North Carolina 0 – 1 (Miller 105′) Virginia [aet]
Virginia finally ended years and years of agony as they defeated ACC title rivals North Carolina for the first time in a staggering thirty-eight tries at Fetzer Field on Sunday afternoon. Caroline Miller wrote herself into Virginia lore after Morgan Brian slipped a luscious through ball behind the UNC defense, leaving Miller with an assured finish. The Cavs had looked to have spurned multiple opportunities at victory through the match with Miller being denied by Anna Sieloff in the second half, while Gloria Douglas was stonewalled by Sieloff again in extra time. Virginia dealt with UNC’s 3-4-3 and 4-2-3-1 formations on the day and remarkably held the Heels to just two shots on goal, none of which belonged to Kealia Ohai, Crystal Dunn, or Courtney Jones. Some of Virginia’s finishing left a little to be desired, but they came good in the end. Caroline Miller is looking more and more like a top notch ACC striker with her tenth of the season, while Morgan Brian looks as good as the massive hype that followed her into college before the season. Duke awaits on Thursday in yet another ACC megaclash between title hopefuls.
A less than encouraging performance on the whole from North Carolina, whose offense sputtered noticeably. Dunn and Ohai were clamped down upon, while Jones’ streak of wild and inaccurate shooting reared its ugly head again. UNC’s best chance was from Brooke Elby’s header off a Emmalie Pfankuch corner which Chantel Jones pushed onto the bar. Pfankuch would be stopped by Jones one-on-one in the extra session as well to keep UNC off the board for the afternoon. There still looks to be a great deal of discomfort with the 4-2-3-1 system UNC switched to in the middle of this match, which has to be alarming since ACC play is an unforgiving beast that’s unlikely to let up any time soon. Carolina’s defense wasn’t in shambles, but there were still chances for Virginia that they couldn’t capitalize on before Miller’s winner. With the volatile Florida State offense coming up on Thursday, it goes without saying that UNC needs to tighten things up in back. Defeat in Tallahassee could spell doom for the Heels’ chances at lifting the ACC title come the end of the regular season.
Virginia Tech 1 (Lumpin PK 65′) – 2 (Mewis 40′, Blose 106′) Boston College [aet]
Alison Foley’s Cardiac Kids did it again with an extra time victory over Virginia Tech that affirms the Eagles’ very real ACC title hopes while keeping their unbeaten run intact. Alicia Blose tallied the match winning goal for the Eagles after a collision between VT keeper Dayle Colpitts and Stephanie McCaffrey caused chaos, with McCaffrey finding the ball first and playing in Blose who held off the defense to send the Eagles to victory. It was far from a defensive match, with BC keeper Jillian Mastroianni forced into ten saves, while Colpitts made eight in defeat. The Eagles reinserted Victoria DiMartino into the starting lineup, though she had a muted effect on the whole, with just one shot on the afternoon. Kristen Mewis was her usual outstanding self though, with seven shots, four shots on goal, and the game’s opening goal near the end of the first half. The emergence of McCaffrey and Blose as ancillary scoring options can only help BC who continue to motor to perhaps the quietest ACC title challenge in some time. BC should be able to handle Clemson next Sunday with relative ease before a massive showdown back at home against Duke.
The home side didn’t play badly at, creating more than their fair share of opportunities, but it’s a loss all the same, and one that plunges the Hokies into even more bubble trouble at the moment. VT is paying the price for some of the team’s lesser non-conference opponents, despite the very obvious fact that this is a very good soccer team. Some of the limitations of the Hokies were seen today though with midfield talisman Kelly Conheeney closely watched to the effect that she just got off one off-target shot. In fact, the Hokies didn’t score in the run of play, with Anne Lumpkin’s equalizer coming from the penalty spot in the second half. The play of Jazmine Reeves and Ashley Manning was encouraging though, each with three shots on goal on the afternoon. This is a team that needs an upset in a bad way at the moment. They’ve got Wake Forest and Duke on the road next weekend, and a win over either would do wonders for their season.
