(17) Marquette vs (41) Notre Dame – 2:00 PM EST – Big East Tournament Quarterfinal [Regular Season: Marquette 3 – 2 Notre Dame (aet)]
Never in a million years did anybody think it would come to this for Notre Dame at the beginning of the season. Or even halfway through the season. But as the Irish start their postseason journey, they stand on the brink of also finishing it in Milwaukee on Sunday afternoon. It’s difficult to say if whether a defeat will prove fatal to their NCAA Tournament hopes, but the signs are iffy to say the least. While Notre Dame’s RPI number is on the happy side of the bubble, their overall profile could be enough to give the Selection Committee pause when looking at them for an at-large bid. The Irish have no great wins, with a bubble win over Wisconsin their best victory of the season, while a draw with Santa Clara is really their only other result of consequence. The club has also bubble losses to Georgetown and Louisville to worry about as they take the pitch at Valley Fields on Sunday. Their opponents have already beaten Notre Dame once this season, 3-2, in a mistake riddled performance from the Irish that saw them fall very early into extra time. The Golden Eagles have no small degree of incentive coming into this one, knowing that being on the bubble for a national seed, a deep run into this tournament will do their cause plenty of good. Marquette were humbled in their second league match against West Virginia but have since won nine in a row to claim a share of their division’s title in the Big East. The Golden Eagles have made it look pretty easy as well, conceding just one time since the first Notre Dame match this season. Staring down Melissa Henderson and a desperate Notre Dame team is a whole different matter though and could derail Marquette’s Big East Tournament run at the first hurdle. Most eyes will be on the visitors though. Defeat will mean a very nervous week while they await their fate.
(14) Boston College vs (4) Wake Forest – 1:00 PM EST – ACC Tournament Quarterfinal [Regular Season: Boston College 2 – 0 Wake Forest]
Wake Forest will be hoping to avoid a sense of deja vu with this immediate rematch of their regular season finale against the Eagles led to a disappointing 2-0 defeat in Newton. The setback was part of a disturbing trend for the Demon Deacons that has seen the team be shut out in four of its last five matches and five of its last seven. It’s hard to fathom those numbers when you look at the team’s early season form when they were scoring goals for fun at other teams’ expense. Thursday was just the latest unconvincing result from the Demon Deacons who failed to acclimatize to the cold and snowy conditions and could have few complaints at full-time. Wake had appeared poised for a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but the recent slide in form has made that position tenuous at best. The home side’s form this season has been erratic to say the least in ACC competition. The Eagles started the season unbeaten in eleven and winning seven in a row through the first four league matches before suffering a shocking loss of form and firepower, losing four straight matches to see their title hopes go up in smoke. Boston College’s offense has never quite been the juggernaut some thought it could be this season, with junior Victoria DiMartino looking off song for much of the year. But the slate is wiped clean for the postseason, and all that will be forgotten if she and Kristen Mewis can come good in the ACC and NCAA Tournament for the Eagles. Step one in that quest comes Sunday in snowy Newton, where Wake Forest will hope to avoid being whitewashed by the Eagles once more.
(1) Duke vs (26) Virginia Tech – 1:00 PM EST – ACC Tournament Quarterfinal [Regular Season: Duke 1 – 0 Virginia Tech]
Newly anointed ACC champs Duke will get to face their first test while wearing that mantle in the first round of the ACC Tournament as they entertain Virginia Tech in Durham on Sunday afternoon. The Blue Devils recovered from a devastating 1-0 loss to North Carolina a few weeks ago to win their final three matches and lift the ACC title as undisputed champions. Duke will look to justify their status on top of the RPI and make their case stronger for a #1 seed on Sunday against a team they beat quite confidently in the regular season, despite the close scoreline. While Virginia Tech may have kept it close on the scoreboard in that initial meeting in Durham earlier this season, they’ll have to find another gear if they have any hopes of pulling off the shocker and advancing to Cary next week. In a sense, Virginia Tech backed into the tournament as the eighth seed, losing two of their last three. The one win the Hokies did manage to bag in that stretch was a big one, though toppling North Carolina in Blacksburg to lock up a spot in the ACC Tournament. VT wasn’t even close against Florida State on Thursday though, perhaps dimming hopes of a big upset. While the Hokie defense has been impressive in stymying sides like Wake Forest and North Carolina, the offense has also struggled to put points on the board against big name opponents like the aforementioned Demon Deacons, Virginia, or Sunday’s opponents. Duke will hope to keep the Hokies off the board again while letting the offense work their magic as they have for much of the season.
