NCAA Tournament – Second Weekend Review

-Georgetown hit a Cavalier shaped wall on Friday night, with the Hoyas being well beaten by the ACC champions in the second round of the Big Dance. It was a bland ending to a season that again showcased a side that was capable of thrilling with floods of goals against overmatched opponents but who still look some ways off of the nation’s elite. The non-conference slate revealed precious little about the Hoyas outside of a creditable draw against UCF, while a 4-0 bludgeoning at the hands of Marquette in Big East play blunted title ambitions. Georgetown certainly looked impressive in beating La Salle last week, but as promising as that performance was, to be so thoroughly outclassed by Virginia was a bit disheartening. Being without Kaitlin Bast the whole season through injury probably sapped the offense of some potential, but worse is likely to come with many of the club’s best performers graduating. Daphne Corboz does return, but given the loss of players like Kaitlin Brenn and Emily Menges, you have to wonder if the Hoyas’ window didn’t just close for the time being.

-Penn State likely harbored hopes of getting back to the College Cup after last season’s big breakthrough to the national title game. It didn’t quite work out that way. There were warning signs along the way, prominently the huge loss to Virginia at the beginning of the season and some of the struggles in the league, including a stretch of four losses in six that cost the club its lengthly league title streak. Crashing out in the Big Ten Tournament semi-finals, PSU finished without a major trophy this season after a disappointing second round defeat in the NCAA Tournament to Wake Forest. The defense, which had been the worry for so long held up rather well save the thunderbolt at the end of the game which ended up as fatal for the club’s season. But the offense, which had served the club reasonably well for much of the season, fired blanks at an inopportune time. Maya Hayes didn’t manage a shot, while Mallory Weber, Taylor Schram, and Tani Costa all combined for just one shot on goal. With the likes of Hayes, Schram, Costa, and Bri Hovington all moving on, PSU figures to be a team in transition next season, at least on offense. But the program’s supporters have high standards, meaning the pressure will be on again to win a major trophy.

-Expectations were probably sky high for Texas Tech after they pushed Florida State to the limit in last year’s NCAA Tournament. The Red Raiders were a frustratingly difficult package to unravel in the regular season having played a disappointing non-conference season before falling just short in the league. TTU definitely showed the quality to bring home a major trophy but fell short in both the Big XII despite beating West Virginia, while also bowing out in the semi-finals of the Big XII Tournament. Probably as a result of the above, they got a tough path through their quadrant, including in the second round against old rivals Texas A&M. Inevitably, it was the defense, which had been so strong for much of the year, which failed them, buckling twice after having taken the lead against the Aggies. Victoria Esson saved the club’s bacon multiple times but came out second best in the shootout. The good news is that the heart of the team in Janine Beckie and Jaelene Hinkle return for another year in Lubbock, along with intriguing talent like Maddy Crabtree and Paige Strahan. TTU does have defensive worries though, losing defenders Hayley Haagsma and Kansas Bayly, along with goalkeeper Esson though. If the club can’t find some talented replacements, its upside for next year might not stretch further than the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament where the club fell this season.

-Indiana probably had high hopes upon hiring Amy Berbary as their new boss before the 2013 season. The long suffering Hoosiers probably would’ve counted postseason qualification as a big step forward in all honesty after a long run of futility. Three months later, Indiana’s not just met that goal but won a Big Ten Tournament game, won an NCAA Tournament game, and leaves the season with more optimism than ever. The club does lose offensive sparkplug Lisa Nouanesengsy but returns promising Veronica Ellis and Kayleigh Steigerwalt next season. You can never be sure who’s going to be able to avoid Second Season Syndrome, but it’s hard not to be excited if you’re a Hoosier supporter. Berbary’s coaching star is still rising after 2013, and it’ll be interesting to see if she can lift Indiana to greater heights next year.

