Navy soccer puts on strong show in 20th season
As college soccer approaches the final full weekend of regular-season play in many conferences, there are 10 teams still operating with one or fewer losses. Four from that group can be found in the rankings below, including Florida State and UCLA, the remaining unbeaten teams. Others, like Georgetown, Baylor and San Diego State, are knocking at the door in these rankings, and, more importantly, comfortably positioned in the RPI rankings.
In fact, only one team yet to lose multiple times is not ranked in the top 100 of the most recent RPI. But strength of schedule calculations and postseason positioning don't diminish what Navy has already accomplished.
Navy managed only a draw last week against Colgate, leaving those teams still tied atop the Patriot League, but the service academy is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its women's soccer program in style. Under the guidance of former United States national team standout Carin Gabarra, the coach for every one of those seasons and owner of a 252-113-34 record at the school, Navy is 15-1-1 in pursuit of its fourth NCAA tournament bid.
The Midshipmen couldn't write a dramatic ending against Colgate, but they have become quite adept at saving their best for last. Not only is Navy 9-0-0 in one-goal games this season, but it won four of those games with goals in the final three minutes of regulation and won a fifth game in overtime. On two of those occasions, Navy also tied the game after the 80th minute before finding the even later winner. The team's top point producer with nine goals and six assists, junior Ashlynn Soellner twice provided those late winners, but it has been a team effort for a roster ranked sixth in the nation in scoring at 2.76 goals per game, one spot better than defending champion Stanford.
So while the weekend ahead is rich in rivalries with postseason implications, like North Carolina against Duke, Baylor against Texas, Ohio State against Michigan and Virginia Tech against Virginia, another bears watching.
There's a lot on the line when Navy visits Army on Friday. The regular-season champion hosts the Patriot League tournament, and the automatic bid that goes to the tournament winner will likely be the league's only means of entry to the NCAA tournament. But just as the rivalry matters more for what participants will put on the line once they graduate, Navy's success this season stands on its own.
1. Florida State (14-0-0)Florida State needed a penalty kick in overtime to beat Virginia 1-0 at home Sunday, two days after a 1-0 win against Virginia Tech. All the close calls, including eight wins by 1-0 margins, ought to scream caution. But watch the Seminoles, and it's hard to do anything but laud a defense that may be historically great. Their shutout streak stands at nearly 900 minutes. The road awaits with big tests at Boston College on Thursday and at Maryland on Sunday.
2. UCLA (12-0-2)The Bruins allowed three goals in the first hour of a game against Connecticut in August that ultimately didn't count because of weather. They've allowed just five goals in 14 subsequent games, including a 1-0 win at Washington last week to wrap up a three-week road stretch. UCLA has one road game remaining, at USC, and isn't likely to play on the road in the NCAA tournament, putting a perfect road record within reach for the first time since 2002.
3. Stanford (12-1-1)A 4-1 win at Arizona, the Cardinal's lone game this past week, was a chance to stretch some bench legs -- eight reserves played at least 19 minutes. It also gave Chioma Ubogagu her most active day in the box score since returning from the Under-20 World Cup with a goal and an assist. The big date is the Oct. 28 trip to UCLA, but visits this week from Washington State (9-4-1) and Washington (9-4-2) could be tricky.
4. Penn State (14-2-0)It's nice to have options. Maya Hayes contributed two goals and an assist in a 4-0 win at Nebraska last week and has 11 goals and four assists in nine games since she returned from the Under-20 World Cup. But in a more fraught 2-1 win at Iowa to close the weekend, it was the other U-20 returnee, Taylor Schram, who provided both goals. Schram has four goals in five games this season. Sunday's home game against stealthy Michigan (13-2-1) looms large.
5. Maryland (11-3-2)There were seven ACC teams in the top 20 of the RPI last week. Maryland's record against them: 4-1-1. The Terrapins weren't sharp for long stretches in last week's overtime win at Boston College, and they played their third game in a row without injured co-captain Danielle Hubka, but Hayley Brock's goal in the second minute of overtime got the win. After Miami visits Thursday, Maryland closes the regular season against No. 1 Florida State on Sunday.
