Your Preview Guide for the NCAA Tournament
The 2013 regular season and conference tournaments have concluded and the NCAA has whittled the competition down to 64 teams to battle it out to reach the College Cup in Cary, NC. We have seen a lot of great stories in that time: the introduction of some rising players, the return of familiar faces, a team that ran the table in the regular season but couldn’t reach the final of its conference tournament and a few underdogs that played the spoiler role.
But now its the business end of the NCAA season. And after the NCAA revealed the Road to the College Cup, here is OGM’s Preview Guide for the 2013 Division I NCAA Tournament:
Top Players You Know That Will Shine
Morgan Brian (Virginia) – The fall of 2013 can be added to another successful season for the Virginia junior. After last season’s victory with the USA U-20s at the U-20 WWC and helping guide her team to an ACC Tournament Championship, this fall Brian received a couple caps with the USWNT, scored 12 goals and assisted on another 14 and led Virginia to the ACC Regular Season title. To think that she still has another year of eligibility after this season.
Crystal Dunn (UNC) – Dunn won the MAC Hermann Trophy last season and this season could very well end with the same result. Dunn has been nothing short of phenomenal in 2013, scoring 13 goals and 5 assists while causing panic over the field for defenders with her speed. Dunn was held out of the ACC semifinals with a leg injury and UNC are hoping that she could return in time for the second round of matches. UNC proved on that ACC semifinal loss that they are a different team without Dunn and losing her any longer than that could be concerning.
Julie Johnston, Morgan Marlborough & Sophia Huerta (Santa Clara) – These three players are a three-headed monster that comprises of Santa Clara’s goal scoring machine. Johnston, Marlborough and Huerta combined for 39 of the teams 57 goals. Marlborough scored 14 this year after sitting out 2013 due to transfer regulations, Huerta scored 13 this year and Johnston finished with 12 goals. You can’t talk about one player without mentioning the other two so as long as these three continue on the rate they have performed at throughout the season, Santa Clara could find themselves going deep in the tournament.
Maya Hayes (Penn State) – While 2013 will not equal her sophomore season mark of 31 goals, Hayes has put together a solid senior season. With 19 goals and 5 assists, she is near the tops in the NCAA rankings for goals and points. Penn State will hope to key on her finding the net a couple more times if the Nittany Lions want to go deep into the tournament. And on an individual level for Hayes, with a solid performance in the tournament she should solidify her place as a top-5 NWSL Draft pick.
Frances Silva (West Virginia) – The Big 12 doesn’t get anywhere near the national attention that other conferences get during the regular season. That might play into the hands of West Virginia as they have an experienced front line with Silva and junior Kate Schwindel. Silva stands out within the Mountaineers side as she has produced 15 goals and 13 assists and 43 points, which puts her within the Top 10 in the NCAA. West Virginia had a disappointing end to last season by losing in the first round of the NCAA tournament. With Silva on target lately, don’t expect the same result this year.
Kelsey Wys (Florida State) – 2013 is producing a deep pool of senior goalkeepers. Wys has been top of the line this season for the Seminoles and could be a hot commodity come January at the NWSL draft. And why not. She’s played every minute of every match (22 in total) for Florida State and has allowed only 12 goals during the season, plus she added up 12 clean sheets in the process. In a single elimination tournament where goals will be hard to come by, don’t figure on Wys to be letting many get past her.
Players You Will Know All About After the NCAA Tournament Concludes
Savannah Jordan (Florida) – Jordan has had a Freshman season to remember with Florida. She’s scored 22 goals this season which is tied for tops of the Division I list and has smashed a few school freshman records in the process. And if that’s not enough, she’s coming into the tournament on fire, scoring in each of the last 6 matches for Florida before ending that streak in the SEC Final (9 goals during that span). She will get her share of goals if Florida goes far in the NCAA Tournament.