-West Virginia had a fantastic season all things considered, doing the double in the Big XII and living up to many lofty preseason as far as their league performance is concerned. But along the way, the Mountaineers were shedding starting players due to injury, with the midfield particularly hard hit. The final straw may have been the loss of star forward Kate Schwindel, but the club still had enough in the tank to win a conference tournament title. They get something of a raw deal as far as seeding was concerned, in that they didn’t get one and got a ridiculously difficult path once the bracket was revealed. The Mountaineers did just about enough to overcome Rutgers in the opening round, but the missing bodies told in the next round against a Virginia Tech side that was able to shut what was left of the WVU offense down rather effectively. WVU’s defense performed very well themselves, but they just couldn’t find a way through the Hokie rearguard. Nikki Izzo-Brown still did a fantastic job in adding to the trophy case, though the club’s College Cup ambitions may take a bit of a back step next season without Frances Silva up top and Sara Keane in goal. Having Schwindel back, along with Kadeisha Buchanan in defense as part of a continuing pipeline into Canada ensures that WVU will continue to be a tough out for anyone for the foreseeable future.

-Boston University may have fallen short on Friday against Santa Clara, but the Terriers’ reputation as one of the nation’s most formidable mid-majors was successfully revived this year. Truthfully, BU’s season was more defined by near misses than anything else, having lost by a goal to Boston College, Penn State, and Santa Clara while drawing with South Carolina, but the terriers were never outclassed all season, never losing by more than a single goal! The return to the NCAA Tournament probably felt especially sweet considering the club had missed out last season thanks to a conference tournament ban from the America East. The bad news is that there’s a lot of rebuilding to do, with some of the stars of this year’s team like Emma Clark and Madison Clemens departing. At the same time though, defensive stopper Kai Miller returns, as does Erica Kosienski, who netted seven game winning goals despite not starting a single game. She has star potential for the Terriers and might be the key to more NCAA Tournament runs in the future.

-Saint John’s (NY) emerged from the wilderness, and Rachel Daly emerged from obscurity this season, with both enjoying a thrilling ride through the regular season and all the way to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Red Storm left it very late to just get their Dance ticket but proved they were box office with a stunning smash and grab win over UCF in Orlando in the opening round of the competition. It did fall apart a bit at the end as the club went down to Arkansas on Friday, but the Red Storm were hardly outclassed in defeat. The future looks incredibly bright for the Queens side as well. English goalscoring phenom Daly still has two years of eligibility left, while compatriot and defensive lynchpin Georgia Kearney-Perry also returns next season, along with promising goalkeeper Diana Poulin. While losing utility player Amy Marron is a blow, the returning core of stars should ensure the Red Storm are in again with a chance of an NCAA Tournament bid. The element of surprise is gone though, and it’ll be very interesting to see how Ian Stone’s side copes with increased expectation in 2014.

-Without a doubt one of the most contentious talking points exiting the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament was Florida’s decision to not host the second and third rounds of the competition in Gainesville. Justifications for the decision ranged from the tactical (the Gators’ style might work on a bigger pitch) to the psychological (Florida’s not been able to win at home in previous tournaments), but the result ended up being the same in the end. It’s hard to argue that the Gators were overrun by an opportunistic Duke side, but the irrepressible offense that Florida had brought to the table for much of the season was notably blunted by the Blue Devils. Savannah Jordan still made an impact, but when you play in a 4-2-3-1 at this level, your #10 better be a damn good one if you expect to contend for major honors. That’s why the loss of the blossoming Havana Solaun to an ACL injury before the NCAA Tournament proved fatal to their College Cup hopes. UF was a shadow of themselves after and were ripe for an upset by a heady and experienced Duke side. The hyperbolic attacks on the Florida brass for passing up hosting duties were a bit much, as the Gators were fatally flawed without their attacking midfield lynchpin. Don’t cry to hard for Florida though, as they should get all eleven starters back next season, meaning it might finally be time for a breakthrough to the big time.

