2016 College Roundup: Major Tournament Outlook

Weekly roundup of women’s college soccer news you might have missed. Includes the past week’s crucial games, injury reports, news of note, upcoming games to watch, and general observations about the world of women’s college soccer.

So That Happened

Results from key games.

Florida State 0–1 North Carolina

It was the last regular season game ever played at Fetzer Field as we know it (the facility will be getting a facelift after the end of the season) and boy did North Carolina give it a proper send-off. It was a tight match from start to finish that saw the Tar Heels put the pressure on the Seminoles for the majority of the match and got a goal right before halftime as Madison Schultz was first to a loose ball after Florida State’s Cassie Miller couldn’t fully corral Megan Buckingham’s shot from distance. Then defense was a top priority for the hosts in the final 20 minutes as the ’Noles looked for a late equalizer but there wasn’t a lot going for them. While the majority of conference wins in the ACC could be used as a signature win, I would call this a big win for North Carolina, who were looking for one prior to ACC Tournament time. And now after winning at home in the quarterfinals on Sunday, Anson Dorrance’s troops have a good shot at a title down in Charleston this coming weekend due to results from the other quarterfinals matches. — JJ

Oklahoma 0–1 (2 OT) Texas Tech

I said last week in the preview of this game that Texas Tech had to win by any cost or face the reality of not making the Big 12 Tournament — a tournament that takes eight of the nine teams in the conference — despite having an overall winning record as well as being the defending champs. So they played like a team that held nothing back on Friday night and threw everything they could at a stout Oklahoma back line. While it took 104 minutes to get the winner, freshman striker Jade King went Bar Down, Hands Up, Celly Hard and now the Red Raiders are going to the Big 12 Tournament as the No. 8 seed. Maybe Tom Stone’s team can revive a little bit of the magic they had in the postseason last year and make another great run this season. — JJ

Providence 1-2 St. John’s (Editor’s Choice)

Since we’re in that New York state of mind when talking about St. John’s that is, it’s going to be déjà vu all over again for the Red Storm. They beat Providence at Belson Stadium last week, with goals from Miranda Haraughty and Christina Bellero, and get to face the Friars again at home this week in the Big East quarterfinals. Now, it’s hard to beat a team once but to do it two straight times is a tall order, especially since Providence knew that St. John’s had to press in order to host the quarterfinal match. And last year the Friars came all the way through from the quarterfinals (six-team tournament in the Big East where the top two sides get a bye to the semis and the three and four seeds host the quarterfinal matches), so they will be a dangerous side to oust this week. But one never knows, lightning could strike twice in Queens. — JJ

Major Conference Tournament Outlook

ACC

Quarterfinals
Played at higher seeds on Sunday, October 30.

  • #1 Notre Dame 1-0 #8 North Carolina State
  • #4 North Carolina 3-0 #5 Virginia
  • #3 Duke 1-1 (2-3, PKs) #6 Florida State
  • #2 Clemson 1-1 (5-4, PKs) #7 Miami (FL)

Semifinals
Played in Charleston, South Carolina; semifinals on Friday, November 4, with the final on Sunday, November 6.

  • #1 Notre Dame vs. #4 North Carolina
  • #2 Clemson vs. #6 Florida State

Outlook

So it’s already been a wacky and super competitive season in the ACC, with top 10 teams like Virginia and Florida State having to play quarterfinal matches on the road and traditionally good sides like Boston College and Virginia Tech not even qualifying for the postseason. And there were a pair of penalty kick sessions that decided two of the four quarterfinals and nobody likes to see that (though there is something about Canadian goalkeepers and penalty kick shootouts here in the States: Kailen Sheridan helped get Clemson through penalty kicks over Miami and former South Carolina Gamecock Sabrina D’Angelo made three stops to clinch the NWSL title for Western New York recently).