Penn State 1 (Schaefer 39′) – 0 Illinois
Penn State plunged Illinois into further bubble trouble despite a battling defensive display by the visitors on Sunday afternoon. In a game with prolific offenses, defense dominated the day with very few clear cut chances from either side. Ali Schaefer nabbed the eventual winner late in the first half after being slotted in by Whitney Church after a corner kick seconds earlier. The Nittany Lions hardly sparkled offensively with many off-target shots, while Maya Hayes was limited to just a single off-target effort on the afternoon. But part of Penn State being a solid contender is being able to find an answer when Hayes isn’t firing, which they managed to today thanks to Schaefer and a sturdy defense that shut down Illinois for much of the match. Limiting Vanessa DiBernardo to four wayward attempts at goal is a fine accomplishment, as Illinois were held to just three shots on goal. After gaining ground on Wisconsin today in the Big Ten title race, Penn State will want to keep up the pressure and deal fellow title rivals Ohio State a big blow on Thursday.
Another top team faced, another opportunity slipping through the fingers of the Illini. This Illinois team is going to have to pick out a big win somewhere along the line, but having already lost to PSU and Ohio State, Illinois’ options are certainly dwindling. The defense did a fine job in slowing down Penn State’s offense today, but the offense just couldn’t make much happen. It goes without saying that Illinois has to beat Indiana and Purdue at home next week for their at-large hopes to stay off of life support.
Tennessee 4 (Owens 5′, 36′, 86′, Dowd 23′) – 2 (Tymrak PK 47′, Solaun 64′) Florida
Alexis Owens walked away with the match ball for Tennessee as they upset Florida to jump right back into the SEC title race while also striking an important blow for their NCAA Tournament hopes in the process. The Lady Vols took advantage of some shambolic Florida defending to put the Gators to the sword early and often. Remarkably, Owens had only two goals in forty-four matches before this scintillating performance in Knoxville. Turnovers and awry tackling saw Florida down 3-0 at the half thanks to the inspired play of Owens and Emily Dowd. Though Florida would claw two goals back in the second half, Owens would seal the deal less than five minutes from time to confirm a famous victory for Tennessee that continued Florida’s nightmarish history in Knoxville. Remarkably, UT’s short bench didn’t doom them against the Gators’ vast depth, with the Lady Vols’ three reserves that played on the day totaling just twenty-two minutes of action. Eight of UT’s starting field players went the full distance, while all went at least seventy-nine minutes. This was an invaluable win to drive Tennessee’s RPI back up after a long slide, while also underlining the Lady Vols’ SEC title hopes. LSU on the road next weekend is far from easy though and will be a further measure of whether this UT team is apt for silverware come seasons end.
Not too difficult for Florida to break down how they broke down in this one. Don’t be careless with the ball, don’t turn it over in dangerous areas, and don’t go into the half down by three goals. And Florida still could’ve gotten it back to 3-3 on a few occasions in the second half. This team needs some stronger center forward play at the top of the formation though, because McKenzie Barney was less than prolific on the weekend (and ended up playing only twenty minutes on the day). But giving up four goals on six shots isn’t acceptable for a title contender, and it’s not a performance on the whole that Florida will want to repeat if they want to lift another SEC title. For those purposes, Vanderbilt and Kentucky are must wins next weekend before a massive showdown at home against Auburn.
Georgia 2 (Newfield 34′, 106′) – 1 (Grimsley 34′) South Carolina [aet]
Two pieces of brilliance from rising star Alexa Newfield was the difference for Georgia in a brutal war of attrition against South Carolina on a sun drenched day in Athens. Newfield confirmed her status as one of the brightest young prospects in college soccer with both goals to lead her team to victory in a must win game for Georgia’s NCAA Tournament hopes. Newfield equalized right after Georgia (again) conceded from a set piece, with a blinding effort after shaking off three defenders before curling an unstoppable shot into the upper-right corner of the goal. The home side were the better late and into the extra frames as Carolina’s legs failed them. Tori Allen wastefully fired over the bar after being played in by a cheeky back heel pass, but Newfield would make no mistake a second time, thumping Carli Shultis’ cross home with a header in the second half of extra time. The Bulldogs are an ordinary team with an extraordinary player in Newfield, and Georgia will likely go as far as their talisman carries them this year. Arkansas next Friday is another must win before another crunch clash against LSU.
