The Big West conference took a collective sigh of relief on Monday after an exhausting four days, which included resume-worthy wins for two programs in need of the publicity and the long-time favorites enjoying early-season success as well.
On Thursday, Cal State Fullerton battled defending national champions Akron Zips to a 0-0 draw in the heat of the valley. Four days later, UC Davis shocked visiting UCLA with a 2-1 overtime victory. The perennial favorites of the conference, UC Irvine and UCSB, also enjoyed successful Labor Day weekends with each program recording two wins.
For a conference that was left with only one bid to the NCAA tournament last year, the opening results for this season seem to be pointing toward more bids and higher RPI across the board.
Goal.com Top 25 (W-L-D)
1.) UNC 3-0-0. Billy Schuler and Rob Lovejoy are off to a great start with seven goals combined in the first three games of the season. Next up: Virginia Tech, September 10. PR: 3
2.) Louisville 2-1-0. The Cardinals next three contests are at home against easy opposition. Time for Colin Rolfe to pad the stats. Next up: IUPUI, September 9. PR: 2
3.) Creighton 3-0-0. Keeper Brian Holt has recorded three shutouts in a row, and will likely add to that total with three of the next four games at home. Next up: Fordham, September 9. PR: 4
4.) Akron 2-0-1. The young talent of Akron needs some time to adjust to college soccer’s physical nature, when they do they’ll be back in the top spot. Next up: St. Louis, September 10. PR: 1
5.) Indiana 2-0-1. Freshman Eriq Zavaleta already looks like a Hoosier star after his two goal, two assists performance at the weekend tournament. Next up: Bucknell, September 9. PR: 6
6.) Maryland 4-0-0. The friendly confines of Ludwig Park appear to be treating the Terrapins just right, as they are off to a perfect start and only face the challenge of a road game six times this season. Next up: Boston College, September 9. PR: 8
7.) UCONN 3-0-0. Sophomore striker Mamdou Doudou Diouf collected the Big East Offensive Player of the Week honors after his four-goal performance over two games. The electric forward is just getting started. Next up: Tulsa, September 9. PR: 9
8.) UCSB 3-0-0. Fifi Baiden typically shies away from the limelight, but the young man played like a star in Machael David’s absence these past three games. And the Gauchos look like the best team in California early in the season. Next up: West Virginia, September 9. PR: 12
9.) West Virginia 2-1-0. The Mountaineers challenged themselves with a daunting schedule through the first two weeks of the season, and it is not getting any easier with a trip to California on the docket. Next up: UCSB, September 9. PR: 11
10.) UCLA 0-2-1. Bruins fans must be scratching their heads as their ultra-talented and deep roster continues to flounder early in the season. Still plenty of time for UCLA to right the ship especially with seven of the next eight games at home. Next up: Saint Mary’s, September 9. PR: 5
11.) Notre Dame 1-1-1. The Fighting Irish are somewhere in-between inconsistent and apathetic when it comes to regular season results. Next up: Denver, September 9. PR: 10
12.) Georgetown 2-1-0. Stevie Neumann is back in form and the Hoyas will lean on him to provide the production with a tough road trip to Michigan this week. Next up: Michigan State, September 9. PR: 14
13.) Virginia 3-1-0. The attack has notched 12 goals in the last three games and is looking as sharp as ever with six of the next eight at home. Next up: Duke, September 9. PR: 15
14.) South Florida 3-0-0. Transfer Dom Dwyer is the real deal, and the Bulls are the smart pick as the dark horse of the competitive Big East. Next up: Bradley, September 9. PR: 17
15.) UCF 3-0-0. Still churning out wins, and yet still not sure how good this team is given the schedule so far. Next up: North Florida, September 7. PR: 18
16.) Cal State Bakersfield 2-0-0. Gyasi Zhades is tearing apart defenses and putting the rest of the MPSF on notice, the Roadrunners are coming. Next up: UC Davis, September 11. PR: NR
17.) UC Irvine 4-0-0. Christian Hernandez and Miguel Ibarra are a lethal duo and jumped Irvine out of any talks of a possible rebuilding season. Next up: Wisconsin, September 9. PR: NR.
18.) Penn 2-0-0. Freshmen Max Kurtzman and Duke Lacroix were great in their first two college games, but a tough challenge waits in San Diego this weekend. Next up: San Diego, September 9. PR: 24
19.) SMU 1-2-0. Sophomore forward Juan Castillo needs to get going soon for the Mustangs to look like a national powerhouse again. Next up: Oakland, September 9. PR: 10
20.) Denver 0-1-1. The Pioneers are going to score eventually. It just may not be this week . . . but next week looks good. Next up: Notre Dame, September 9. PR: 19.
21.) VCU 4-0-0. The effectiveness of the Rams in the post-season will depend solely on how well received their relatively light schedule is perceived. Next up: S.C. Upstate, September 11. PR: NR
22.) Old Dominion 1-0-0. Monarchs lost two games already this season to weather, but when they were permitted to complete a game, they put up six goals. The tournament this weekend should be a decent gauge of the squad. Next up: ETSU, September 9. PR: NR
23.) UNCG 1-1-0. Three of the next four on the road for the Spartans, which will be a challenge but the side should bounce back strong after a bit of a let down against ETSU. Next up: North Florida, September 9. PR: 23.
24.) Duke 1-3-0. Tough schedule, new pieces in the line-up, and some bad luck has the Blue Devils behind the eight ball early in the season. Next up: Virginia. PR: 13
25.) ETSU 3-0-0. Two road wins are a great sign early in the year, but really this season comes down to the showdown against FGCU for league supremacy. Next up: Old Dominion, September 9. PR: NR
TV Game of the Week: Duke v Virginia, September 9, 7:00 p.m. (ET), Fox Soccer Channel
ACC league play gets an early start with the Blue Devils and Cavaliers set to battle on Friday. The latter has been strong in recent games with the offensive onslaught of Brian Ownby and co. in full swing. The former has struggled a bit with new faces and difficult opposition, but the team is fully capable of giving Virginia a run for its money.
Both sides are full of MLS talent; Duke employs two freshmen right out of MLS academies in Riley Wolfe [LA Galaxy] and Nick Palodichuk [Seattle Sounders]. Also, Andrew Wenger and his wide range of versatility will eventually find a landing place in MLS.
Beyond Ownby, the Cavaliers have Cobi Span and Will Bates, which are both attacking talents with plenty of potential. Outside back Hunter Jumper could also emerge as a solid future professional in the relatively thin pool of MLS-level players for that position.
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