NCAA Soccer – Duke Are ACC Champions While North Carolina Stumbles Again

Duke Wins The Title

Second To None - Duke's Kaitlyn Kerr (5) Celebrates Her Title Winning Goal With Her Teammates

Boston College 2 (Wagner 11′, Bouchelle 32′) – 0 Wake Forest

Boston College eased past an off-song Wake Forest side in Chestnut Hill to earn the right to host an ACC Tournament match against these same Demon Deacons on Sunday. The Eagles were perhaps more used to playing through the rain and snow that turned the field into a winter wonderland in the second half. With that in mind, it was a good thing for the home side that they did their scoring damage early in the match. Gibby Wagner notched the match winner in the eleventh minute after shooting with her first touch after a deft pass from Victoria DiMartino. Right after the half-hour mark, Julia Bouchelle would double the Eagles’ lead with a shot from just inside the area. Wake would have their only shot on goal of the entire match in the first half when Rachel Nuzzolese had her effort tipped over the bar by Jillian Mastroianni. The elements and a stout Boston College defense would prove to be too much for Wake to overcome though, and the Demon Deacons went down relatively tamely as the snow began to fall in heavier doses towards the end of the match. This was a great win for the Eagles who now get home advantage in the ACC Tournament quarterfinal and did it without DiMartino or Kristen Mewis even putting a shot on goal. That they were able to still win 2-0 over a tough opponent speaks volumes. Given Thursday’s result, the Eagles should fancy their chances at doing the double over their ACC rivals and may well be a dark horse for the ACC Tournament title.

Wake Forest probably weren’t very comfortable with the weather in Massachusetts on Friday night, but despite that, the loss underlines a severe loss of form for much of the month of October. The Demon Deacons have swiftly gone from an ACC title contender and potential College Cup team, to losing out on hosting an ACC Tournament match with this defeat. Wake’s offense has fallen off a cliff in the last month, having been shut out in four of their past five, with the lone exception coming against bottom club Clemson. Katie Stengel has been unable to recreate the form that made her such a terror for the first half of the season, while Rachel Nuzzolese has yet to hit the heights of her pre-injury form of last year either. The problem for WF is that beyond the deadly duo, the offense is hardly the most dynamic, and if someone can shut down the forward pair, it’s going to be very hard for the Demon Deacons to squeeze out results. Tony da Luz has to find the right solution for his side to cure their woes, and he has to do it quick or it’s going to be a short postseason.

Maryland 2 (Brock 87′, Kaplan 98′) – 1 (Jones 15′) North Carolina [aet]

A year after coming from behind in Chapel Hill to seal a stunning win, the Terps repeated the feat on home turf, using a late strike to equalize before winning it in extra time. Becky Kaplan played the heroine’s role, scoring a few minutes from the end of the first half of extra time. Sade Ayinde had spotted Kaplan roaming relatively unmarked through the middle and hit the junior in stride as she entered the area. Kaplan weaved around a defender before finishing coolly to the far post for the winner. Maryland had equalized in dramatic fashion just a few minutes from full-time when Hayley Brock pounced on a bouncing ball that was not cleared sufficiently by the UNC defense, getting off her shot just as she was closed down a few yards from the area and beating Anna Sieloff at the near post. Carolina had taken an early lead with their first first half goal in almost a month when Courtney Jones headed home Amber Brooks’ free kick. It was a staggering turnaround seeing as how early UNC had taken the lead and that Maryland had only been afloat thanks to Megan Gibbons and Annesia Faulkner clearing off the line at times in the first twenty-five minutes. This was obviously a massive confidence boost for a team that clearly needed one after coming into the evening not knowing their postseason fate. Brock has run hot and cold at times this season but has been electric when on form, as she was in this match. Maryland has not quite lived up to their expectation of being title contenders at the start of the season but could still come good. This spirited fightback certainly shows that they should not be counted out yet and may just be in with a shout of making some postseason noise.