-It’s probably harsh to say that Nebraska undid a season’s worth of good work with their shambolic performance against Boston College in the second round, but it was still a serious letdown considering the Huskers’ season to that point. Nebraska had won the Big Ten by precisely avoiding those types of letdowns both in the league and in the conference tournament. But the Huskers also had played with fire in the past, especially before league play, with their improved defense sometimes creaking with vulnerability. Give Boston College an inch, and they’ll take a mile, and they did so against Nebraska, It’s true that BC only added their two final goals in the final eight minutes, but they also finished with thirty shots, abusing the Husker defense. A lethargic Nebraska attack woke up way too late, only scoring when the game was already 3-0 to the ACC side’s favor. The club should return a solid core next year, but it also loses the services of Jordan Jackson in midfield as well as Ari Romero in defense and Emma Stevens in goal. Having won the double, there’ll be a big bullseye attached to the Huskers as well next season, making it interesting to see if the club can build on this year and not go down as one-year wonders.

-The ambition was for a return to glory, but Portland didn’t quite get there following a second round defeat to Illinois in the NCAA Tournament. The Pilots had done well for themselves in winning a share of the WCC title to break their major trophy drought, in addition to being consistent enough in the results column to warrant a national seed come the reveal of the bracket. But heightened expectations were dashed by the Illini, who beat the Pilot defense like a rented mule, putting up twenty-four shots, ten shots on goal, and four goals, though a pair of those came from the penalty spot, with one hotly disputed by the WCC side. Jannelle Flaws torched the Portland rearguard, putting up an absurd fourteen shots and seven on goal herself while also netting one from the spot and the highly contentious winner, where she was the recipient of a ball intercepted by Megan Pawloski, who swooped in when a light touch from Portland probably not intended as a restart off a foul was taken as such by everyone not in a Pilot uniform. While the end was controversial, it still glosses over the fact that Portland had 2-0 and 3-1 leads and were still ahead with seven minutes to play. The Pilots were second best in just about every offensive category, and the club’s inability to close a game out, as seen before against Wake Forest, came back to haunt them. There’s young talent here, but with Amanda Frisbie, Micaela Capelle, and Erin Dees among others departing, a deep run through the Big Dance next year doesn’t look likely.

-BYU goalkeeper Erica Owens has been a revelation for much of the past two seasons, turning into one of the nation’s more capable netminders after being firmly rooted to the bench her first two years in Provo. But the senior stopper probably isn’t going to count the second round defeat to Colorado as one of her more enjoyable days on the job. Owens would be at fault for the Buffs’ second goal, fumbling in a shot that eventually went down as the game winner. The BYU netminder would make some solid saves the rest of the way to keep her side in it, but it’s hard to overlook the high-profile error that was so atypical of Owens given her past performances. With a pretty uninspiring class of goalkeepers ahead of this year’s NWSL Draft, Owens is still probably a top-five netminder when all is said and done, but the mistake may raise a few questions. Her side can still hold their heads up high though. Not many presumed BYU would be in the WCC title mix after some big losses going into this year, but the Cougars still walked away with a share of the crown and has a pretty solid bunch of youngsters to build around.

-I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that few gave Wake Forest much of a chance to reach the final sixteen when Katie Stengel went down injured in the middle of the league season. It robbed the Demon Deacons of their best option for goals in a season that had seen many of their other scoring options also KO’ed by injury. Losing four of their final six wasn’t promising, but the Demon Deacons knuckled up on defense when they needed it most, shutting down Penn State’s legion of offense when they needed to most and getting a rocket from Sarah Teegarden, a key part of the club’s future, to run out as winners. They didn’t have answers to solving the riddle of Virginia on Sunday, but considering the challenges they faced along the way, it’s hard to come down too hard on the Demon Deacons. With Stengel and Aubrey Bledsoe among others graduating, Tony Da Luz now faces the massive challenge of rebuilding around new talent after the departure of his program’s greatest generation. In the cutthroat world of the ACC, there’s no room for error.