Danielle Colaprico (Virginia) – The junior outside midfielder has proved she has one of the most deadliest services from the flanks in the ACC. Colaprico has 10 assists in 21 matches to go along with 5 goals and will get in a healthy amount of crosses for her forwards to latch onto every match.
Jazmine Reeves (Virginia Tech) – If you want speed, speed and more speed, Reeves is your player. The Hokies senior marksman has 10 goals this season and has proven how lethal her speed is already on a big stage this season. In the ACC semifinal against Virginia, she got around the defense twice and purely outpaced the entire Cavaliers team to the goal. Expect to see her play wide and try to run onto a lot of balls over the top and down the flanks.
Megan Campbell (Florida State) – The Irish International has had a great first season in Tallahassee. Coming in as a junior, she possessed a lot of poise on the outside flank and has seven assists this year. Her big weapon however is her long throw in, which has caused several goals this season. Florida State has been able to use that as an advantage this season and should continue to do the same in the tournament.
Jordan Jackson (Nebraska) – One of the major reasons why Nebraska has had so much success this season is due to the return of Jackson to the field. After missing almost all of 2012 with knee injuries, the Senior was granted a red-shirt season and has come back with a flourish, scoring 9 goals and 10 assists. If Nebraska wants to continue this dream run, having her on the field is already a step in the right direction
Shea Groom (Texas A&M) – One of the more harder working forwards in the SEC is Shea Groom and the effort is coming full circle this season. She has put career highs in goals (13) and assists (6) and kept back lines on edge with her pace. The Aggies have a pretty good balanced attack but as we hit tournament time, there may be a few more chances falling to Groom.
Katelyn Rowland (UCLA) – The Bruins have allowed less than half a goal per match and while the UCLA back line has been tough to break down, if they do Rowland is even a tougher puzzle to solve. The Junior has started 19 of 20 matches this season and has allowed 6 goals this season while posting 10 clean sheets. In this NCAA tournament format, any team that faces UCLA will be in for a tough contest.
The Players That Flew Under the Radar in 2013 & Could Make an Impact With The Spotlight on Them
Rachel Daly (St. John’s) – Daly is an English International who had to sit out 2012 due to NCAA compliance regulations. However in her first season she left a mark that will be very hard to duplicate. Her 22 goal mark put her as co-goal scoring queen for the NCAA and her point totals should be within the top five as well. Tough opening act to follow for 2014.
Amanda Frisbie (Portland) – You may know of Frisbie as one of the top scorers for the past three seasons for the Pilots, but do you know of the Frisbie that moved to center back in her senior year and is playing that position for the first time in her career? It is a tough ask for any forward to voluntarily move back into a defensive position, but in a players senior year is almost unheard of. But after making a smooth transition to the back, she is a threat at both ends. As a team, Portland gave up an average of less than a goal a game with Frisbie on the back line. Oh, she still rememberd how to score too, as she finished the regular season with seven goals and an assist.
Rafaelle Souza (Ole Miss) – The Brazilian Youth International has put together a nice resume in her three seasons at Ole Miss. 2013 stands out for Souza as she bagged 19 goals and helped her team a punch a ticket to the SEC Semifinals. Plus to cap things off, she got called into the Brazil camp for the match against the United States this past weekend. Expect a few more fireworks from Souza in her last few matches with Ole Miss.
Micaela Castain (Washington State) – As a senior you always want to leave with your best results, and that is what Castain has done with Washington State. She scored 11 goals (tied a single season high) this season and has 11 assists (a career high) and led the Cougars to an impressive second place finish in the Pac-12 standings, the best in program history in the conference.
Tesa McKibben (Saint Francis (PA)) – McKibben owns an honor that nobody else in collegiate women’s soccer has accomplished. The senior striker picked up her 4th consecutive Northeast Conference (NEC) Player of the Year award, making her the first person ever to win a conference Player of the Year award four years in a row. That is a remarkable accomplishment at any level. And McKibben’s stats speak for themself: 19 goals, 50 points, 176 career points (leads all active players in Division I) and McKibben will have her chance to show the nation why she deserved all the accolades during the tournament.
