Monthly Archives: October 2013

NCAA Soccer – The First XI for October 31, 2013 – (1) Virginia vs (10) Virginia Tech

(1) Virginia vs (10) Virginia Tech – 7:00 PM

Virginia Tech is all that stands between Virginia and a previously unthinkable accomplishment. Most felt that the ACC title battle would be a war of attrition that would go down to the wire. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that few, if any, prognosticators could foresee anyone going perfect in thirteen league games. I doubt that Virginia was on anyone’s minds as said runaway champions either, as the Cavs were likely thought of as another quality side with College Cup ambitions but a juggernaut? It’s the reality though, as UVA has seen off every challenge thrown in its direction, aiming to finish the regular season, 19-0-0. The pulsating win over Notre Dame seems like ancient history now, with the club having not given up a goal in the five matches since, which includes wins over Wake Forest, North Carolina, and most recently, Florida State. The 1-0 margin of victory over FSU flattered the vanquished Seminoles, who managed just one off-target shot over the course of ninety plus minutes of regulation and extra time. FSU did manage to hold the dynamic duo of Makenzy Doniak and Brittany Ratcliffe to one combined shot on goal, but in the end, it was unheralded but uber-talented defensive midfielder Annie Steinlage who netted one of the season’s biggest goals for UVA, finishing from twelve yards not a minute into extra time. It was a goal that ensured the Cavs come into this one with a shot at ACC perfection, which is really all the home side have to play for at this point on Thursday night, other than bragging rights. The regular season title is in the bag, as is a #1 seed unless the selection committee drops the ball. Really, this one’s all about the history books, and it’d take a brave soul to bet against a UVA side that’s had Virginia Tech’s number historically.

Virginia Tech will be looking for just their third win over their in-state rivals and their first since 2009, when the Hokies won 2-1 on Klockner Field. The Hokies haven’t scored in the four meetings since, all of which have been pretty lopsided beatdowns from the Cavs. This Hokies side looks to be a cut above previous incarnations though, and it’s going to take something special for the home side to blow this VT side out. The Hokies were likely still smarting from a 2-1 defeat to Florida State on home soil last Thursday, snapping a four match win streak and nine match unbeaten streak in the league that had driven the side up the ACC table. Miami (FL) proved to be a very tough out on Senior Day for the Hokies, as a game of missed opportunities for both sides swung VT’s way after they successfully guarded a 1-0 lead the club had earned on an early Murielle Tiernan goal. It was the Hokies’ fifth one-goal win in the ACC and ninth clean sheet of the year, both impressive marks for Chugger Adair’s side and a big reason why they’ll host an ACC Tournament quarterfinal on Sunday. They could end up anywhere between second and fourth in the final table, with avoiding a potential semi-final rematch against the Cavs in the ACC Tournament a pretty big carrot dangling in front of them, though there’s far more beyond that to play for. The Hokies are still in the mix for a top two seed and beating the perfect UVA side would be an enormous feather in their cap come Selection Monday. Oh, and there’s the simple matter above of trying to tip the balance of this derby back in their favor. The veterans on this side likely have not forgotten the beatings suffered at the hands of the Cavs and will be keen to repay the favor on Thursday night in this highly anticipated showdown.
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NCAA Soccer – Bubble Watch 5.0 – It’s The Final Countdown

It’s the final edition of Bubble Watch for the 2013 season. We’ll be back on Monday with the annual Bubble Cheat Sheet to show what our bubble candidates likely need before Selection Monday.

AAC

Lock – UCF, Louisville
Bubble – Rutgers, UConn

It’s curtains for South Florida, who really couldn’t afford that draw on the road against SMU. The Bulls could theoretically go on a run in the AAC Tournament, but they’ll probably need a few wins and a lot of help, though they could fare well on the bubble with the result against Florida. UCF is in a good position for a seed but may need to win the AAC Tournament to feel comfortable about their odds of a top two seed. Louisville’s a bit tougher off and may need multiple AAC Tournament wins to get into a seed position. Rutgers might be in trouble. Their profile looks an awful lot like Dartmouth’s last year, and the AAC Tournament game against Cincinnati is a no-win situation. I think they’re done with a loss on Sunday, but they could also be hurting if the bubble contracts. UConn’s loss against Memphis really hurt them, as has Boston College’s struggles. They don’t compare well in the bubble right now, and the Huskies need at least one win in the AAC Tournament and probably more. The optimism once around the league earlier in the year has faded, and just two bids is a very real possibility.