But we still have two really good semifinals on Friday, which will now be played at USL side Charleston Battery’s MUSC Health Stadium (the artist formerly known as Blackbaud Stadium and was one of the original “new-generation” soccer-specific stadiums) since it was moved away from Cary, North Carolina, earlier this fall. Something tells me that the lower seeds might have a good advantage in these two semifinals. The Tarheels have played with a chip on their shoulders over the past few weeks and despite falling to the Fighting Irish, 1-0, on October 14, they dominated possession and created really good chances. And when you talk about Florida State, you talk about Deyna Castellanos. See below about what she did on her return for Mark Krikorian’s team but I think experience helps here as FSU has been at this stage several times (reached the semifinals of the ACC Tournament nine times), while it’s Clemson’s first appearance on this stage since 2006. Expect Cassie Miller to have a big tournament weekend in net for the Seminoles and to lead her team back to the conference title. — JJ

Big Ten

Quarterfinals
Played at higher seeds on Sunday, October 30.

  • #1 Minnesota 3-1 #8 Indiana
  • #4 Michigan 1-1 (4-2 PKs) #5 Wisconsin
  • #3 Northwestern 0-0 (4-3 PKs) #6 Nebraska
  • #2 Penn State 0-2 #7 Rutgers

Semifinals
Played at Minnesota, Semifinals on Friday, November 4, and the final on November 6.

  • #1 Minnesota vs. #4 Michigan
  • #3 Northwestern vs. #7 Rutgers

Outlook

Well, another tournament that had quarterfinals over the weekend and another quarterfinal round with two penalty kick shootouts. Aren’t those the worst? Because after 110 minutes, it doesn’t do much justice. But the real shocker of the bunch was that defending champs Penn State fell at home to Rutgers, who quietly slipped down to the seventh seed. So that means with Minnesota downing Indiana at home, the semis and the finals are heading to the land of the Gophers.

Both semifinal matches on Friday have intriguing points to them. Northwestern/Rutgers will be a defensive battle as the Wildcats have one of the best defenses in the country while Rutgers have a 0.73 goals against average (GAA) and have posted clean sheets against four top 25 teams, including against Northwestern at home in September. Michigan is another wild card team. After a strong start to the season, they had a rough October, going 2-3-3 (including the tie against Wisconsin in the quarters before advancing on penalty kick). But they hung right in with Minnesota at home and played to a nil-nil draw in the regular season. However, I have a feeling if Simone Kolander can end this five-match goalless drought this week, Minnesota is going to be a tough out at home. — JJ

Big 12

Quarterfinals
All games played at Swope Soccer Village, Kansas City, Quarterfinals on Wednesday 11/2.

  • #1 West Virginia vs. #8 Texas Tech
  • #4 Oklahoma vs. #5 Iowa State
  • #2 Kansas vs. #7 TCU
  • #3 Baylor vs. #6 Oklahoma State

Semifinals (11/4) and Finals (11/6)

Outlook

Friends, this is the Mountaineers’ tournament to lose. Now I’ve been bitten before by being far too high on West Virginia in postseason play, however this team has looked the part of a legit contender all season long. Also gotta give props to Baylor and Kansas, who played the roles of spoilers at times in an absolutely wacky Big 12 regular season. We didn’t make too much of it here at OGM (probably because none of us are biased about the midwest, positions open), but just note that Texas Tech had to win their last regular-season game to clinch a conference tournament spot.

As usual, there is plenty of work to do for the lower seeds in this tournament as Selection Sunday looms large. Perhaps most of all the weight is on the shoulders of the aforementioned Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. Both have RPIs in the 40s, and could use wins to punch that ticket. Unfortunately for Texas Tech, their anemic offense as of late will be facing one of the toughest defenses in the nation. Wave hello to Kadeisha Buchanan and Bianca St. Georges. They helped lead the Mountaineers to a perfect record in conference play, and oh, by the way, they didn’t allow a single goal in conference play this season. So, uh, Red Raiders, about the fact you’ve scored one goal in the past six games… that’s going to need to change rather quickly. — Rachael

SEC

First Round
All games played at Orange Beach, Alabama with the first round on Monday, October 31.

  • #7 Tennessee vs. #10 Ole Miss
  • #8 Texas A&M vs. #9 Alabama

Quarterfinals
Played on Wednesday, November 2.

