Weekend College Games: Division I Season Opener Edition

by USA Field Hockey

USA Field Hockey's weekly feature of highlighting some of the top college games in Division I, II and III is back for the 2021 season. Division II and III games have not officially started yet, so this week we are only highlighting Division I.

DI: Kent State vs. Michigan State | 12:00 p.m. ET | Boxcast

To kick off the 2021 fall season, Kent State will host Michigan State in Kent, Ohio.

Last season, Kent State finished 11-3 overall and 9-3 in Mid-American Conference (MAC) play, outscoring their MAC opponents 31 to 16 throughout the season. The Golden Flashes were picked to finish second in the MAC Preseason Coaches' Poll and received one first-place vote.

This starts a stint of three games in five days for Kent State as they will also play Saint Louis on Sunday, August 29, and Ohio State on Tuesday, August 31.

Opening up their 50th year of competition, the Spartans begin the 2021 regular season with a pair of road contests. They finished the  spring season with a 2-14 overall record and return all of their 11 scorers from last season.

The last time these teams played was September 1, 2019, where Michigan State won, 1-0.

DI: No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 1 North Carolina | 2:00 p.m. ET | BTN+ ($)

It is rare this early in the fall, especially the season opener, for a battle between Penn Monto/NFHCA top-two ranked teams as well as a repeat of the 2020 NCAA Division I National Championship game.

The ACC/Big Ten Challenge resumes after a one-year hiatus in 2020-21 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now in its 19th edition, the ACC/Big Ten Challenge has proven to be the premiere early-season field hockey tournament on the collegiate slate.

The Wolverines own an all-time record of 22-25-1 in season openers and are 3-3 over the last six openers, including wins against North Carolina 2016 and 2017. In 2020, they posted one of best campaigns in program history amid the uncertainty and adversity caused by the pandemic, posting a 15-3 record en route to the Big Ten Conference regular-season and tournament titles and a runner-up finish in the NCAA Tournament.

The Tar Heels return 20 letterwinners from last year's squad that went 19-1 and captured the program's ninth NCAA championship and third in a row. North Carolina owns a 26-5 advantage in the all-time series against Michigan, but the series has been closer of late, with UNC holding a narrow 5-2 edge since 2016.

In the spring, North Carolina claimed a 4-3 overtime decision against Michigan in the title game. Michigan scored twice in the third quarter to rally and force overtime, where North Carolina converted on a penalty corner to score the deciding goal at the 66:39 mark.

DI: No. 20 Saint Joseph's vs. Fairfield | 4:00 p.m. ET | Live Stats

In Philadelphia, Pa., No. 20 Saint Joseph's will host Fairfield for their first meeting since 2013.

The Hawks recorded a 5-3 record in the spring, going 3-1 the Atlantic-10 (A10). In the shortened season, Saint Joseph's advanced to the A10 Title game but fell to Virginia Commonwealth.

Fairfield played a seven-game season last spring, winning five of those contests including two of its four conference dates. The Stags won all three of their non-conference matches including victories over Albany and Hofstra. The team also defeated Sacred Heart University in the season finale which did count as a NEC match. Fairfield was selected second in this year's Northeast Conference (NEC). 

When these teams met in 2013, Fairfield won the match-up, 3-2.

DI: Providence vs. Bryant | 6:00 p.m. ET | FloSports

Providence will host Bryant in Rhode Island for a Friday night match-up.

The Friars finished the abbreviated spring campaign with a 2-9 overall record. The previous year, Providence posted a 12-7 record, including a 4-3 mark in the BIG EAST Conference.

The Bulldogs will start the 2021 year under new head coach Jillian Coppola. In their shortened season, they posted a 1-7 overall record, including a 1-5 mark in the Northeast Conference.

Providence and Bryant last met on September 6, 2019, where the Friars defeated the Bulldogs, 2-0.

DI: No. 25 Stanford vs. California | 9:00 p.m. ET | Stanford Live Stream

With the program almost eliminated, No. 25 Stanford, will open the 2021 campaign with the first of three straight games at home, beginning of California.

The Cardinal finished the spring season 11-3 overall and 6-2 in America East (AE) play despite reporting to campus in late February during the pandemic. They continued the conference dominance, securing their fourth AE title in five seasons. The program made their 18th NCAA Tournament appearance overall, defeating Miami 5-4 in overtime before falling to North Carolina 2-0 in the quarterfinals. Stanford is also under the leadership of a new coaching staff including Roz Elliz, Michael Barminski and Laura Hurff.

DI: No. 6 Connecticut vs. No. 21 Miami | 1:00 p.m. ET

Picked as preseason favorites in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) and BIG EAST, No. 21 Miami and No. 6 Connecticut and No. 21 Miami will play in Evanston, Ill.

In 2019, the Huskies went 12-2 overall and won the BIG EAST regular season for the ninth-straight season with an 801 mark in BIG EAST play. Connecticut captured the BIG EAST Tournament title for the ninth-straight year to advance to its 19th NCAA Tournament in a row and first under new head coach Paul Caddy.

The Redhawks are coming off a banner year, finishing the regular season with a 13-2 overall record and a perfect 10-0 record in MAC play. Miami have reached the NCAA Tournament for three-straight seasons while dominating the MAC with a 21-1 record in the regular season 

Connecticut and Miami ill match up for the first time in program history on Saturday afternoon.

DI: Lehigh vs. Longwood | 11:00 a.m. ET | Live Stats

Lehigh will host Longwood in Bethlehem, Pa. on Sunday.

The Mountain Hawks will be vying for their first Patriot League Tournament berth since 2012, where they hope to compete for a championship. In the shortened season, Lehigh went 2-3 overall. The previous year, they went 7-11 and 2-4 in the Patriot League. The Mountain Hawks only graduated one player from the spring and are eager to start on a positive note.

Longwood finished last spring with an 8-5 record, including 6-5 in the MAC for a third-place finish. The season prior, the Lancers were 9-10, 3-3 in conference.
Lehigh won the only-ever meeting against Longwood, 4-1 at home in 2003.

DI: Colgate vs. Rider | 12:00 p.m. ET | ESPN+($)

Colgate will welcome Rider to Hamilton, N.Y. on Sunday afternoon.

The Raiders posted a 2-3 record during last spring's shortened season, picking up wins against Bucknell and Holy Cross.

The Broncs were picked to repeat as Northeast Conference (NEC) Champions. Head Coach Lori Hussong and her staff earned NFHCA Regional Coaching Staff of the Year honors for the first time during her tenure after guiding Rider to the main field of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history.

The last time these teams met on September 15, 2019, where Rider won, 5-1.

DI: Towson vs. Appalachian State | 1:00 p.m. ET | FloLive

Towson will host Appalachian State in Maryland on Sunday afternoon.

The Tigers went 2-6 in the spring season with wins over La Salle and Northeastern. The win over the Huskies marked the first conference win for the team since 2011 and first league win on the road since 2010. The 3-1 victory signified the Tigers' the first in program history on the Northeastern's turf.

The Mountaineers ended the spring slate with a 7-9 overall record and will look to improve on their 18-18 record over the last two seasons with a schedule that features eight league games and a challenging non-conference slate.

Their last meeting was August 30, 2019, where Appalachian State came out on top, 3-0.

Division I rankings based off of the Penn Monto/NFHCA Division I National Coaches Poll Week 1 (posted August 24, 2021) 

Photo Credit: Fairfield Athletics, Miami Athletics, Michigan Athletics, Steve Tressler