Rating the Number 1 Seeds
Virginia- Virginia had the perfect regular season, both record wise and their play on the field. They got all the breaks they needed to keep that perfection streak alive and the soccer they played was fun to watch. Then the ACC semifinal happened and the Cavs got humbled by Virginia Tech. On one hand, it’s devastating to see the perfect record go and not to win a conference championship. On the other hand, the positive to take from the loss is that Steve Swanson’s side gets a second chance to make things right in the NCAA Tournament. Klockner Stadium has been a fortress and with a number 1 seed they will host matches straight through until the College Cup. They have an interesting road to get to before Cary as potentially they could meet Georgetown, Penn State or Wake Forest and Michigan or a defensively stout Marquette side from the Round of 32 onwards. But the Cavs have triumphed through tough roads all season long, so don’t expect anything different in the next few weeks.
Virginia Tech- The Hokies are always lost in the mix of all the ACC teams when it comes to postseason. Put them in any other league and they would dominate. But in the ACC they are just one of many quality sides. But this year Virginia Tech has turned heads left and right with their results, including a run of nine straight games unbeaten in ACC play. They play a upperclass-laden lineup and in getting to the ACC Championship game boosted them up over UCLA to get a top seed. As for their road to the College Cup, West Virginia will be a tough potential match up in the second round and Santa Clara looming in the Sweet 16. If they get through that, there’s either Florida or UCF in the Elite 8, both quality sides. The Hokies might have the toughest of the four number one seed roads to Cary.
UNC- NCAA Tournaments always come with a similar agenda, never count the Tar Heels out, no matter the type of regular season they had. The defending champions have a lot of pieces still in play from last season and while they have lost a few matches here and there, Anson Dorrance always finds something more from his players at this time of year. Key factor though is Crystal Dunn, as mentioned earlier if she can get back in the lineup for the second round, they will be fine. If she doesn’t, opposing teams might have the confidence to go to Fetzer Field and get a result through the latter stages of the tournament. However, UNC might catch a break there as the first two rounds could be straight forward results for the Tar Heels, but after that leaves Texas A&M in the Sweet 16. Win all three of those matches and UNC could find themselves with the tastiest match up in the whole tournament, an Elite Eight clash at home against UCLA with a spot in the College Cup at stake. That could turn out to be a classic.
Florida State- With Mark Krikorian as head coach, Florida State has reached the College Cup five times in eight seasons, including the last two. But in that stretch, they have only gotten to the final once, which came back in 2007 as they lost to USC in the final. So there is always a question of can Florida State win the big game? Well, the Seminoles have already done a pretty decent job on that end by winning the ACC Championship and have one of the best defenses in the nation. Of the four number one seeds, Florida State has perhaps the easiest quarter to handle. There is the potential for a lot of western based teams to travel cross-country to a humid Tallahassee for the later rounds. Combine the weather with Florida State hardly ever losing at home in the past few seasons, it all plays into Krikorian’s hands.
Non-Number 1 Seeds Who Could Crash the College Cup Party
UCLA- A lot of people were stunned to see that UCLA did not get a number one seed. They ran through their schedule with hardly a blemish and cruised to the Pac-12 Conference Title. Teams also know is that the Bruins have a stingy defense as they have only surrendered seven goals this season, plus there is a lot of depth on the roster. They can go five, maybe six subs deep and not suffer a drop in quality. But with that number two seed brings it’s share of troubles: a potential third round match with either Stanford or South Carolina and as mentioned, the possible match of the tournament with a Elite Eight contest at North Carolina. But with their tight defense and depth, that could cancel out UNCs high pressure and constant subs and could leave us with a hard fought battle between two very evenly matched teams.