  • #2 Auburn vs. #7 Tennessee
  • #3 Arkansas vs. #6 Vanderbilt
  • #1 South Carolina vs. #8 Texas A&M
  • #4 Florida vs. #5 Missouri

Semifinals (Friday 11/4) and Finals (Sunday 11/6)

Outlook

All of the higher seeds won out in the first round down in Orange Beach on Monday. Speaking of Orange Beach, I’d just like to really commend the SEC on this tournament and how it’s put together. Orange Beach is a great locale, the field always looks great, and it’s a fun destination for players to work toward during the week in and week out grind of regular-season SEC soccer. This tournament is always run extremely well and always goes off with a bang. So props for that, SEC.

With that brief aside out of the way let’s look ahead to the action on the field. I expect the Auburn vs Tennessee and Arkansas versus Vanderbilt matches to go the way of the higher seeds, but I do think that the other side of the bracket could be extremely interesting. Realistically, South Carolina will absolutely stomp on Texas A&M, but in the amazing narrative I’ve woven in my head, this Aggies team won’t go down without a fight. Mikaela Harvey skipped the U-20 World Cup so she could play with this squad, that returned so many talented players from last year’s tourney team. Whatever happened this season we may not know without an extensive case study, but something was off with this Aggies team. Thing is, postseason play cares not for how you struggled in the regular season. Things can get wacky, fast. I would love to see Texas A&M make a game of it with South Carolina. Florida, and Missouri should also provide some intrigue. Mizzou somewhat silently chugged along this season, getting results when they needed to and worked themselves into a first round bye in the SEC tournament. Pretty good stuff. We’ve seen Florida struggle this season when frustrated offensively, and we know that defense can often lose the plot. Maybe an upset in the making there. — Rachael

More Big Games to Watch

It would be impossible for us to profile every tournament, but here are some other matches you might want to keep an eye on this weekend

UCLA vs. USC

Duh.

AAC Championship Game (Sunday)

We have highlighted UConn in the OGM Top 25 for nearly the entire season. But we haven’t really had a look at their squad until now and when you talk about the Huskies, one thing jumps out at you: the scoring duo of Stephanie Ribeiro and Rachel Hill. If any team wants to compete with UConn, you have to contain these two senior strikers, because you cannot stop them. They have combined to score 32 of the team’s 38 goals (Ribeiro has 19 and Hill has 13) and have 16 assists between the two. So the top-seeded Huskies have that going for them coming into AAC Championship week along with playing the entire tournament at their home stadium. But lurking at the two-spot is Memphis, who hold a 14-3-1 record and are slotted 23rd in the RPI. One has a feeling that both of these teams will make it to the NCAA Tournament, regardless of how things shake out this week, but don’t sleep on the Tigers. They come into this tournament riding a seven-match win streak and possess the talented former Canadian youth international Valerie Sanderson, who is enjoying a strong senior season with 16 goals and eight tallies during AAC play. If these two sides meet on Championship Sunday, it could be a good one with all the firepower that’s on display. — JJ

We Don’t Have Conference Tournaments either… but we still have lots to play for (aka the Ivy and WCC) (Editor’s Pick)

So the Ivy League and the West Coast Conference don’t have post season tournaments, so like the Pac-12, their last week of regular season games will take place this weekend. But boy, they are going to have some major impacts on who gets at-large bids this coming Monday for the NCAA Tournament.

Out in WCC land, Pepperdine, and BYU are tied at 19 points, Loyola Marymount trails them by one point, and Santa Clara has 16 but all four sides have a chance of winning or sharing the crown. Ironically enough, all four teams play on Saturday and none of the teams play each other, so we look at the head-to-head results. Pepperdine beat BYU, 1-0, back on October 8, so if those two teams stayed level at the end of the day, the Waves would take the auto-bid spot. BYU beat Loyola Marymount, 1-0, in Los Angeles two days’ prior and LMU took a 1-0 decision against Pepperdine this past weekend, which means, if say, Pepperdine and BYU both lost and LMU drew, we could have a three-way tie for first.

Meanwhile, Santa Clara only drew against BYU and lost to Pepperdine and LMU, so the best they can do is clinch a share of the title. In all likelihood, with Pepperdine traveling to last-place Pacific, a win for them secures things but any dropped points and with BYU, who hosts San Francisco at home, where they hardly ever lose, BYU will scoop up the prize. But if both falter and LMU manufactures a win at Saint Mary’s, they will take the title. Still with us? Great. Because all four of those teams (yes, even Santa Clara) can make the NCAA Tournament and could take away some at-large bids from other power conferences.