(8) North Carolina vs (9) Florida State – 1:00 PM EST – ACC Tournament Quarterfinal [Regular Season: Florida State 0 – 2 North Carolina]
Logic would dictate that this ACC matchup would provide some of Sunday’s best viewing. But then again, logic has counted for much for these two teams this year. Carolina comes into this match having finished a disappointing (for their standards) third place in the league and has now lost two matches in a row and won just one of their last four. Florida State is just now recovering from a midseason malaise that saw them win just two of seven and face the unthinkable proposition of missing out on the ACC Tournament before winning their last three to climb to sixth in the final league table. Even getting these two on the same pitch hasn’t brought the usual guaranteed fireworks. Their earlier meeting in Tallahassee this season was a UNC dominated dud that saw the Heels have little trouble with their rivals on the night. But that was a long time ago in college soccer speak, and FSU definitely comes into this one with momentum on their side after their sudden upsurge that has coincided with UNC’s stuttering form. And then again, there’s the unspoken plot point which must surely be lingering in the back of some minds given the sensational scenes at last season’s ACC Tournament involving the Noles. While it’s unlikely that FSU coach Mark Krikorian will want to risk the wrath of the ACC by trotting out all of his reserves to play the entirety of the match, you just have to wonder how much time the first team will get on the pitch. FSU’s safely in a position to earn a national seed but probably won’t climb into #1 territory unless they win the whole tournament. Then again, silverware might just appeal to to the Noles after the league campaign they just concluded.
(3) Virginia vs (20) Maryland – 1:00 PM EST – ACC Tournament Quarterfinal [Regular Season: Virginia 4 – 1 Maryland]
Sunday provides an opportunity for a bit of a redo for a Maryland side who have no doubt been thirsting for a chance to settle the score with their ACC rivals after their regular season encounter. On that night, Maryland felt the aftereffects of being without star forward Jasmyne Spencer through injury, the absence showing in what was a mostly pedestrian attack against the Cavs. The defense of Maryland is also likely a little pleased as well to get another crack at shutting down the Virginia offense after being sliced apart to the tune of four goals in the lopsided defeat. Not that shutting that UVA offense down is going to be any easier in Charlottesville on Sunday. The Cavs have scored multiple goals in four of their last five ACC matches, including hitting Florida State and Virginia Tech for four goals apiece. The defense has done quite well for itself also, keeping clean sheets in four straight matches. Maryland’s offense is the best Virginia’s faced in a while though, with Hayley Brock’s heroics providing a swift reminder of that last Thursday in the win against North Carolina. The Terps have been doggedly inconsistent this season and haven’t won consecutive matches since a four match win streak against a flurry of minnows at the end of the non-conference season. Sunday would be a fine time to break that duck as the Terps look to claim another big name scalp and position themselves for a potential national seed. Virginia themselves though will see this as a match with major national implications as they remain on the hunt for a #1 seed. Home advantage would be huge for the Cavs, with Steve Swanson’s side having been defeated just once at Klockner this year.