-Expectations were sky high for Notre Dame this season. That’s the kind of thing that tends to happen when you make a run to the Elite Eight despite a bevy of youth, as was the case last season for the Irish. In a sense, it was College Cup or bust with most of those players returning and being bolstered by a top notch recruiting class. In the end though, the Irish finished without a major trophy as the grueling reality of the ACC hit home, while they took a step backward in the NCAA Tournament after defeat to Michigan on Sunday. Granted, it wasn’t exactly the easiest matchup, but the Irish had fallen short of a seed, guaranteeing them nothing but difficulty if they wanted to make a run to the Final Four. Notre Dame played the Wolverines close but had trouble bottling up Nkem Ezurike, with the Canadian running wild for nine shots and five shots on goal. Though there was new life when Ezurike missed a penalty, the die was cast after Sammy Scofield was sent off just seconds later, with the Canadian forward surging to life with Notre Dame reduced to ten. Notre Dame returns a ton of talent next season, including Cari Roccaro and Morgan Andrews, both potential Hermann Trophy winners in the future, but they still have to contend with the losses of Mandy Laddish and Elizabeth Tucker, whose maturity and leadership will not be easily replaced. Additionally, the Irish need an A-level goalscorer in the worst way. Andrews and Lauren Bohaboy were joint leaders in goals with just seven each, a number that has to go up if the Irish are to challenge for national titles again.

-It might be a bit telling that a league season that saw Stanford fall into mid-table in the Pac-12 caused a near mutiny amongst the very demanding fans in Palo Alto. After five straight years of unfettered brilliance, Stanford had to fall back to Earth some time, and that time was this season, with the Card winning just (just!) fifteen games. They were able to gut their way to a victory against South Carolina in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, but UCLA, again, proved to be too tall of a mountain to climb this year. While the losses in defense were what the club’s fans worried about most going into the new season, the offense proved more problematic in many regards. The trio of Chioma Ubogagu, Taylor Uhl, and Courtney Verloo never seemed to gel, and with a midfield that was more functional than creative in many regards, defensive growing pains proved to be fatal at many stretches. Verloo is the biggest loss, but Stanford’s other most promising players should return for 2014. Add in another top recruiting class, and the Card certainly have the potential to climb right back up the ladder next year. Just how far up will be worth watching though, especially with an impatient fanbase.

-Texas A&M’s season came to an end on Sunday in Chapel Hill, with the defeat to the Heels going against the trend and being a bit of an anti-climax. The Aggies fell behind early and went down by two just after the beginning of the second half, making it all but a fait accompli for the defending national champs. The Aggies may not have been able to reach the “next level” as the fanbase has been aching for for years, but this season may still have been an important step towards it despite the disappointing defeat in the Sweet Sixteen. A&M, despite some missteps in non-conference play and the league, still ended up winning a share of the SEC title and completed a double in Orange Beach by getting revenge on Florida in the final. They also managed a couple of wins in the NCAA Tournament (though the triumph over Texas Tech was technically a draw). The best news of all? Ten starters should return on paper, with only starting center-back Rachel Lenz graduating. That bodes very well for a talented Aggies side who should fight tooth and nail for a league title with Florida next season in what looks like a fascinating battle for SEC supremacy. With the assembled talent, it may be College Cup or bust for the Aggies.

-What to make of Santa Clara? The Broncos entered the season as hopefuls for the national title, or at least a spot in the last four in Cary come season’s end. They ended up well short of that, seeing their journey end in the Sweet Sixteen at the hands of Virginia Tech. On the one hand, it’s hard to quibble with a season that ended with the Broncos bringing home a share of a league title, something they’ve been unable to accomplish for ages. At the same time though, SCU managed to beat just one side that would eventually make the NCAA Tournament in the regular season and didn’t actually beat a top team in the Big Dance, though the wins over Cal and Boston University were nothing to sneeze at. When you consider the Broncos weren’t expected to beat top seeded Virginia Tech in the Sweet Sixteen, that loss doesn’t look so bad on paper either. But when you actually examine the game and realize SCU had every opportunity to put the Hokies away before penalties, the defeat looks like another opportunity lost for a program that’s been defined by such misses for almost a decade now. The trio of Julie Johnston, Morgan Marlborough, and Sofia Huerta beat up on lesser opponents this year but could not gel into a unit capable of leading the Broncos to greater glory when all was said and done. SCU takes heavy losses, including Johnston and Marlborough, meaning it’s probably Huerta’s team next year. Nobody expects College Cup from this group in 2014, meaning the Broncos might have to do their damage underneath the radar again.

