The NCAA college soccer season kicks off on Friday with a number of Division I teams in action, including the nation’s top ranked team, West Virginia, along with Pitt and Robert Morris.
TOP RANKED MOUNTAINEERS WITH EARLY TEST
The number one ranked Mountaineers will be playing in a top-five showdown in Washington D.C. Due to inclement weather expected later today, the start time for this afternoon’s women’s soccer season-opening match at Shaw Field has been moved up to 1 p.m.
The season opener features two 2016 NCAA College Cup participants. The Mountaineers finished as the national runner-up, and the Hoyas lost to eventual national champion USC in the semifinal.
“Georgetown is going to do a great job setting the tone of the match with its speed of play,” Mountaineer coach Nikki Izzo-Brown said. “They’ll play a lot through Rachel (Corboz). She’s the top midfielder in the country, and we know how special and crafty she is.
“Defensively, we know they smother the ball and do a really great job creating opportunities off transitions. This is a solid team from top-to-bottom. This is going to be a challenge.”
Also in action, the Pitt Panthers look to begin a season hoping to rebound after a tough 2016 campaign marred by injuries and tough losses.
The Panthers will take on Hofstra at 7 p.m. at Ambrose Urbanic Field.
If you can’t make it out to Oakland, the game can be seen live on ACC Network Extra via WatchESPN or the WatchESPN app
Head Coach Greg Miller, speaking at media day earlier this week, is optimistic that the Panthers will have a turnaround season in the always tough ACC.
“This will be an aggressive schedule for our group this year,” said Miller. “We’ll have a roster of youth and experience this year, so we wanted to put together games that would challenge us in the non-conference segment. We fell there is a good mix of conferences with several of these games on the road, so it will be a real test and invaluable experience for our ladies before heading into conference play.”
The 2017 team will debut some fresh faces, led by redshirt freshman goalkeeper Katelyn McEachern, the first new keeper since the 2014 season, as 2016 alum Taylor Francis had held down the position for 50 consecutive matches.
The Panthers added a couple of local players to its freshmen class with former Riverhounds academy products Alexis Bengel and Aideen O’Donoghue.
Unfortunately, Bengel is out for the season after tearing her ACL in June, and will be taking a medical redshirt.
Miller was raving about O’Donoghue when asked about her progress as a freshman.
“She’s been even better than expected,” Miller said of the former Canon-Mac standout. “She’s jumped right in, was in the starting line-up for our (preseason) games, and she’s going to be able to help us right away this year.”
Ashley Moreira and Taylor Pryce will return to the starting lineups, after missing the 2016 season. Both members of the U-20 Canadian National Team, the duo will look to bolster a squad that struggled to find the back of the next last year. Pryce tallied six goals, two of which were game winners, in 2015, adding four in 2014. Moreira, a midfielder, scored once, adding two assists in 2015; additionally, she recorded three helpers in her freshman campaign in 2014.
Two of the team’s top-three leaders in minutes played will return from the 2016 season, with Alli Higgs (1581) and Sarah Krause (1479) set to lace up with the starting squad.
RMU LADIES KICKOFF AT OHIO UNIVERSITY
Robert Morris’ women’s team is also in action, also looking to rebound from a subpar season in 2016, when they failed to make the Northeast Conference playoffs.
The Colonials, with 10 former WPIAL players, will take on Ohio University in Athens, OH, on Friday at 4 p.m., then return home on Sunday to take on Milwaulkee at the North Athletic Complex in Moon at Noon.
DUQUESNE OPEN vs PITT AT ROONEY FIELD
The Duquesne women will open its season for the second straight season against cross-town rivals Pitt, by taking the short trip to Ambrose Urbanic Field in Oakland on Sunday at 12:30 p.m.
After a third place finish in the Atlantic 10, the league’s 2015 Champions were picked to finish fifth in the A-10 preseason coaches poll. The Dukes also feature a roster full of many former WPIAL and local players, including a whopping nine players that plaeyd for Beadling soccer club alone.
I will be at the Pitt-Duquesne match on Sunday, and you can follow all in-game updates on twitter @PghSoccerScribe