South Carolina quite plainly ran out of steam. Coming off a grueling extra time affair against Tennessee on Friday, the Gamecocks were always going to be in trouble if dragged into deep water on a hot Sunday afternoon. There were precious few chances in regulation after the outburst in the first half, and Carolina had increasing problems in keeping up as the minutes rolled along and the energy reserves were drained fully. In the end, the Gamecocks showed a weakness at full-back, where Georgia ran the visitors ragged, especially in extra time, finally resulting in Shultis’ great run down the near sideline and cross that Newfield finished. The Gamecocks can at least take heart in the knowledge that despite their continued vexing inability to beat Georgia, goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo played exceedingly well and is a real weapon with her feet, taking all of Carolina’s free kicks in their own half. The Canadian should be one of the favorites for freshman All-America honors and looks like rounding into one of the SEC’s best. More than anything though, this SC team needs some rest before a vital clash against Kentucky back at home.
Marquette 3 (Stemmeler 1′, Kelly 66′, Madigan 91′) – 2 (Henderson 63′, Schuveiller 72′) Notre Dame [aet]
Marquette hit Notre Dame in the first minute of regulation and extra time to send the spiraling Irish to another defeat and stay on pace with the leaders in the race for Big East silverware. The home side had the Irish under the kosh in thirty seconds, when Ashley Stemmeler scored to give the Golden Eagles a shockingly early lead. After Melissa Henderson pegged Marquette back right after the hour mark, Maegan Kelly would find the back of the net again just a few minutes later to restore the home side’s advantage, an advantage that would last less than six minutes as Jessica Schuveiller brought Notre Dame level again. Maddie Fox would need to make some great saves to ensure the Irish made it to extra time, but Taylor Madigan finished off a deadly counter attack just eighteen seconds into the extra session to send the home fans home happy. This was an assured, confident performance from a Marquette team that could’ve dropped their heads after Notre Dame equalized on either occasion. They didn’t. They kept pushing on, got a good defensive effort for the most part and used a diverse offense to ultimately walk away with the three points. Maegan Kelly continues to look like a star in the making for Marquette up front, while the team’s depth also shone through, with five of the reserves seeing at least twenty minutes of action. The frustrating part is that we aren’t going to see the Golden Eagles against another top level team for quite some while. Marquette’s run-in is quasi-laughable, and if this team plays up to its talent level, they could easily repeat as Big East champs. You wouldn’t rule them out of a long run into November (and maybe December) either.
Would we be giving any other program than Notre Dame this much leeway if they had gone 1-3-2 in their last six? This team has never really been the same since blowing the late lead to Stanford, and it’s getting to the point where some difficult questions about the Irish’s ultimate ceiling this year must be asked. This team continues to show a maddening propensity of giving up quick goals at bad times, as today showed in perfect light. The Irish are clearly missing the presence of Courtney Barg in midfield, while Adriana Leon not being at 100% either is another dagger to the heart of the defending national champs. There’s still plenty of top notch talent on display, but it’s proving to be not enough at the moment. You’d think that UConn at home would be a no-brainer, especially after last season’s Big East Tournament shock, but recent form has shown us to take nothing for granted with this Notre Dame team.
Rice 0 – 1 (Oduro 66′) Memphis
Memphis kept their 100% record intact thanks to Canadian Christabel Oduro’s second half strike in a hard fought match against a game Rice team. Oduro would take a feed from Melissa Smith in the sixty-sixth minute and rifle a shot past Amy Czyz in the Owls’ goal. Oduro was one of the Tigers’ bigger threats on the day, but on the whole, Rice did a fairly good job of keeping Memphis’ threatening attack to shots off of frame. Memphis still managed sixteen shots overall though with Oduro pacing the bunch with four in total. The Tigers were able to keep Rice from creating clear cut chances for the most part with Elise Kuhar-Pitters not troubled for much of the hot afternoon in Houston. With a cushion after UCF’s loss to SMU earlier this weekend, Memphis should feel confident going forward about their league title hopes. The Tigers have every chance of winning their next seven, setting up a possible title decider against Central Florida in Orlando.
