. And the Gators were left with many questions after just twenty-five minutes, with a quickfire double from Jessi Hartzler giving the home side a 2-0 lead before a half-hour had even elapsed.
Florida would come out angry and got one back in the second half but couldn’t find a second breakthrough, leaving them without three big points in the race for an SEC title for which Arkansas may be in contention.