North Carolina doesn’t lose two in a row very often (four times in the NCAA era), and this occasion is probably as unpalatable as the other three times it’s happened. The goals the Heels gave up were very poor by their standards and likely did little to ease fears that UNC is heading into the postseason in a rough state of form. After winning five of six to open up the league campaign, Carolina has now won just one of four heading into the ACC Tournament. The offense has just scored two goals in those four matches and were surely kicking themselves after controlling much of the first half but going into the break with just a 1-0 lead. Florida State was handled with relative ease in their regular season meeting earlier this year, but the Noles are in much better form these days and could provide a very stern challenge to a UNC side still trying to find its best form at the start of the postseason.

Virginia 2 (Brian 80′, 83′) – 0 Miami (FL)

Miami held strong for eighty minutes but were eventually pried open by a Virginia side who used two goals in the last ten minutes to seal second place in the league. With the Hurricanes only needing a draw for much of the night as Maryland was losing to North Carolina, it was really a case of defense first for the visitors who frustrated the Cavs for much of the night, including holding leading goalscorer Caroline Miller without a shot on goal. Miller would get a bit unlucky in the first half when a shot was deflected off the post but, like her teammates, would struggle to find the incisive finish to take the advantage. Freshman Morgan Brian would rescue Virginia late, scoring the match winning goal after rising to meet Julia Roberts’ free kick with a header that finally beat Miami keeper Vikki Alonzo. Still reeling from that sudden blow, the visitors would pay the price a few minutes later for not closing down Brian as she dribbled through midfield and beat Alonzo at her near post with a shot from just inside the area. This was a confident, assured performance from the Cavs who pushed through their first half frustration to, in the end, take a comfortable win. Brian continues to be impressive despite her youth, while the defense put the clamps on the Hurricanes from the opening whistle. Despite their reputation as NCAA Tournament underachievers, this is still a very dangerous team heading into November who might just defy some of their youth and crash the party in Kennesaw.

Miami can generally have few complaints about the final scoreline as they didn’t even register a shot on goal. The Hurricanes can hardly be blamed for their defensive outlook with them needing only a draw for most of the night with Maryland being behind for the longest time against UNC. Still, it’s hard to argue that Miami hasn’t exceeded expectations in Tom Anagnost’s first year at the helm with wins over Boston College, Maryland, and BYU. If sanity prevails, they’ll hear their name called on Selection Monday for the NCAA Tournament. And if those above wins are any indication, any potential opponent overlooking the Canes just because they finished ninth in their league could be in for a rude awakening.

Virginia Tech 0 – 2 (McCarty 35′, Huster 56′) Florida State

Florida State continued their late revival with their third straight ACC win to finish sixth in the final standings and earn a rematch with North Carolina in Chapel Hill on Sunday. The visitors always had a sense of control over the match and in the end, cruised to a 2-0 win where they didn’t give up a shot on goal to the Hokies. Tiffany McCarty would net the game winner ten minutes from the break after Tori Huster picked the junior out with a pass from midfield. McCarty would let fly from just inside the area, beating Colpitts to the right post and giving FSU the lead. Huster would effectively kill the tie off eleven minutes after the intermission after her surging run up the middle was met by McCarty’s cross, letting the senior midfielder thump the ball into the back of the net for the 2-0 lead. The visitors were scarcely threatened afterward and rolled to a convincing win that sealed a rematch with North Carolina on Sunday afternoon. It’s not a coincidence that as Tiffany McCarty and Tori Huster have heated up, so has Florida State. The attacking duo is vital for FSU’s hopes this postseason, and the fact that they seem to be rounding into form as of late bodes well for the Noles’ hopes of meeting high preseason expectations heading into the ACC Tournament. Florida State’s defense, after a lot of chopping and changing throughout the season, also turned in one of their best performances of the season in holding the Hokies without a shot. There’ll need to be more of the same on Sunday in Chapel Hill if FSU are to make it to Cary next week.

Tech head coach Chugger Adair didn’t mince words as far as his team’s performance went, claiming that he though the Hokies “were a little satisfied that we [were] in the ACC Tournament and it was apparent in our game”. It’s hard to argue his point considering VT finished without a shot on goal and just three overall on the night. The defeat pushes the Hokies back into the number eight seed, meaning a showdown with Duke. The Hokies played the Blue Devils hard in Durham earlier in the year in a 1-0 loss, but the question is if they looked so feeble offensively against FSU, how are they going to solve the Duke defense which has dominated so many teams this year?

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