West Virginia- Mountaineer nation have come to expect their team to be in the NCAA Tournament every year. This will be their 14th consecutive trip to the tournament but outside of an appearance in the Elite Eight in 2007, they haven’t had a whole ton of success going deep into the tournament. That came full circle last season after getting upset by Princeton at home after losing in the First Round of the Big 12 Quarterfinals. This year West Virginia cruised through the season to win both the Big 12 Regular Season and Postseason Titles. This year could be different from other years because of that X-factor with Frances Silva. She does it all on the front line and if West Virginia are in need of a goal, look to her to score it or to supply it to someone else. But with a second round match at Virginia Tech was not what Nikki Izzo-Brown was hoping for. If they do get past the Hokies however, the road gets only steeper.
Texas A&M- One season was all G Guerrieri’s team needed to find success again, after a rough maiden voyage into the SEC. The Aggies won both the regular season championship and the SEC Conference title in 2013. The one thing that could hurt A&M is playing games on the road while leaving their comfort zone at Ellis Field. They have only played 6 true road games this season and went 4-2 in those matches. But with a veteran experience willing to get rid of last year’s 3rd round thrashing they received from Florida State last year, that may be the motivation they need to get to Cary. And they will need all the motivation they can get to get to the College Cup, with a potential 2nd Round/Sweet 16 weekend of facing former Big 12 rival Texas Tech and potentially North Carolina.
Florida- Florida may have the best chance of this lot to crash the party come College Cup time. The Gators are loaded with Freshmen and Juniors, which only bodes well for the present and the future. And with the immediate impact from Savannah Jordan on the goalscoring end, that already makes Florida a dangerous team for any side. They like playing out wide on the flanks and that could help them in this tournament. The only downside with having all these young players on the field is that they might lack experience in these big games, but they got a few tough wins in the SEC Tournament so if anything that is a good starting point. As for their draw, their earliest test could be UCF in the Sweet 16 but if they catch the Golden Knights off guard Virginia Tech is a team that could play right into Head Coach Becky Burleigh’s game plan, which is to match Virginia Tech’s speed for speed and isolate the wing play.
Powers That Could Go Home Early
Georgetown- The Hoyas have been solid this season and have a good amount of quality players, including Daphne Corboz, who scored seven goals and had 12 assists in just 13 matches. But with the split of the Big East, they have not played a hard schedule. And the times where they had a chance to make a statement win, they got outplayed (4-0 regular season loss to Marquette and a 1-0 loss to DePaul in the Big East semifinals). They should get through Round One but after that, they face Virginia at Virginia, which will be too much for the Hoyas to handle.
Stanford- Paul Ratcliffe’s Cardinal have had a rough season. From seeing their home winning streak evaporate to losing veteran goalkeeper Emily Oliver to recurring head injuries to finishing a distant 4th place in the Pac-12. The one thing that Stanford has going for them is they are 7-1 on the road. And they will have to play more than one road game to get to Cary this season. Cal State Fullerton is no pushover of a team and if they get through that first round match, South Carolina will be more than up to putting in a good effort.
Notre Dame- For a season that started off so brightly, it has been a downward spiral ever since October. After starting the season 9-1-0, the Fighting Irish went 2-6-1 in the back half of the season, mostly due to the increasing difficult schedule they played in the ACC versus their Big East conference schedule. And what’s worse, they are on upset alert as they host a very good Iowa team. Their wins over Michigan and Penn State (twice) are no fluke efforts. If Iowa keeps the match to a tight, low scoring effort, they have a very good chance to end Notre Dame’s season quickly.
Teams That Could Make Some Noise
Marquette- The Golden Eagles went a perfect 10-0-0 in Big East play and rely on tough defense and clutch goal scoring. And that is the recipe for success in the NCAA Tournament. The one thing that could hold them back is their lack of getting good results on away from home against top teams, as they lost to both Portland, UCLA and then getting stunned by Illinois State right before conference play. Fortunately for Marquette as a 2 seed, they could host the first three matches at home and against all teams they can beat. But can they do the same thing if they travel to Virginia on the road in the Elite Eight? That is the question that could define their season.