On the east coast, it’s already been a turbulent fall within the Ancient Eight as projected favorites Princeton stumbled frequently in conference play and the best they can finish is fourth, despite being ranked 30th in the RPI rankings. But Harvard hosts Columbia this week, with Harvard holding a one-point lead over the Lions for first place. A win for the Crimson is probably the best-case scenario for the Ivy because then one would think Princeton gets an at-large bid if they beat Penn on Saturday (and the only way Harvard gets into the tournament is to win it, because they are on the outside, looking in for an at-large with a 47 RPI). But if Columbia wins, I don’t see Princeton getting an at-large because they lost to Harvard at home a couple of weeks ago. In the end, keep an eye on these two conferences on Saturday because there is a chance we could see as many as five at-large bids or as few as two coming out of these two conferences. — JJ

Top Performers

The players who made a difference this past week. (Arkansas edition – Rachael)

Claire Kelley — Arkansas

I’ve tried to keep myself from posting Arkansas players in the Top Performers section this season, and I think for the most part I’ve succeeded, but I broke on this one. Kelley scored a goal in Arkansas’ 3-0 win over the LSU Tigers. This season she is one of five Arkansas players with at least six goals, but she is the team’s leader in points this season and has 13 (!!!) assists. On top of all that Kelley is just one assist away from becoming the school’s all-time career assist leader. Essentially a starter from her first game as a Razorback onwards, Kelley has absolutely earned it. — Rachael

Kelsey Johnson — UCA

We’ve hit on my hometown Bears a few times in the OGM Roundup this season (shoutout to JJ), and I wanted to shine a light on a great story from this past weekend in ol’ Central Arkansas. Senior Kelsey Johnson underwent brain surgery this past summer for a tumor. Johnson was never medically cleared to play, but her coaches still found a way for her to see the field in her final collegiate match this past Friday. Coaches put Johnson in the starting lineup, and had her complete a pass off the kickoff before immediately subbing her off. Video can be seen here, and man it’s good. Do it like a big bear y’all. — Rachael

#TeamOGM Alma Mater Watch

A new addition to the our College Coverage as we take a look at how each of the #TeamOGM alma mater’s are stacking up this season. Biased? We hope so.

Rachael Caldwell — Arkansas (SEC)

Results: W, 2-0, at LSU

Thoughts
Just going to take a moment to applaud Coach Hale and his team on the regular season they put together. A third-place finish in the SEC is nothing to brush aside. The Hogs have a history of playing down to teams they need to beat, and not showing up for the full 90 against top-class teams. This season, aside from the loss to Kentucky and one play against George Washington, Arkansas has beaten teams they need to beat and played up to competition. They’ve followed the game plan week in and week out and they’ve seen results. Their strength lies in that this is truly from front to back, a team. Arkansas has five different players with at least six goals. They’ve got several seniors that are full-blown leaders now. After seeing them wide-eyed in the NCAA Tournament their freshman year, these players now know what’s expected of them, how to fight for a full 90, and earn results. I don’t remember a match this season where Arkansas just mailed it in, which is something I genuinely cannot say about past seasons. This season has been nothing short of remarkable and I sincerely hope to see this deserving group earn some results this postseason. WOO PIG SOOIE YALL!

Next week’s matches: SEC Tournament Quarterfinal v Vanderbilt

JJ Duke — Rider University (MAAC)

Results: L, 0-1, vs. Marist (MAAC Tournament Quarterfinal)

Thoughts
Overtime has been cruel to Rider all year. This was the seventh time this season we have went past 90 minutes and are just 1-3-3. And these last three weeks have been disappointing because dropped points along the back end of the regular season could have been the difference of being in this quarterfinal round as opposed to getting a bye to the semis as the one or two seed. But if you can’t get it done when it matters, then these things happens. This is a big group of seniors as well who have contributed a lot to this program. None more so than Bethany May-Howard in goal, who will probably go down as one of the best keepers Rider has ever had. She will end her collegiate career with 20 clean sheets and 34 wins, program records in both categories and a sub 1.2 GAA. She filled in at WSL 2 side Yeovil Ladies this past summer and with them going up to WSL for next season, I wouldn’t be surprised to see her in net for them next fall. — JJ

 

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