ACC

Lock – Virginia, North Carolina, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Notre Dame
Bubble – Duke, Boston College, Maryland

Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida State all look like prime contenders for #1 seeds. The first two look like locks no matter what, while Florida State might get there with just one more win. Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, and Notre Dame will also go into the final few games confident of their chances of a seed, though any and all wins will obviously help. Duke’s kind of in limbo now that they’re confirmed of finishing at at least .500. They might struggle to get into a seed, though a run in the ACC Tournament would help. The big questions are whether the ACC could only be a seven bid league. Boston College is teetering at the moment. They have a win over Wake Forest, but in an increasingly tightening bubble, that may not be enough by itself to get it in. They definitely don’t want to lose to Syracuse, as if they made the ACC Tournament in that case (still unlikely), they would have to not lose their quarterfinal to stay at .500. Maryland also has just the win over Wake Forest to tout on its record. The good news is that it should be able to stay at .500, as Pittsburgh is its regular season finale opponent. The bad news is Pitt is abysmal in the computer rankings, meaning Maryland might slip even in the case of victory. If the Terps can’t pull off some magic in the ACC Tournament, it could make for a very nervous week in College Park.
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NCAA Soccer – RPI Bracket 5.0

SEEDED TEAMS

1 – Virginia – ACC*
2 – UCLA – Pac-12*
3 – North Carolina – ACC
4 – Marquette – Big East*

5 – Georgetown – Big East
6 – Florida State – ACC
7 – Michigan – Big Ten
8 – Nebraska – Big Ten*

9 – Penn State – Big Ten
10 – Virginia Tech – ACC
11 – UCF – AAC*
12 – Florida – SEC*

13 – Denver – Summit*
14 – Santa Clara – WCC*
15 – Wake Forest – ACC
16 – Stanford – Pac-12
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NCAA Soccer – Keep Punching That Ticket! v2.5 – Champions, Postseason Qualifiers, & Eliminations

America East

Quarterfinals – October 31

(3) Maine vs (6) Binghamton – 1:00 PM
(4) Hartford vs (5) Vermont – 6:00 PM

Semi-Finals – November 3

(1) UMBC vs TBA – 1:00 PM
(2) Stony Brook vs TBA – 2:00 PM

Final – November 9/10 (At Highest Remaining Seed)

TBA vs TBA – TBA

Eliminated – Albany, New Hampshire
Ineligible – UMass-Lowell

American Athletic

First Round – November 1

(7) Memphis vs (10) Houston – 7:00 PM (from Louisville, Kentucky)
(8) SMU vs (9) Temple – 7:00 PM (from Orlando, Florida)

Quarterfinals – November 3

(1) UCF vs TBA – 1:00 PM
(2) Louisville vs TBA – 4:30 PM
(3) Rutgers vs (6) Cincinnati – 1:00 PM
(4) UConn vs (5) South Florida – 1:00 PM

Semi-Finals – November 8 (Orlando, Florida)

TBA vs TBA – 5:00 PM
TBA vs TBA – 7:30 PM

Final – November 10 (Orlando, Florida)

TBA vs TBA – 12:00 PM

Atlantic 10

Champions – Dayton
Qualified – Dayton
Eliminated – Rhode Island

ACC

Champions – Virginia
Qualified – Virginia, Florida State, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Notre Dame
Eliminated – NC State, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Miami (FL)
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Boston College wins battle of bubble teams, 1-0, over Maryland

The visiting Boston College Eagles got a goal five minutes into overtime from senior defender Zoe Lombard to edge past the Maryland Terrapins in a match where both teams needed to win to maintain a decent chance of getting into the postseason.

Going in, the teams were on the bubble for both the ACC and the NCAA tournaments. In the ACC standings, Maryland was eighth and Boston College was tenth with eight slots in the tournament. To qualify for the NCAA postseason, teams have to have at least a .500 record. The Terrapins were 9-8-0 while the Eagles were 8-8-1. So this was a big game for both teams.
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NCAA Soccer – The First XI for October 27, 2013 – (1) Virginia vs (7) Florida State

(1) Virginia vs (7) Florida State – 2:00 PM

Call it a clash of the titans. Or perhaps a potential preview of the national title game. This showdown of unbeatens also serves as a de facto ACC title match, as the Cavs will be crowned if they score a point against the Seminoles. Defeat, and the title will go down to the final day, hardly a given for UVA considering they play third placed Virginia Tech in the regular season finale. You wouldn’t bet against the Cavaliers to go to 18-0-0 though. Steve Swanson’s side has picked up steam with four straight clean sheet wins by multiple goals since their thrilling 3-2 win over Notre Dame in early October. The latest victim was a Miami (FL) side that was well out of their depth. Morgan Brian was again in the ascendency, opening the scoring with her tenth goal, the first of four goals for Virginia as they ran riot through the overmatched Hurricanes. Had it not been for Emily Lillard in the Canes’ goal, Virginia could have had much, much more. The Hurricanes were kept to just one shot on goal, another indication of UVA’s absolute dominance on the evening. Florida State are going to be a much more difficult proposition to deal with on Sunday, though the blowout win certainly afforded UVA a chance to rotate the squad and keep legs as fresh as possible. It’ll be interesting to see if the attacking trio of Makenzy Doniak, Brittany Ratcliffe and Gloria Douglas can get the best of FSU’s tremendous backline. That won’t necessarily solve the attacking problem of Brian though, who could further her case for the Hermann Trophy with a big performance on Sunday. Regardless of the result, a #1 seed looks in the bag. A league title before the last game of the season would be a nice bow on top of a dominant ACC campaign.

