Pac-12 title hopes on the line in weekend slate for women's soccer
With key matchups taking place over the second to last full weekend of Pac-12 play, the standings were shaken up towards the top; however, every team is still chasing the No. 2-ranked UCLA Bruins, who maintain their five point lead as the regular season is nearing a close. The Bruins battled the now-third place Utes to a 1-1 draw on Friday then earned the 1-0 win over Colorado on Sunday. The fight behind the Bruins continues to be close, with only two points separating five teams and five points separating seven teams. Stanford made the most significant jump over the weekend, earning two road wins and six points to jump to sole posseion of second place. After a three-game mid conference slate skid, the Cardinal have played well as of late as they try to make a run at the NCAA tournament. Three games remain on the regualr season schedule for all 12 teams--two this weekend and then one against rivals to end the season the following Wednesday-Friday. In a tight race, the upcoming games this weekend are arguably the most important of the season, in terms of both Conference finish and NCAA tournament resume. The slate kicks off with a matchup that could very well determine second place and/or give a team the best chance to catch the Bruins is on Thursday night as Stanford visits Washington for a 7 p.m. PT game that will be televised live on the Pac-12 Networks. Special for the weekend is a Sunday afternoon Pac-12 matchup between Washington and California at 2 p.m. PT, set to be televised live on ESPNU. There is no room for error here on out and given the unpredictablility of the season so far, the finishing stretch is sure to both exciting and full of surprises.
AROUND THE LEAGUE
- Upsets in Oregon: California headed to Oregon and Oregon State over the weekend with a chance to make some movement at the top of the standings against two teams that have been hanging around at the bottom all season. The Bears, however, were not able to take advantage of the opportunity, getting upset by both the Beavers and the Ducks in a pair of 1-0 defeats. The Bears, now in ninth-place, will need to re-group for their last three regular season matches if they want to make a run at the NCAA tournament. Their RPI ranking dropped from 21 to 26 and will only continue to drop if the Bears don’t start reversing the outcomes of their games right away. The weekend schedule isn’t any easier as they face the Huskies and Cougars this week, both fighting at the top of the standings.
- Near-Upset: Utah gave the No. 2 Bruins a scare on Friday, coming out attacking and scoring first on a goal from Ashton Hall. It was just the sixth goal that UCLA keeper Katelyn Rowland has allowed all season and only the third in Conference play. It was also only the second time that the Bruins had been behind in a game, including the first time they trailed in Conference play. UCLA’s only loss came in non-conference action against then-No.1 and defending national champion North Carolina.
- Chance to clinch: No. 2 UCLA has a chance to clinch the regular season title this weekend. Two wins would wrap up the outright title for them, while a win and a tie would ensure at least a share of the title for the preseason Conference favorites. The Bruins host Oregon State on Friday and Oregon on Sunday at home and as both teams proved last weekend, that, despite the standings, is no easy task.
- Rankings: Now unbeaten through 12 matches since their only loss of the season, it’s no surprise UCLA held their No. 2 spot in both polls. Since losing three Conference games in a row, Stanford has strung together three- consecutive wins to move back into title contention, which resulted in a jump back to the top-10 with the No. 7/6 spots in the polls. The Bears’ fall in the polls continued after two losses over the weekend, coming in at No. 21 in one poll and falling completely out of the other. Colorado received its most votes in the NSCAA poll this season and sit right outside the top-25. For the second time this season, Utah received votes after their strong performance against UCLA and USC this weekend.
- RPI: Results over the weekend shook up the RPI rankings for the Pac-12. UCLA remained at No. 2, Stanford dropped a few spots to No. 16 and California plummeted five spots to No. 26. Colorado gained some ground, moving up two spots to No. 23, and Washington State and Utah made the most significant jumps, going from No. 43 to 29 and No. 51 to 37, respectively. That gives the Pac-12 six in the top-40.