-Cinderella came up inches short on Sunday, as Arkansas’ thrilling run through the NCAA Tournament ended after penalties against Duke in a barnburner in Durham. The Lady Razorbacks coming closest to carrying the torch through the second weekend for the SEC certainly wasn’t in the script at the beginning of the season, but Colby Hale’s side kept digging and made fools of those believing the club would fall victim to Second Season Syndrome. After a great non-conference season, the Lady Razorbacks would experience some growing pains in the league, just barely squeaking into the NCAA Tournament. They made the most of their stay though, toppling Oklahoma State and Saint John’s (NY) to climb into rarefied air for the program. They had every chance of inflicting a shock defeat on Duke as well, twice coming back from deficits but finding themselves just unable to get the winner before falling on penalties. It’s the type of season that’s going to drive expectations through the roof next year. With the element of surprise definitely gone now for the Lady Razorbacks, it’s going to be interesting to see how Hale’s side copes with the increased pressure in 2014.

-All praise to Illinois, who bowed out in the Sweet Sixteen after a heavy defeat to Boston College. Just about the only consistent part of the Illini was their capacity to thrill in the litany of goalfests that seemed to define their season. The defense conceded multiple goals in thirteen of their twenty-three matches, but Illinois also managed to score multiple goals in fifteen of those matches. Illinois played the NCAA Tournament like they had been given second life, and in many ways, they had, after netting a somewhat surprising NCAA Tournament selection. Two two goal deficits against Portland were inevitably nothing compared to missing your All-American midfielder for a good chunk of season nor was it much to sweat over when your previous match had seen you go on the road and survive in a mud pit against a very talented Washington State team. Alas, the Illini did not get a great matchup in the Sweet Sixteen, squaring off against a side that might be their soulmate this season in the Eagles, who were equally capable offensively while also being schizophrenic defensively. Illinois didn’t hold anything back but couldn’t make up a second big deficit in as many games. The return of scoring marvel Jannelle Flaws for one more year bodes well, though losing the heart of the team in Vanessa DiBernardo poses a big challenge for Janet Rayfield.

-Everyone knows the core of power in the Pac-12 is in California, but could a new vein of excellence be cropping up in the Rocky Mountains? Utah finished third in the league and qualified for the NCAA Tournament, while Colorado saved their magic for the postseason after a mid-table finish in the league. The Buffs were able to knock out regional rivals Denver and BYU, both away from home, delivering perhaps two of the club’s biggest results in years. We should probably write-off the Sweet Sixteen loss to Florida State as a little too much, too soon, but it does little to take the sheen of the club’s return to the big time for the first time in half a decade. Danny Sanchez had made a name for himself as a coaching star at Metro State but hadn’t quite had a similar effect at Wyoming, though you could also argue he inherited a long-term fix and needed a little while longer to work his magic. He’s making the CU brass look mighty smart after two seasons though, and the future looks very bright in Boulder, with a talented side at his disposal, the club also being in the middle of a recruiting hotbed.

-There’s little really to say about Virginia’s weekend, other than any notions of a hangover from their ACC Tournament loss to Virginia Tech were put to bed in emphatic fashion. Sure, they had a little bit of trouble in putting goals on the board against Georgetown, but they were in control the whole way and seldom looked in danger once they finally did take the lead. There wasn’t a letdown against a limited Wake Forest side though. Once the Cavs made the breakthrough, they got a second in quick succession, giving the visitors an impossible task. The eye-watering goal totals aren’t coming thus far in the NCAA Tournament, but UVA’s also facing opponents ready and willing to put lots of players behind the ball to keep things tight and try to strike on the break. Elite Eight opponents Michigan actually has the personnel to make that strategy work though. Nkem Ezurike is the perfect target forward up top, and the Wolverines have been composed and disciplined defensively under Greg Ryan. UVA will be wary of the challenge ahead of them, but they’ll still be favorites to complete the job and get to the College Cup that’s eluded them for so long.