Florida State hasn’t captured as many of the headlines as Virginia has, likely down to those three draws, but a win here certainly gives them a chance at the ACC title considering UVA’s difficult finishing game. FSU shouldn’t overlook Notre Dame on the final day, but you’d certainly tip them at home. However, the Noles’ title bid will end if they can’t turn over the Cavs in Charlottesville on Sunday afternoon. FSU comes into this one having racked up five straight wins after their surprising draw at Clemson at the end of September. FSU certainly had the tougher time on Thursday. While Virginia was mowing down the Hurricanes, Florida State was huffing and puffing to a hard earned victory against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. Virginia Tech may have outshot their opposition and put more shots on goal, but they didn’t have the talents of Dagny Brynjarsodttir at their disposal. While the Icelandic international’s departure for international duty is imminent, she more than made her mark in the win over the Hokies, netting the opener in the first quarter of an hour before heading home the winner with just minutes remaining from Carson Pickett’s assist. The Noles’ attacking midfield juggernaut is the side’s irreplaceable influence in the midfield, and with the frontline still struggling for consistency, Brynjarsdottir is the key to any hopes of silverware FSU may have this year. Crazily enough, she had all five shots FSU managed against the Hokies on Thursday, a pretty telling statistic about her importance to the side. Virginia Tech’s late goal marked the second time in a row FSU had conceded late on against an ACC opponent. With the margin of error likely to be very small on Sunday, FSU will need a complete ninety minutes (or more) if they want to stay alive in the ACC title race. While the center-backs should be a match for UVA’s forwards, it’ll be how the club handles Morgan Brian in midfield that determines how this one will ultimately go.
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NCAA Soccer – The First XI for October 26, 2013 – (18) Portland vs (27) BYU

(18) Portland vs (27) BYU – 10:00 PM

Portland will look to continue their run towards a WCC title when they host and hope to take down title rivals BYU on Saturday night at Merlo. The Pilots come into this one having won ten in a row, though BYU will be the highest ranked club Portland’s faced since they were beaten at home by Wake Forest all the way back at the beginning of September. The Pilots have score multiple goals in all but one of those games while also having kept four clean sheets in the past six and having not conceded multiple goals in six as well. The win over San Diego on Thursday night was more scrappy than anything else, with Ellen Parker and Noelle LaPrevotte netting each side of half-time to see the Pilots through. Forward duo Danica Evans and Micaela Capelle finished with just three combined shots on goal, though Portland’s role players stepping up effectively again saved the day against the Toreros. It’s safe to say that Portland’s going to face more of a test down the stretch these final few weeks though, as the club is yet to face its biggest title rivals this season in the form of BYU and Santa Clara. The Pilots are probably still stinging a bit from Saturday’s opponent coming to Merlo Field and winning last season en route to the league title. While the Cougars have solidified their NCAA Tournament position, they’ll still be looking for a marquee win to boost their national seed credentials, meaning Portland’s going to have to up their game coming into this one. The back half of UP’s non-conference slate, combined with the godawful bottom half of the WCC this year means the Pilots are still struggling for a foothold in the race to a national seed. A win here would certainly help their case.

Sometimes, sheer competence can be enough to push you over the line, and BYU’s won five of six, while many potential bubble rivals have crumbled, meaning the Cougars are in great shape for an at-large bid going down the stretch. The defending league champs would probably like to aim for a national seed and to retain their WCC crown, but that’s going to take four wins from four in the final weeks of the season in all likelihood. Given BYU’s form in the second half of the season though, you wouldn’t rule it out, especially with the last three back in Provo against some of the league’s lesser sides. That puts a lot of emphasis on Saturday night’s showdown in Portland, where BYU will try to pull off the rare feat of beating the Pilots in back-to-back meetings at Merlo after last year’s 2-1 win. The defense has been impenetrable against league foes as of late, conceding just two goals in the five WCC matches they’ve played thus far. Of course, those two did come on the road against Santa Clara, hinting at some vulnerability against top teams for this Cougar defense. That defense also did concede in five in a row at one point earlier in the year, showing the somewhat fickle nature of that rearguard. The offense is what it is, not quite explosive but generally good enough to get the job done in league play this year. After being shutout in four of five during a dire non-conference stretch, the Cougars have now scored in six straight, including three with multiple goals, though they haven’t scored more than two goals since the stunning comeback against Oklahoma in September. BYU struggled to put away Gonzaga on Thursday but did see Marissa Nimmer’s early goal stand up in the end. With two veteran, canny bosses and no shortage of options in attack for both sides, this could be one of the weekend’s most intriguing showdowns.