The third weekend of the NCAA field hockey season saw another shift in the rankings, as the UConn Huskies emerged as the No. 1 team in this week’s poll. But after a slew of high-powered non-conference games to kick off the season, conference play in powerhouses such as the Big Ten and ACC is starting to heat up. But don’t worry; there’s still some huge non-conference showdowns coming up. Here are the 10 best games to watch this weekend in field hockey.
Friday, September 15th
No. 2 Penn State vs. No. 19 Iowa: Riding a six-game winning streak to start the season, the Nittany Lions moved up to No. 2 in the rankings after a 2-0 road win over No. 15 Princeton and a 5-1 victory at Bucknell this past week. Now, Penn State (6-0) opens its Big Ten Conference schedule against the Hawkeyes (3-4), who fell from No. 17 in the rankings. Last weekend, Iowa split a pair of contests against unranked New Hampshire. The Hawkeyes lost their first match 3-2, while roaring back to win their second game 7-1 against New Hampshire. Both teams will be looking to get conference play off to a great start before each goes back to non-conference play on Sunday. While Iowa will travel east to Philadelphia to take on the Penn Quakers, Penn State is in for a huge showdown against No. 6 Delaware.
N0. 4 Duke vs. No. 11 Louisville: After starting the season 3-0 and having not let up a goal this year, the Blue Devils (4-1) lost their No. 1 ranking after losing 4-1 at No. 5 Virginia to open up ACC play last week. But Duke bounced back with a 3-1 road win over No. 13 James Madison. Now, the Blue Devils return home for a three-game stretch which begins with No. 11 Louisville. For the Cardinals (4-2), Friday’s match against Duke will be its first in conference play this season. After defeating No. 23 American 2-1, Louisville lost a 1-0 nail-biter at No. 9 Maryland. While this is the lone game of the weekend for Louisville, the Cardinals will be looking to get off to a great start in ACC play. After Louisville, the Dukies will host No. 15 Princeton on Sunday.
No. 5 Virginia vs. No. 18 William & Mary: After knocking off No. 1 Duke at home and unranked Michigan State last week, the Cavaliers (5-1) moved up to No. 5 in the rankings and are riding high on a four-game winning streak. Now, Virginia begins a four-game homestand on Friday against a pair of in-state rivals. First, Virginia will welcome in No. 18 William & Mary. Previously unranked, William & Mary (5-1) has won five straight games heading into its matchup against Virginia. Most notably, William & Mary upset No. 8 Michigan 1-0 last week in Ann Arbor. After hosting William & Mary, Virginia will play the Richmond Spiders on Sunday. But this weekend will tell fans a lot about how good this William & Mary team is. After facing the Cavaliers, it will host No. 10 Boston College on Sunday.
Saturday, September 16th
No. 7 North Carolina vs. No. 10 Boston College: The second of three high-powered ACC clashes this weekend takes center stage in Chapel Hill on Saturday when the Tar Heels host the Eagles. North Carolina (4-2) opened up ACC play on the wrong side of the scoreboard, losing 3-1 at No. 16 Wake Forest last week. However, UNC followed it up with a 6-1 win over Appalachian State. But, it wasn’t enough to keep the Tar Heels from falling in the rankings. Similar to UNC, Boston College began conference play on a really bad footing as the Eagles (5-1) were blown out at home by No. 3 Syracuse 6-0 last week. Again, like UNC, the Eagles got back to its winning ways with a 4-0 home win over Providence. As a result, BC fell from No. 8 in the polls. This weekend is huge for both teams for several reasons. Not only does neither team want to begin ACC play at 0-2, but both face ranked opponents on Sunday as well. The Tar Heels will play host to No. 13 James Madison, while Boston College will travel to No. 18 William & Mary.
No. 3 Syracuse vs. No. 16 Wake Forest: The third and final big ACC showdown this weekend takes place in Syracuse, where the Orange will play host to the Demon Deacons on Saturday. This will be both teams second ACC games this season, and both got off to winning ways in conference play last weekend. By going on the road and lighting up Boston College 6-0, the Orange moved up from No. 5 in the polls. Syracuse (7-0) followed that up with a 2-0 road win at No. 21 Albany last Sunday. As for Wake Forest, the Demon Deacons took down both North Carolina and Ohio State by scores of 3-1 at home last week. With its win over the Buckeyes, Wake Forest (3-3) snapped its three-game losing streak against Big Ten schools and moved up from No. 19 in the rankings. While this is Wake Forest’s lone game of the weekend, Syracuse will host No. 24 Rutgers on Sunday.
Sunday, September 17th
No. 4 Duke vs. No. 15 Princeton: After hosting Louisville on Friday, the Blue Devils will host the Tigers (1-3) on Sunday. Princeton is off to a slow start this year, having dropped three of four to open the season and fall from No. 12 in the rankings. Princeton’s lone win came last week at home against Rutgers by a score of 4-1, but the Tigers followed it up with a 2-0 home loss against Penn State. This is Princeton’s lone game of the weekend and will be looking to snag a big road win to turn around its early-season struggles.
[More from Excelle Sports: 10 NCAA field hockey games to watch this weekend]
No. 3 Syracuse vs. No. 24 Rutgers: After hosting Wake Forest, the Orange will play the Scarlet Knights (4-2) on Sunday. After beginning the season 4-0 and entering the top 25 for the first time last week, Rutgers came back down to Earth with a pair of road losses. Along with losing at Princeton, the Scarlet Knights fell 3-1 at St. Joseph’s, who entered the rankings for the first time this season at No. 23 this week. This weekend will be Rutgers swing through the Empire State, as it will first play at Cornell on Friday before traveling to Syracuse on Sunday.
No. 2 Penn State vs. No. 6 Delaware: Arguably the biggest game of the weekend, the Nittany Lions will take on the Blue Hens (5-1) on a neutral site on Sunday in a top 10 non-conference battle. While this will be Delaware’s lone game of the weekend, it will give fans a good look at whether or not the defending national champions are serious contenders again this season. Delaware enters Sunday’s clash with Penn State coming off a pair of road wins last week against Penn (2-1) and Liberty (3-2). This game is one not to miss.
No. 7 North Carolina vs. No. 13 James Madison: After hosting Boston College on Saturday, the Tar Heels welcome in the Dukes on Sunday. Standing at 5-1 on the season, James Madison moved up from No. 15 in the polls and opened up the season with five straight wins, including a home win last week against the Hawks of St. Joseph’s. But James Madison ended up on the losing side against the other Tobacco Road team, falling 3-1 at home last week against Duke. In its lone game this weekend, James Madison will be looking to get back to its winning ways on the road against North Carolina.
No. 1 UConn vs. No. 20 Boston University: With all the movement in the polls this week, there’s a new No. 1 team in the country: the UConn Huskies. Sitting at 5-0, the Huskies jumped from No. 2 after 6-2 and 3-1 wins last week over No. 25 Pacific at home and No. 17 Harvard on the road. On Sunday, UConn will play host to the No. 20 Terriers. After starting the season undefeated, BU (4-2) fell from No. 16 after a pair of road losses against Albany and UMass last weekend. This will be the Terriers’ lone game this weekend, while UConn will host unranked Old Dominion on Friday.