(38) Oregon State vs (34) Cal – 4:00 PM EST [Last Year: Cal 1 – 0 Oregon State]
A few days after hosting a battle between the hometown Beavers and the #1 team in the country, Corvallis will see a different type of duel as two Pac-12 teams try to all but seal their spot in the NCAA Tournament with a week to spare. Cal are the guests on Sunday, and the Golden Bears will try to continue their recent mastery over the home side. Last season, the high flying Beavers were cut to size by Cal in Berkeley, though to be fair, it was a bit of a dead rubber for OSU, having been guaranteed second place and also coming off a energy sapping defeat at Stanford a few nights earlier. In the second respect, it’ll be familiar territory for Linus Rhode’s side, with Oregon State coming off a hard 2-1 defeat to the national title favorites on Friday night. The Beavers have an outside shot at the runner-up spot in the Pac-12 again this year but need to beat Cal to stand a chance. Cal’s been on a bit of a roller coaster ride since Katie Benz’s broken leg against Santa Clara. The Golden Bears went winless in the three matches after that injury but have since rebounded to win four of five to seemingly solidify their position in the NCAA Tournament. A side that scored for fun at the beginning of the year, Cal has since switched to more pragmatic approach in league play, with five clean sheets in six. But these Golden Bears can still show their teeth if need be, as a 4-0 win over Oregon on Friday showed. Getting into a shootout with the home side could be a fool’s errand though if Chelsea Buckland and Jenna Richardson are firing true as they have been in recent weeks.
(10) Pepperdine vs (48) Portland – 4:00 PM EST [Last Year: Portland 1 – 0 Pepperdine]
A few days after losing their foothold on the top of the WCC summit, Pepperdine will try to keep their title hopes alive against the visiting Portland Pilots. Before the tough setback at Santa Clara, the Waves had racked up five straight wins to start the league season and came into the match against the Broncos undefeated on the year. It’s the type of gaudy record West Coast fans are more used to seeing associated with Sunday’s opponents. Instead, it’s been a battle and a half for the Pilots just to get to .500, which they enter Sunday’s match at. You could look at Portland’s league campaign two ways really. They won only one of their first four matches in WCC play, while giving up ten goals in that span. They’ve also won three of their last four, including a pair of must win matches on the road against San Francisco and Loyola Marymount. Portland’s non-conference profile is such that if they stay at .500 come Selection Monday, they should be safely in the field. Leaving anything to the whims of the selection committee though is not desirable, meaning the Pilots would love to just punch their ticket with a win over the Waves in Malibu on Sunday. Besides trying to stay in the WCC title race, Pepperdine will also be trying to show that the loss to Santa Clara isn’t going to linger with them as they also try to pursue a coveted national seed for the NCAA Tournament ahead.
America East – Semi-Finals – At Higher Seed
(1) Boston University vs (5) Binghamton – 1:00 PM EST
(2) Hartford vs (3) Albany – POSTPONED UNTIL MONDAY
ACC – Quarterfinals – At Higher Seed
(1) Duke vs (8) Virginia Tech – 1:00 PM EST
(2) Virginia vs (7) Maryland – 1:00 PM EST
(3) North Carolina vs (6) Florida State – 1:00 PM EST
(4) Boston College vs (5) Wake Forest – 1:00 PM EST
Big East – Quarterfinals – At Higher Seed
(1A) West Virginia vs (4N) Seton Hall – 1:00 PM EST
(1N) Louisville vs (4A) Providence – 1:00 PM EST
(2A) Marquette vs (3N) Notre Dame – 2:00 PM EST
(2N) Georgetown vs (3A) Syracuse – 1:00 PM EST
MAC – Quarterfinals – At Higher Seed
(1) Toledo vs (8) Ohio – 1:00 PM EST
(2) Central Michigan vs (7) Akron – 1:00 PM EST
(3) Western Michigan vs (6) Ball State – 1:00 PM EST
(4) Kent State vs (5) Buffalo – 1:00 PM EST
Missouri Valley – Quarterfinals – At Higher Seed
(3) Creighton vs (6) Northern Iowa – 2:00 PM EST
(4) Evansville vs (5) Drake – 2:00 PM EST
Southern – Quarterfinals – At Higher Seed
(1) Samford vs (8) Western Carolina – 5:00 PM EST
(2) UNC Greensboro vs (7) Georgia Southern – 2:00 PM EST
(3) College of Charleston vs (6) Elon – 1:00 PM EST
(4) Davidson vs (5) Furman – 3:00 PM EST