Monthly Archives: December 2013

NCAA Soccer – A Retrospective – UCLA: The Golden Age

On February 1, 2011 or thereabouts, a group of young soccer players put pen to paper with UCLA, with the Bruins inking what looked to be, on paper, one of the greatest recruiting classes of all time. It’s easy to forget that these players were delving into the unknown to a certain degree, with the program in the middle of a coaching transition. Jill Ellis had taken a spot within the U.S. Soccer hierarchy, leaving assistant B.J. Snow to take helm of the club. That he managed to keep the class together should not be overlooked.

National titles aren’t won on paper and aren’t won in February, a fact too evident for the Bruins just two calendar years later. The Golden Generation that was supposed to bring a national title to Westwood hadn’t won anything in two years under Snow, instead still looking for all the world like playing second fiddle to Stanford in perpetuity. Looking for a national title, UCLA instead hadn’t even made it to the College Cup, with Snow’s tenure ending in a disappointing defeat to the Card, the second time they had taken a lead against Stanford, only to buckle under the pressure and lose.

Snow’s shortcomings with the Bruins was proof enough that winning titles is about more than just playing fantasy football with the cream of the crop of youth footy. The hiring of UCF head coach Amanda Cromwell was mooted as a masterstroke by most, and the general popularity of UCLA’s triumph on Sunday underlines the respect and admiration the former USWNT defensive midfielder has collected during her time coaching. It was hard to disagree with Cromwell being the perfect coach for the situation in Westwood. A club that had struggled mentally in the biggest games was being wed to a coach whose previous club often did their best work when the odds were longest.

Cromwell didn’t face long odds upon taking control of UCLA, but it wasn’t necessarily a glamour cruise either. The new manager had to bring Ally Courtnall back into the fold after the full-back seemed set to focus on her track career with the Bruins. She also inherited a squad full of youth superstars but had to find a way to mold all that talent into a working framework, including going against some of the tactics she utilized at UCF. Early signs were promising, but the Bruins also followed up a dominant win at Notre Dame with a real clunker at North Carolina, where the Bruins were fortunate to lose by just one.

Cromwell’s Bruins hardly let the setback define the season though, as they wouldn’t lose another game all season. There were some soporific draws against the likes of Washington and Utah in the league, but UCLA still marched to a league title in a very competitive Pac-12, vanquishing rivals Stanford at long last in the process. UCLA’s resume clearly looked to be good enough for a coveted #1 seed and a comfortable march towards their ultimate target destination, Cary.
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NCAA College Cup Final – Not-So-Live Diary – UCLA vs Florida State

Starting lineups as expected. Rainy and cold. Hopefully the weather doesn’t turn this one into a mess.

1′ – Not a minute in and Pickett coughs it up in a dangerous position that lets UCLA break into space before a deflected shot from Richmond is saved.
2′ – Hahn’s coughed it up a few times already in the first few minutes. Going to be a long day for FSU if they keep turning it over in midfield.
5′ – Fields chops Dydasco down late. I suspect that may have been a yellow if were further along in the match.

7′ – UCLA midfielders pressing much higher up the pitch than they did for most of the Virginia game.
9′ – Great, potentially goal saving tackle form Dahlkemper to prod it away from Pickett after she had been put through by a great diagonal Fields pass.

18′ – Brynjarsdottir sends Mewis flying with a late challenge. Just a warning. Ref is being very lenient.
20′ – Tiffany McCarty mention. Washington Spirit fans throw something at the TV.
20′ – Another in-game interview. Kudos to Cromwell for doing this, it’s really quite silly.

22′ – Rowland badly misjudges Campbell’s intentions off a free kick and gets caught way off her line, but the shot goes mercifully wide for the junior.
22′ – Stewart and White on for Jenkins and Lavrusky. Neither rookie has been all that noticeable early.

28′ – Florida State wins their first corner kick of the game…and promptly wastes it by bending it over the goal line. They cannot waste their set piece opportunities since they’re getting worked in the possession battle.
28′ – Grubka gets caught in possession by Mewis and responds by blatantly tripping the UCLA midfielder. Yellow card. Bruins probably going to have the green light to run at her early and often now.
30′ – A Killion free kick bounces backwards and unmarked Smith who hammers the bar.

38′ – Courtnall continuing to bomb forward on the right flank, but Campbell doing well when she’s able to force her wide.