-Michigan did a pretty good job of containing Notre Dame and gritting out a 1-0 win that was probably a little more drama filled by the Wolverines’ inability to sink a penalty that would’ve made it 2-0 in the second half. The Wolverines promptly caught a break with Sammy Scofield’s dismissal after which brought the Irish down to ten players and opened up space for Michigan in short order. That Greg Ryan’s side wasn’t able to get some breathing space between them and the ACC side is probably slightly worrying, but Nkem Ezurike looked dangerous and gained steam late for the Big Ten power. The defense did a pretty good job in keeping the Irish offense at bay, not allowing any Notre Dame player to have multiple shots on goal and keeping the dangerous Morgan Andrews without an on-target shot entirely. Virginia on the road is their toughest challenge of the season by far, and the Wolverines probably aren’t going to play a tactically expansive game. But the club’s defensive discipline and the ability of Ezurike up top gives them a puncher’s chance of scoring the upset and reaching the College Cup.

-UCLA finally put one of their big demons to bed as they eliminated Stanford on Sunday after having had their hearts broken by the Card on so many occasions over the past half-decade. After devouring Kentucky as an appetizer on Friday, the Bruins needed just one more win to get a giant gorilla off their back. It wasn’t particularly a dazzling performance, with UCLA losing out on shots on goal by an uninspiring 3-2 margin. But the Bruins did make their chances on offense count, with youngsters Kodi Lavrusky and Taylor Smith netting near the beginning and the end of the match to see UCLA walk away with a 2-0 win and a spot in the Elite Eight. Stanford’s offense never really ignited all season, but it was still a fantastic defensive performance from the Bruins to hold the Card back. You have to think that the offense is going to probably need to put more on goal against North Carolina though. Darian Jenkins didn’t have a shot on goal, a troubling trend heading into Chapel Hill. Given the earlier result in the season, UCLA’s going to need to play their best game of the season if they want to avoid a second loss to their nemesis in North Carolina, with or without Crystal Dunn

-Speaking of Dunn, Tar Heel fans are going to be on pins and needles in the run up to Saturday’s match with the status of their superstar. She managed to return to action against Indiana in the win and started the match against Texas A&M but then promptly went down with a leg injury unrelated to her previous hamstring injury. While the Tar Heels did manage to power past the Aggies in the Sweet Sixteen, the through of being without Dunn for the quarterfinal is a disconcerting one to be sure. UNC’s proven they can win without their senior star, but the effect on the team against a quality side like UCLA could be massive. The Bruins have been in form lately and are likely coming into Chapel Hill thirsting for revenge after their earlier loss this year. Still, Carolina handled UCLA with a plaintive ease that perhaps wasn’t perceivable if you just looked at the scoreline, which may calm some of their fears. The play of Summer Green, who was a terror against Texas A&M, and of goalkeeper Anna Sieloff have in particular been encouraging and may be an indicator of this club being able to put in a real challenge for another national title even if Dunn is hobbled. Still, the Carolina faithful will be desperately hoping their Hermann Trophy contender can answer the bell on Saturday, even if its in limited minutes off the bench.

-Virginia Tech got as tough a road as anyone through the second weekend, being drawn against a pair of league champions in the for of West Virginia and Santa Clara but was left standing after two tense games. The second round win over the Mountaineers was hardly a classic, but the defense was able to do just enough to make the one-goal lead stand up in the end. Sunday was an even tenser match against the WCC champs. The Broncos missed a boatload of chances to put the Hokies under, with the Virginia Tech offense not putting together the most consistent of performances. Jazmine Reeves was silenced for the most part, though Murielle Tiernan, who netted VT’s goal, and Ashley Meier both were a threat against the Broncos’ wobbly defense. Penalties would be an opportunity for Canadian keeper Dayle Colpitts to shine though, with the senior netminder saving three penalties to lead her team into the quarterfinals. Sometimes being lucky is better than being good, and the Hokies were probably a little of both against the Broncos. They’ll need more of the latter against Duke in all likelihood though. The Blue Devils played Virginia Tech to a draw in the regular season and had the better of just about every major offensive statistical category. They’ve also been in this position before. Chugger Adair and co. will hope that experience counts for little on Friday, with the College Cup directly in their sights.