6. North Carolina (8-3-2)This is the week we find out a lot about the Tar Heels, who make the short trip to Duke on Thursday and host Wake Forest on Sunday (ESPN3, 1 p.m. ET). North Carolina holds a 34-2-1 lead in the series against Duke, including seven wins in a row, and a 25-1-2 lead against Wake Forest, but neither series feels anything close to lopsided at the moment. With two goals last week, sixth-year forward Maria Lubrano is North Carolina's leading scorer this season.
7. Duke (11-3-2)Duke had good reason to celebrate when Kim DeCesare headed home Laura Weinberg's cross to tie Sunday's game against Wake Forest. But even with a rally against a good team made all the better by a healthy Rachel Nuzzolese, the 1-1 draw had to feel like a missed opportunity after the Blue Devils controlled the run of play for much of the game. The good news is the game marked the return of Duke's Kelly Cobb from an ankle injury.
8. BYU (12-1-1)Maybe this wasn't the Portland of Christine Sinclair or Megan Rapinoe, but BYU's 2-1 win against the Pilots in front of nearly 5,000 fans at Merlo Field on Saturday was the best road win in a long time for the Cougars and bolsters an impressive résumé. In arguably BYU's four best wins this season, Long Beach State, Penn State, Washington and at Portland, Jessica Ringwood scored four goals. She has one goal in all other games. Big-game players matter.
9. Florida (12-3-1)How do you deal with prosperity? It didn't look good for Florida, down 1-0 against Missouri at halftime in Gainesville as it tried to maintain momentum from last week's big win at Texas A&M. Outshot 8-1 in the first half, the Gators turned the tables and scored twice in the second half to earn a 2-1 win. That done, they claimed a 4-1 win against Mississippi State on Sunday. Senior midfielder Jo Dragotta scored three goals on the weekend.
10. Texas A&M (14-2-1)Texas A&M clinched the SEC West with wins at Arkansas and Vanderbilt. Annie Kunz scored twice against the Commodores to reach 10 goals this season. She's just the third player in Texas A&M history to score double-digit goals in each of her first two seasons. Teammate Kelley Monogue could make it four. She scored twice against Arkansas and has nine goals this season despite a more limited role coming back from offseason knee surgery.
• The teams in last week's power rankings went 15-0-1 in subsequent games and gave little reason to reconsider their inclusion, but Georgetown (14-1-2) made it a tough call after a 2-0 win against Notre Dame. Only a sophomore, 5-foot-2 Daphne Corboz, continued building a case for inclusion in the Hermann Trophy debate with a goal against the Fighting Irish, her 16th of the season. The Hoyas clinched a Big East division title, but they are tied with Marquette for top points in the conference. Georgetown closes at Villanova, while Marquette hosts South Florida.
• When the season began, Colorado College at Rice didn't look like the defining game in Conference USA -- they were picked third and fifth, respectively, in the conference preseason poll behind heavy favorites Memphis and Central Florida. But both come off impressive wins and will meet Sunday with first place likely on the line. Currently three points clear of second-place Colorado College, Rice earned a 2-0 win at Memphis last week to cap a comeback from a 2-4-2 start. Freshmen Holly Hargreaves and Lauren Hughes have scored 17 of the team's 22 goals. For its part, Colorado College, a week after an overtime loss against Memphis, beat Central Florida in overtime.
• It isn't the biggest game on the schedule Thursday, but Virginia Tech at Clemson (ESPN3, 7 p.m. ET) is a must-win for the Hokies as they attempt to finish in the top eight in the ACC and qualify for the conference tournament. Friday offers South Carolina at Kentucky (ESPN3, 6:30 p.m. ET) and Portland at San Diego (ESPNU, 11 p.m. ET). Kentucky greatly helped its NCAA tournament cause last week with wins at Tennessee and Georgia and now returns home, where it already beat Florida and tied Texas A&M. The game in San Diego, on the field that will host the College Cup, pits a Toreros team that is surprisingly in first place in the West Coast Conference (but just .500 overall) against a Portland team winless in its past five games and inching closer to the NCAA tournament bubble.