44′ – Campbell gets faked out by Smith on the right flank and looses it at the endline. Cross freezes everyone, including Rosie White at the far post. Wys parries a long-range bomb from Dydasco. Campbell’s clearance is weak and to Smith who sidesteps her tackle and looks to have Wys dead to rights but somehow hits the post. FSU finally clears but are definitely rocking late.

HT – Nobody can argue against UCLA being the dominant side, but are they going to regret those missed opportunities? FSU having problems defending wide and conceding possession far too cheaply.
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NCAA College Cup Final – Tactics Board Preview

UCLA vs FSU Tactics

Goalkeepers

There’s little to separate Sunday’s two starting netminders. Katelyn Rowland, truthfully, wasn’t really put under that much heat until the shootout for UCLA. The Bruins keeper could do little with the goal she conceded, after Abby Dahlkemper left her woefully short with a backpass. She was forced into just one save over a hundred ten minutes and wasn’t called into much action before the shootout, where she performed well to make a couple saves to win the day. Florida State’s Kelsey Wys made one stunning save to keep her side right in the thick of things and generally shook off the poor form that had plagued her in two previous College Cups. You get the sense that she was still a little uneasy on high balls into the danger zone, but that world class save, a robust kicking game, and a general confidence in goal overshadowed those worries. Both keepers will be looking for their best on Sunday to propel their side to glory.

Fields vs Dydasco

Given the performance of the former for Florida State on Friday night, this looks like a crucial matchup. Fields was one of the Seminoles’ outstanding performers against Virginia Tech, with her workrate and scampers up and down the line bringing much endeavor to FSU’s cause. She not only got forward to spread the field and trouble Virginia Tech’s defense but also tracked back to win the ball in her own half, something that is going to be vital for her to repeat on Sunday. If Ally Courtnall is moved into midfield, Dydasco might end up on the right, with rookie Lauren Kaskie moved into the lineup at left-back. I suspect Kaskie would probably be not given as much license to roam forward as Dydasco. The more Dydasco can venture forward and pin Fields back without threatening the defensive solidity of the Bruins, the better. Ultimately though, with Courtnall motoring forward on the opposite flank, she might be needed in defense to keep the Bruins from being pried open.
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NCAA College Cup – Not-So-Live Diary – Virginia vs UCLA

Don’t you just love it when you set an hour overrrun except your DVR DOESN’T RECORD THE OVERRUN, MAKING YOU GO BACK TO ESPN3?!?! I REALLY LOVE THAT.

Ahem.

UCLA coming out in the 4-2-3-1, with Smith trying to push Menchel back or take advantage of the vacated space. Virginia has Colaprico on the left and Norbo on the right.

4′ – Stith getting forward on the right flank a lot more than I expected early for Virginia.
5′ – Virginia wins it near midfield and drive into swaths of space with Doniak driving at the heart of defense before dishing to Norbo who…holds up play. Gotta keep the pedal to the metal.

9′ – Stith gets to the endline and crosses to nobody. So much for her not getting involved down the flank.
9′ – Sonnett (!) goes on a forward run to the endline but her cross isn’t handled well by the head of Douglas.

11′ – Smith drops deep, collects a pass and turns on the jets through space. Her pass is an absolute waste though.
15′ – Backpass leads Rowland into trouble as Virginia gets a chance to whip it back into the danger zone. Everyone goes up, ball goes back to Douglas who has a shot blocked back to Brian who fires over.

18′ – Courtnall dispossesses Menchel but plays a horrible lateral pass to conceded possession. UCLA has to do much better with their chances when they dispossess Virginia’s full-backs high up.

24′ – Dydasco finally gets some space and gets a corner out of a great run.
25′ – Richmond hits it wide off a second corner. Enter the Ratcliffe.

29′ – Virginia breaks off a corner through Doniak but as she slides it left, Courtnall just manages to sweep it away. Great time to have a track star in cover.
30′ – Fisher fouls Lavrusky near the top of the box. Dangerous opportunity.

31′ – Disappointing from Dahlkemper on the delivery.
32′ – Richmond and Mewis have a midfield mix-up, letting Brian break the other way, but she slips at the edge of the area.

38′ – Role reversal a bit, as UCLA is able to keep it, while Virginia threatens on the break.