-They may have given their fans a few coronaries this past weekend, but Duke again proved they were masters of this competition by advancing to their third straight Elite Eight after a nailbiting 1-0 win over Florida and a penalty shootout triumph over Arkansas a few days later. The Blue Devils have seemingly always overachieved once the weather turns frosty, and Robbie Church’s side are again one win away from the College Cup. The victory over Florida was a tense affair, decided by a goal off a set piece and some tenacious defending against the Gators’ Savannah Jordan. The defending was a whole lot more fraught against an Arkansas side that Duke just couldn’t put away despite doubling up the SEC side in shots on goal. Duke twice blew a lead after Kim DeCesare goals and needed penalty stopping heroine Ali Kershner to come up big in the shootout for the second time this NCAA Tournament. It wasn’t exactly the prettiest performance, but it was a winning one that see the Blue Devils get another shot at Virginia Tech on Friday. The likes of DeCesare and Natasha Anasi, along with midfield leader Kaitlyn Kerr are making a statement at the end of their college careers, with the Blue Devils appearing to be peaking at just the right time. They’ll be confident of their chances against VT having drawn with them in the regular season. Unseeded sides don’t make the College Cup, but Duke might crash the party if they can keep up their current form.

-Duke might end up having company as an unseeded team in the Final Four if they get there, as Boston College has also hit their stride in the NCAA Tournament. The Eagles, like Duke, were treading a close shave with Mount .500 heading into the postseason but have more than made the most of sneaking into the field of the Big Dance with three straight wins in convincing fashion. BC’s attack went goal crazy in the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, throttling a pair of Big Ten defenses for four goals apiece. Crazily enough, the Eagles got four goals from four different players in both games, with the same four netting in both games! The combo of McKenzie Meehan and Stephanie McCaffrey ripped opponents’ defense apart. When you add in the improving Hayley Dowd, you realize BC’s got an offense that’s the envy of a lot of clubs around the country. The defense gave up twelve shots to Nebraska and twenty-four to Illinois, but if you’re netting four goals a game, you aren’t going to be losing too many matches. The club’s lax defense cost them against Florida State, but they’ve also been the only team to score more than once against the Noles this year. If they can keep it together for ninety minutes, BC might just have enough to cause a shock.

-If there was a “Best in Show” award for the first three rounds, you have to suspect it might be going either Virginia or Florida State’s way. We’ve gone over the Cavs, but it goes without saying that Florida State has also been mighty impressive in breezing their way to the last eight. Last weekend was spent making Ole Miss and their explosive offense look ordinary on Friday before putting the boots to Colorado a few days later. The offense looks to be clicking on all cylinders, while the defense continues to cause opponents no end of problems. The latter figures to get a run for its money on Friday against the only club that has scored multiple goals against them this season in the form of Boston College. FSU hammered the Eagle defense in the regular season meeting though, and given their recent scoring form, they’ll probably fancy their chances of an encore on Friday. Especially given the form of Dagny Brynjarsdottir, with the Icelandic junior looking like a Hermann Trophy candidate thus far in the NCAA Tournament. Two more goals against Colorado only added to her resume on this stage, and she might just find herself among the finalists with another standout showing on Friday. FSU will hope for as much as they aim for another trip to the College Cup at the expense of their league rivals.

3 thoughts on “NCAA Tournament – Second Weekend Review

  1. Steve

    Great write up. And I’m really looking forward to these upcoming match-ups.

    Also looking forward to your post-season Big Board for the NWSL Draft. The above post hinted at the draft prospects for several players, and it will be interesting to see where they end up.

  2. Rdalford

    Chris, great coverage all year. Appreciate that you research and include some detail about each of the teams. As a fan it is fun to watch (and read about) the next generation of players.

  3. VaFan

    Thanks so much for all your work. This fall’s college women’s season has been the most interesting, multifaceted one I can remember, with so many fascinating story lines and dynamic players. (Not just because I’m a UVa fan.) A lot of that appeal is due to the writing you and a few other dedicated souls have been posting and it shows that increased exposure of the game helps to develop a well-informed and enthusiastic fan-base. This approach, of course, is the opposite of that of ESPN, FoxSoccer, etc., which is that if an audience already exists, they are willing to make money off it.


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