Portland- The Pilots play a very predictable possession style of play. They do not have a problem keeping the ball on the ground and putting their opponents to sleep. That helped them this season as they allowed less than a goal per game. Portland also averages around two goals per game so if they play to their style, they can be successful. Add in their previous pedigree of getting to the big stage always gives the Pilots a fighting chance. Their draw is very sneaky however as they run into Seattle University, who makes it’s first appearance at an NCAA Division I tournament after winning 17 matches and the WAC this year. However, if they get through that match, Washington State is another tough ask. It’s going to be a mental battle of will if Portland sees themselves getting to the Elite 8, but they have the tools to do it.
Boston College- Not a whole lot of people had the Eagles making the ACC tournament in 2013. But they are an exciting team to watch because they score a lot of goals but give up a good share of them too. They have unearthed a striker in Mckenzie Meehan, who bagged 17 goals in just her sophomore season to go along with Stephanie McCaffrey’s 12 goals. But between the two, they scored 29 of the teams 37 goals, so it will be imperative for those two to find the mark early in the tournament. A Beanpot match up against Northeastern in the first round follows a potential trip to Nebraska in their early draw. Those two teams could get blown away by the goal scoring front and if that happens, all roads lead to an Elite 8 clash at Florida State, who BC took to the ropes in the regular season when they took a 2-0 lead in Tallahassee only to lose 4-3 late on.
Who’s This Year’s Princeton?
The funny thing about this years draw is there isn’t a whole lot happening for the mid-major conference champions. Mostly because the best candidates lost out in their conference finals, which included Radford, Navy, Stephen F. Austin among others. That leaves Monmouth, Boston University and Seattle University left. BU already has a manageable first round match at home to Harvard before playing Virginia Tech. Monmouth could give Penn State a battle and they have a pair of senior forwards that could do some damage, in Dana Costello and Monique Plescia. Seattle as mentioned plays Portland in an I-5 match up but similar to the MLS and NWSL, the Rose City side should manage the contest. But probably the best chance of a mid-major winning their first round match against a Top-25 side could be La Salle, who won the A-10 Conference. They face Georgetown who is already in a fragile state and the Explorers have a top striker in Kelsey Haycook, who scored 15 goals and had 11 assists in 2013. Bank on them to give Georgetown a good run.
Final Four and Championship Predictions
Virginia over North Carolina (who barely gets to Cary after a long battle against UCLA) and Florida State over Florida in the College Cup semifinals. Which sets up Virginia and Florida State for the National Championship after these two sides played a tight 1-0 contest at Virginia during the regular season. But with this match begging for a goal, maybe two, set pieces edge towards Florida State so get your Tomahawks out, because Florida State will be the 2013 NCAA Division I Women’s Soccer National Champions.
Hope you all enjoyed our preview of the NCAA Tournament. So get your brackets (right this way) together and sit tight, because there is still a lot of good soccer left to be played. Also, let us know who you think will get to the College Cup and win the National Championship in the comments section below.
JJ Duke graduated from Rider University in New Jersey with a degree in Digital Media Studies. While his playing days may have ended back in high school, he still prides himself of being a decent shot-stopper and an all-around fanatic of the beautiful game (fervent supporter of Manchester United and the founder of a Rider supporters group, the 206 Ultras). He is the Student General Manager at 107.7 The Bronc at Rider and has contributed to various local newspaper and Web sites in the Trenton, NJ area of high school and collegiate sports including The Rider News and Fish4Scores.com. He became involved with Our Game Magazine early in 2012 when upon following OGM on Twitter, he was contacted within minutes (which caught him by surprise) by Tiffany about working with the team. After spending the summer covering the USL W-League and the WPSL-Elite league as an intern, he is looking forward to continue working with the OGM team, especially on games in the US.