41′ – Brian again gets room to run in transition and feeds Doniak who pushes her shot just wide.

HT – Cagey, if we’re being kind. Neither side seems to be interested in pressing high up the pitch. Might be the most a team’s had possession against Virginia all season.
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NCAA College Cup – Not-So-Live Diary – Florida State vs Virginia Tech

2′ – Wys lets a cross through her fingers right off the bat. I hope that’s not an ominous sign.
2′ – Kallman gets caught ball watching, letting Reeves slip behind her, but Wys slides out to snuff it out.
5′ – Florida State looks nervous as hell early. Lots of abnormally poor touches.

6′ – As I say that, FSU wins a corner.
7′ – Cross meets head with it bouncing off a Virginia Tech defender’s shoulder that wrong foots Colpitts, but it shaves the post.
8′ – Uhhh. Pickett gets tangled up with Antolino in a scrap for the ball and then bonks her on the back with her arm for good measure.
8′ – FSU’s long throws are deadly but a little predictable, with it going near post to Grubka almost every time.
10′ – Well, the Noles have shaken off that shaky start and are dominating possession. Brynjarsdottir goes on a run between the lines, where there’s a ton of space.

12′ – Reeves and Kallman get in a wrestling match, with Reeves being called for the foul.
15′ – Brynjarsdottir is finding waaaaaay too much space between the lines.

21′ – Great interior pass by Fields towards the six. Brynjarsdottir close to getting a foot on it. Thorvaldsdottir has to do better with her wild follow-up.
21′ – In-game interviews? The hell?

27′ – It’s not particularly thrilling.
29′ – Florida State not really pressing the VT defenders when they have the ball now. Wonder if that’ll change later.
30′ – Mayrose bodychecks Schmid rather blatantly with the ball a long way away.

31′ – Megan Campbell gets caught in possession and gets absolutely hammered and stays down. Big, big loss if she can’t continue.
32′ – GOAL – VT – Manning – Long-ball forward has Manning in a footrace with Ashley Manning who handchecks with Kallman all the way down, sneaks opposite side and beats Wys near post. Great finish.
33′ – Tech breaks again after Driesse is beaten to a ball but the cross can’t find a home. FSU shaking here.
34′ – Hokies now trying to double up on Fields down the right wing to stop service.

38′ – Kallman gives it away very deep in FSU’s end, but the Hokie cross is blocked.

42′ – GOAL – FSU – Grubka – Hoo boy. Foul sees Bakowski-Mathews whip in a free kick that is headed in by Grubka with VT adamant that it was offside. Kallman looks to be offside, but she wasn’t involved in the play, so…
42′ – Colpitts didn’t exactly react quickly there either.
43′ – Zoepfl and Kallman hug it out while fighting for the ball near the endline. Foul on Zoepfl.

HT – Game of ebbs and flows, with FSU taking charge early until conceding before getting momentum back after a late goal. Lots of wrestling matches in defense for each side. I’m guessing we’re going to see a booking or three in the second half.
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NCAA College Cup Semi-Final Preview – Virginia vs UCLA

 

The Cavaliers have played fantasy football the whole season, while UCLA used pragmatic football to slay a pesky dragon last Saturday.  The styles will clash on Friday night in a blockbuster College Cup semi-final with numerous potential pros on both sides of the pitch.  Either side lifting the trophy on Sunday would likely be a popular victory, with Virginia’s flowing play getting them here after so many near misses, while the Bruins have so often been the bridesmaid at this competition but have a renewed fire under first-year head coach Amanda Cromwell.  Neither side really encountered much resistance until the Elite Eight, where Virginia was able to wear down a resolute and stubborn Michigan side, while the Bruins were able to go on the road and knock out North Carolina in extra time.  One of these head coaches could shed the label of being one of the best coaches without a national title with two wins this weekend, while Amanda Cromwell of the Bruins will also be looking to become just the second female head coach to win a national title at this level.

Goalkeepers

UCLA might have their biggest advantage in between the pipes, with the Bruins able to trot out junior Katelyn Rowland, who has developed into one of the nation’s best netminders.  The UCLA #1 has great size for her position and is capable of making the spectacular save, as best evidenced in her efforts earlier in the season against North Carolina, where she nearly single-handedly kept the scoreline respectable against the Tar Heels.  She’s almost certainly going to be tested by Virginia’s deadly attack, and Rowland’s probably going to need a big save or two if the Bruins are to still be playing on Sunday.

