Marquee Nonconference Showdowns Highlight Women's Soccer Schedule
The Pac-12 proved itself to be one of the top women’s soccer conferences in the country last season, with six teams qualifying for the NCAA Tournament.
The conference will get a chance to demonstrate its superiority early on in 2013 with a handful of appealing nonconference showdowns.
And the Pac-12 Networks will be there to showcase the developments. As part of their package of 58 women’s soccer telecasts, the networks are airing games involving seven teams that were nationally ranked at the end of last season. Three of those teams are in the Pac-12 – Stanford (No. 3), UCLA (No. 6) and Cal (No. 21). But the conference is also challenging itself with games against top teams from outside the Pac-12.
While Stanford continued its dominance in 2012 with its fourth straight perfect conference season and UCLA and Cal rounded out the top tier of the Pac-12, the teams that made up the middle of the pack showed promise and return a strong corps of players.
“Really, some of the other teams that were kind of middle of the road last year have really toughened up their schedules,” Pac-12 Networks women’s soccer analyst Krista Blunk said. “Last year, some of those teams were really young. But now they have some players back after getting some experience. They are testing themselves before they have to face those teams in the conference.”
UCLA opens up the Pac-12 Networks’ women’s soccer coverage for 2013 with a home match against Northeastern on Aug. 23 at 6 p.m. A week later, Oregon State hosts Big 12 opponent Texas at Noon, followed by Washington welcoming Baylor to Seattle at 3:30 p.m.. Baylor won the Big 12 championship last season and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament. The Bears finished the year ranked No. 11 in the country. Washington earned an at-large berth to the NCAA Tourney.
On Sept. 1, Texas continues its Pac-12 road trip by visiting Oregon at Noon.
Other marquee nonconference matchups include Maryland, which ended last season ranked No. 16 nationally, visiting Stanford on Sept. 8 at Noon. Oregon has another tough test on Sept. 12 when BYU comes to town for a 7 p.m. game. The Cougars went to the NCAA Elite Eight in 2012 and ended the year ranked No. 5 in the country. Another big-time showdown features San Diego State and UCLA on Sept. 13 at 4:30 p.m. The Aztecs were the No. 7 team in the country at the end of last season and went to the third round of the NCAA Tournament.
“I’m really impressed with the TV games that we have,” Blunk said. “There are some solid teams in the nonconference schedule. That will get things going and help the conference teams if and when they have to get ready for the tournament.”