2:00 PM EDT – Marina Auto Stadium (Rochester, NY)
A battle of the top two teams in the East kicks off Week VIII action and expect nothing less than fireworks from this one, as it pits the two highest scoring offenses against each other. The Rochester Lady Lancers have been the story of the 2018 UWS season so far as after a winless 2017 season, Head Coach Sal Galvano has his team playing motivated soccer this year. Ever since losing 4-0 at home to Connecticut back on May 27, the Lady Lancers have gone unbeaten in their last four matches to vault themselves to the top of the table. They’ve relied on stout defending and getting timely goals, including a pair of game-winners from UWS co-leading scorer Brooke Barbuto, during the recent run of form and will hope to continue to see that formula carry over into this weekend. It will be a tricky finish to the season for the Lady Lancers as over the last three weeks of play, they play a home-and-home against the Flash in addition to hosting Inferno Rush next weekend. But if they can start off their closing stretch with a positive result, there’s little doubt that Rochester will make the East Conference Championship Game.
Even though the one-year turnaround of Rochester is the leading story of the 2018 season, the rise of the Western New York Flash is hardly a footnote in the script. Matt Waddington’s team bounced back brilliantly last week to snap a two-match winning streak by picking up six points on the road in Week VII. After trouncing the Worcester Smiles 6-2 last Saturday, they utilized an 85th minute game-winner from Carissima Cutrona to snatch three points the next afternoon at New England. Now the Flash come into Week VIII sitting two points behind their regional rival but also have a match in hand on the Lady Lancers, as while Rochester only play one match next weekend against Inferno Rush, Western New York will play them along with the Connecticut Fusion before hosting Rochester in Week X. So if the Flash can get a result on Saturday, they will be in great shape. They will also be buoyed by the fact that they swept the season series against Rochester last year, winning 4-1 at home with a pair of braces from Maddie Pezzino and Cutrona, and taking a 3-2 decision in Rochester backed by another brace from Cutrona and a single tally from Pezzino. And the way that those two have played this season, history could very well repeat itself again in 2018.
3:00 PM EDT – Mercer County Community College (West Windsor, NJ)
This is the second of two meetings between New Jersey Copa FC and Inferno Rush this season as the two sides tangled in Week VII in the Keystone State, with a late Tesa McKibben winner giving the Rush all three points. But NJCFC have been a tough team to beat at home this season and they proved that earlier in the week by defeating Long Island 3-1 this past Wednesday. NJCFC got on the board in the 16th minute as after the Rough Riders failed to fully clear a free kick, Alexis Williams got on the end of a Camille Bowen header inside the area and tucked it home. It became to Tori Baliatico show in the second half as she extended the lead to 2-0 in the 76th minute where she took the ball right at the halfway line and split a pair of defenders before ripping a shot past a helpless Kelsey Daugherty in goal. Five minutes later, the Elon product was at it again when she timed her run perfectly to beat an offside trap before latching onto Jackie Bruno’s service to score her second of the night. Despite giving up a late consolation goal, it was a match that will give NJCFC a lot of confidence heading into the return match against the Inferno Rush.
The Rush had to really dig in last week to take a result against NJCFC last week as there weren’t too many chances created on either side. But Francisco Cleaves’ team took the chance that mattered the most and veteran striker Tesa McKibben delivered with her third goal of the season. Matches are going to come fast and furious for Inferno over the final three weeks of the season as they will play back-to-back, two-match weekends before finishing out 2018 at home against Long Island in Week X. Which is why this road match could be the make-or-break for this team. If they can open up their condensed part of the schedule off to a good start and perhaps get four-plus points out of this weekend, they will head up to the Western New York region in Week IX with the confidence of going up against the league leaders and taking away points.
5:00 PM EDT – Hofstra University (Hempstead, NY)
Long Island fell to New Jersey Copa FC on Wednesday night in early Week XIII action and were forced to chase the game for long periods. More importantly, the loss puts them four points out of playoff position with a number of teams ahead of them having a match in hand on the Rough Riders. That makes this match, and every other match for the rest of this season for that matter, a must-win for Karim Diallo’s side if they want to get back to the postseason and defend their East Conference title crown. Interestingly enough, these two charter members of the UWS did not meet in 2017 so you have to go back to 2016 for the last head to head meeting and neither turned out well for Rough Riders, with the Mutiny winning a pair of one goal decisions that year, including a 2-1 result in Long Island.
New England will have to hope that history can continue to be on their side as they travel down to Hofstra for their Saturday late afternoon contest against the Rough Riders. Last Sunday’s 1-0 loss to Western New York was a tough pill to swallow for the Mutiny and one that saw them fall back out of the playoff picture. This starts a very tricky stretch to finish out the season as after this match, they will travel to take on New Jersey in a match that could determine the playoff fate for both teams before hosing Connecticut to finish out the season. The Mutiny struggled to break down the high line of defensive pressure that the Flash put out last weekend so no doubt a lot of focus in training this week was spent on solving those issues but if they can get back to their winning ways, they are still very much alive in securing a playoff spot.
7:00 PM EDT – Farmington Sports Arena (Farmington, CT)
The Fusion had a bye week last week and find themselves still very much alive in the playoff picture, as they sit two points behind the Flash, a team they will face in Week IX, for second place. And in their four remaining matches, they face the two bottom teams in the East so all things considered, Connecticut has a very realistic opportunity to get into the postseason in their expansion campaign. No doubt that giving up a two-goal lead in the second half at home in their last match against Long Island back in Week VI left a sour taste in their mouths so it would not be a surprise to see the Fusion try to get out to a quick start and leave no doubt in their final match at the Farmington Sports Arena.
If the New York Surf want to make the postseason, a lot of things need to go right. First things first, they need to win both of their remaining matches as any points dropped from here on out all but eliminates them from contention. With their backs against the wall in Week VI, the Surf responded beautifully with a very convincing 6-0 win over Worcester, including getting a hat trick from Furtuna Velaj to net her second appearance on a UWS Team of the Week list as well. With having the week off last week to think about the situation, expect the Surf to play this match with a similar attitude from that game against Worcester and attack for 90 minutes and hold nothing back.
3:00 PM EDT – Millersville University (Millersville, PA)
This will be the second match in two days for Inferno Rush as they welcome in Worcester to Millersville University. As mentioned earlier, this will be the first of two, two-match weekends for the Rush so keep an eye on how Head Coach Francisco Cleaves will rotate his team depending, as fatigue could be an factor on for this clash. They welcome in Worcester, a team that is already eliminated from postseason contention and are coming off of a 6-2 loss to Western New York last weekend. The month of June was not kind to the Smiles as they lost all four of their matches by a combined score of 18-2. But if there were any positives to take away from their most recent loss, it was that the Smiles got a couple of goals to snap a three-match goal drought. Daria Spital and Talia Borci each got their names on the scoresheet in that one and will look to build on that come this Sunday when they make the trek out to the Keystone State.
UWS is a national women’s soccer league sanctioned by U.S. Soccer. UWS is a professionally operated league created for teams that meet high minimum standards. The season runs from May until the end of July, culminating in a National Championship match. The UWS player pool is comprised of college players, aspiring & former professionals and international stars. You can follow UWS on social media on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.