Rookie Morgan Stearns came into Charlottesville this season tipped to make an impact as one of the nation’s top goalkeeping recruits.  She wasn’t an automatic first choice for much of the season though, splitting a chunk of time with senior Danielle DeLisle before taking command of the job full-time as the stakes have gotten higher.  Virginia’s style has meant that Stearns hasn’t been bombarded by shots when she’s been in, but she’s still looked capable in her minutes in goal for the Cavs.  This competition can rattle the best keepers though, and it’s no guarantee the rookie will flourish on Friday night if the Bruins can put pressure on.

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NCAA College Cup Semi-Final Preview – Florida State vs Virginia Tech

Florida State vs Virginia Tech

The third time will be the charm for one of these sides, albeit in starkly different circumstances, come Friday evening.  Virginia Tech will be aiming for their first win over Florida State in three meetings this season.  They’ve also never beaten the Seminoles.  Ever.  It means Chugger Adair’s side can make history in more ways than one should they emerge victorious.  They’ll need to overcome the odds against a Florida State side aiming to break a duck of their own, having been at this stage the past two years before falling to Stanford in a blowout and Penn State in a heartbreaker.  These clubs met on this same pitch in the ACC Tournament final, a physical and uncompromising affair won by Dagny Brynjarsdottir’s late first half goal, the only score of a tight and tense affair in early November.

Goalkeepers

There aren’t any mugs in between the pipes in this year’s College Cup, with all four starting netminders possessing no small share of talent.  Highest rated by many, Florida State’s Kelsey Wys will be hoping for a redemption tale in 2013 after two shaky performances in the club’s previous trips here in 2011 and 2012.  But by all accounts, Wys is enjoying her best season as a collegian yet and has eliminated many of the hangups that have raised some skepticism about her potential as a top-flight keeper.  The only thing left now is to do it on the biggest stage on college soccer, and a strong performance here would propel her into the conversation as a potential middle round pick in the upcoming NWSL Draft.

Virginia Tech counters with Canadian Dayle Colpitts, perhaps the least known of the four starting goalkeepers in Cary but one who has proven her quality this season for the Hokies.  Colpitts has always been one of the nation’s better goalkeepers but has really put it together behind a formidable line to become a rock in between the pipes for the ACC surprise package.  Like Wys, Colpitts has also proven herself to be a fantastic penalty stopper, as was all so evident in the shootout win over Santa Clara, where the Canadian was extremely impressive in turning back the Broncos.  Her allocation odds are probably nil for John Herdman’s Canada, limiting her professional hopes on these shores, but a strong showing this weekend could net her a comfortable deal in Europe.

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NCAA Tournament – Elite Eight Review

-First of all, it goes without saying that we’re hoping for a swift and complete recovery for UNC’s Katie Bowen. Bowen went down at the end of the first half of extra time and was hospitalized (and released later) with a concussion. The scene was as scary as anything I’ve seen in almost a decade of following college soccer, so it’s good to hear that Bowen’s been released from hospital while it was also heartwarming to see such an outpouring of support for the Tar Heel and New Zealand youth international.

-Well, you certainly can’t argue that Boston College head coach Alison Foley was riding the coattails of stars like Kristie Mewis, Victoria DiMartino, and Jillian Mastroianni any more. Yes, the Eagles were beaten resoundingly by Florida State on Friday, but honestly, FSU was going to do that to a lot of teams not half as good as BC proved to be during the past few weeks. A lot of the questions surrounding the Eagles going into the season centered on how the club was going to do with its golden generation having departed after last season. The answer was often a hodge podge of results, with BC showing very well at times while also continuing their trend of being maddeningly inconsistent at other times. The good BC showed up in the first three rounds with decisive wins over Northeastern, Nebraska, and Illinois. The bad Boston College showed up after they conceded against Florida State on Friday. The Eagles were never going to win a game where they weren’t going to score multiple goals, and seeing their offense held in check by Florida State was basically the death knell for their season, as the defense just couldn’t hold the Noles back. BC probably isn’t going anywhere though. The dynamic duo of McKenzie Meehan and Stephanie McCaffrey return next season and should give the Eagles a shot against anyone.
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