No. 1 Akron
This year, anything short of a national title will be a disappointment for unanimous No. 1 Akron (12-0-1, 4-0-0 MAC). The Zips, who boast the nation’s highest winning percentage over the last five years, have come home empty-handed in each of their 24 NCAA tournament appearances. They return eight starters from last year’s team, which lost the national championship to Virginia in a heartbreaking 3-2 shootout.
Though Akron is clearly loaded with experienced players, it may be a newcomer that makes the difference for the Zips this year. Freshman forward Darren Mattocks leads the MAC in scoring and is fourth in the nation with 11 goals and is one of the Zips to have won the MAC player of the week award at least once this year, along with juniors Darlington Nagbe and Michael Nanchoff and senior Anthony Ampaipitakwong.
No. 2 Louisville
No. 2 Louisville (11-0-2, 6-0-0 Big East) will likely be Akron’s biggest challenger for this year’s national championship. The Cardinals may lack the pedigree of more high-profile programs but are clearly dangerous this year, having won every game except for ties against No. 24 Duke and No. 25 Ohio State.
Freshman midfielder Dylan Mares, who stands a mere 5-foot-7, is currently fourth in the Big East in scoring with seven goals. Rounding out the Louisville attack are juniors Nick DeLeon (five goals) and Colin Rolfe (two goals, five assists).
Because the massive Big East conference is split into two divisions, the Red Division-leading Cardinals will not play the Hoyas – who stand atop the Blue division – this regular season. Both teams are guaranteed conference tournament berths, though, so a matchup is still possible.
No. 3 Maryland
On Tuesday, No. 3 Maryland (10-2-1, 4-1-1 ACC) extended its winning streak to six after shutting out Colgate 2-0. Junior goalkeeper Zac MacMath anchored the team with a career-high, seven-save performance, while junior midfielder Kaoru Forbess and junior forward Casey Towsend led the offense with one goal each.
The win against Colgate marked Maryland’s eighth clean sheet of the season. Before giving up a second-half goal to Clemson on Saturday, the Terps had tallied four consecutive shutouts and outscored their opponents 13-0 during that streak.
Defensively, the Terps have held their opponents to only nine goals this season, which is even more impressive when considering that Michigan State hit the back of the net four times against them in the season opener.
Maryland will next take the field on Sunday when they play host to Wake Forest.
No. 1 Stanford
After a road sweep of Pac-10 powers UCLA and USC, No 1. Stanford (13-0-2, 4-0 Pac 10) returned home last weekend for its conference home-openers against Washington and Washington State.
With a 2-1 victory over the Huskies on Sunday, the Cardinal extended its winning streak to 12 and earned its 15th straight victory in conference play. Senior forward Christen Press scored for the ninth consecutive match, giving her 18 goals and six assists for the season. Press leads the conference in shots, points, goals and game-winning goals.
On Saturday, five different players scored for Stanford in a 5-0 rout over Washington State.
The Cougars were hardly the only team whose defense has been eviscerated by the Cardinal offense, which leads the Pac-10 in almost every offensive category, having tallied 323 shots, 133 points, 45 goals and 43 assists so far this season. The Cardinal is also the only remaining undefeated team in the country and is the odds-on favorite to win the Pac-10 title this year.
No. 2 University of Portland
Ranked a lofty No. 5 in the NSCAA preseason poll, the No. 2 Portland Pilots (15-1-0, 3-0-0 West Coast) have managed to exceed even those expectations despite playing one of the most difficult schedules in the nation. Their 1-0 win Sunday over Pepperdine was their third straight shutout, 24th consecutive conference win and 34th straight win at home. Coached by Bill Irwin, the Pilots returned eight starters and 18 letter winners from last year’s team that advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals for the sixth straight year. The Portland juggernaut has four games left in the regular season against San Diego, Santa Clara, San Francisco and Saint Mary’s.
No.3 University of North Carolina
The legacy of the UNC women’s soccer team under the direction of head coach Anson Dorrance can only be described by one word: dynasty. Under Dorrance’s guidance, the Tar Heels have won 20 of 28 possible NCAA National Championships. On Sunday, UNC used its signature 3-4-3 formation to pull off a decisive 5-0 win at home over Miami in front of 2,383 to improve its record to 13-1-1, 5-1 in the ACC and pull into a tie with Florida State for first place in the conference. As the preseason No. 1 pick by the NSCAA, the No. 3 Tar Heels are hoping wins in their four remaining regular season games against conference rivals Clemson, Maryland, Duke and Wake Forest will propel them to the top of the standings and eventually their 21st championship in 29 years.