Rice certainly didn’t make things easy on Memphis and have certainly gone a long way in closing the gap between themselves and the league’s Big Two. The Owls in particular look to have a great young core with Quinney Truong spearheading the attack, and the freshman had four of the club’s seven shots on goal on the afternoon. The home side did a reasonable job in limiting Memphis’ chances for much of the day but just couldn’t create the necessary offense themselves. Rice is walking a thin line in the RPI at the moment and probably need a whole lot of wins to avoid slipping down the rankings. That might include a victory at home against Central Florida in a few weeks, the team’s next chance at showing they deserve to be included in the NCAA Tournament conversation.
Santa Clara 3 (Johnston 4′, 47′, Speidel 26′) – 0 Cal
Ruthless Santa Clara made the most of their chances on Sunday afternoon as they dealt Cal a lopsided defeat in the Golden Bears’ final non-conference test. Julie Johnston scored the winner in the fourth minute after heading in Margueritte Aozasa’s free kick. After Lauren Battung hit the bar for Cal, Katie Speidel would volley home Santa Clara’s second, with Johnston bagging her second of the day right out of the half after converting from Meleana Shim’s corner. A performance like this just underlined how valuable Johnston is for the Broncos in both defense and attack, with the sophomore easily one of the nation’s most underrated players. Bianca Henninger would keep Cal off the board with some big saves, giving SCU a lopsided win on the day. This was just the kind of performance that the Broncos have needed for a while and caps off an impressive weekend that has Jerry Smith’s team back on the right side of the bubble. The Broncos’ defense is pretty tough, meaning if they can claw their way to consistent goalscoring, they should be in great shape. The next three matches for Santa Clara are eminently winnable, right before a big showdown with BYU that could go a long way in deciding a WCC champion.
The result for Cal is likely secondary to the horrific broken leg suffered by Katie Benz that has ended her season. Replacing Benz is not going to be easy, and the assignment could fall to junior Lauren Battung, who’s scored six goals so far for the Golden Bears. The loss of Benz is a stinging blow to say the least, but Cal has to find a way to pick itself back up next weekend for a difficult road trip against Washington and Washington State, with both teams eager to use Cal’s lofty RPI as a stepping stone back into the bubble picture.
San Diego 2 (Ferreira 38′, Hobbs 72′) – 3 (Ledezma 60′, Privett 63′, 65′) UC Irvine
San Diego’s stunning collapse reached a new low on Sunday night as the Toreros went from 1-0 up to 3-1 down in a matter of five minutes as UC Irvine smashed the hosts with a three goal flurry in the second half. Frustratingly, San Diego had bossed play for much of the first half and had taken the lead late in the opening stanza when Sierra Ferreira volleyed home from Stephanie Ochs’ assist. The home side would pay dearly though for their profligacy in the second half as Irvine came out roaring with Natalia Ledezma scoring on the hour mark before Cami Privett scored two goals in two minutes with a scorcher to give UCI the lead before finishing CoCo Goodson’s pass just a few minutes later. San Diego would get one back through Mariah Hobbs late but to no avail ultimately. After a quick start, the Toreros are in all kinds of trouble, having lost four straight and six out of their last eight. They’ve essentially gone from a position of relative strength in the RPI to slipping closer and closer to falling off the bubble. The Toreros get a week off before WCC play starts with Pepperdine in Malibu. If they play as they have over the past few weeks, they’re going to get throttled by the Waves…and most of the rest of the league.
It’s going to be a damn shame if UC Irvine somehow misses out on the NCAA Tournament. The Anteaters are clearly worthy of a spot in the Big Dance, and we probably wouldn’t be entertaining the though of them missing out if San Jose State, Mississippi State, and Hawaii weren’t all dragging UCI’s RPI down like an unholy trinity of albatrosses. Irvine showed what they could do against Texas A&M earlier this year and did it again against Portland and San Diego, two of the WCC’s best, this week. You have to give full credit to Irvine coach Scott Juniper for turning the match on its head after the break, leading to yet another important win for the Anteaters. UCI’s getting big contributions from many different sources, with a known commodity in Natalia Ledezma being joined on the scoresheet by rookie Cami Privett. Though the Big West is a very treacherous league to navigate at times, Irvine must surely open as favorites to defend their crown this year. And as already has been evidenced this year, they are not a side many will relish facing in the NCAA Tournament should they make it there.