Wake Forest and Stanford Prevail To Round Out A Stellar College Cup Field

Wake Forest tops fellow ACC member Virginia Tech 2-0 and Stanford took to the road and came away with an impressive 2-0 win over Louisville to claim the two final spots in the College Cup and set up what looks to be a really intriguing College Cup (Final Four) .

#2 seed Wake Forest  2 - Virginia Tech 0 - Wake Forest defeats fellow Atlantic Coast Conference member Virginia Tech to return to the College Cup for the fifth time in the history of the program and the first time since the 2009 season.  

Last year the Demon Deacons' season came to an earlier than desired end in the Elite Eight when they were upended at home by eventual National Champion Stanford 2-1 in overtime to conclude their season with a 17-3-2 overall record.  This year a very experienced and determined Wake Forest team was not about to suffer the same fate. 

However the outcome of the contest with an equally determined Virginia Tech team was in doubt until the eightieth minute of the game when senior midfielder and playmaker Ian Harkes sent a pass into the box to freshman midfielder Ema Twumasi who controlled it and skillfully created the separation he needed to drive a low shot into the back of the net to break the ice and give Wake Forest a 1-0 advantage. Twumasi then in effect put the contest on ice for the Demon Deacons a little over two minutes later when he alertly sent the rebound of his own shot back into the net to make it 2-0 Wake Forest before a crowd of 3,410 fans that were on hand at Spry Stadium in Winston Salem.

Freshman goalkeeper Andreu Cases Mundet, who assumed the starting role between the pipes several  contests ago when redshirt senior Alec Ferrell sustained an injury, had a one save evening to notch his fourth shutout to date and the thirteenth for the program this year. Mundet was supported by a tenacious Wake Forest backline consisting of junior Kevin Politz who is in his third year as a starter, sophomore Logan Gdula, freshman Alex Knox and sophomore Sam Raben who is in his second year as a starter.  The Wake Forest defense has allowed a total of only eleven goals this year.

Junior and team captain Ben Lundgaard had six saves in goal for Virginia Tech.

Wake Forest powered in part by one of the best midfields in the country got the best of the run of play and pressed the attack throughout the contest with an eighteen to five advantage in shots for the evening including an eight to one advantage in shots on goal.  

The ACC Champion Demon Deacons improve to 18-2-3 overall and are now unbeaten in their last twelve contests.  You have to go back to the end of September to find a contest in which Wake Forest came out on the short end of the score.

Virginia Tech under the direction head coach Mike Brizendine finishes an impressive breakthrough type year with a 13-5-4 overall record.  The success and progress that the Hokies experienced this year would not have likely been foreseen by even the most diehard Virginia Tech supporter.  Virginia Tech capped off a banner season with wins over East Tennessee State, number ten seed Charlotte, and number seven seed Indiana to advance to the Elite Eight. Look for the 2015 campaign to be a springboard for continued success on the pitch in the future for the Hokies.

Wake Forest under the guidance of second year head coach Bobby Muuss continues to display a very productive multi-dimensional attack and very solid play on the defensive side to the ball.  The Elite Eight win over Virginia Tech sets up an interesting match between Wake Forrest and an equally hot University of Denver team that also has a dangerous multi-dimensional attack and a defense that has allowed only eleven goals this year. 

Muuss had a successful eight season tenure as the head coach at Denver before leaving to accept the head coaching job at Wake Forest.  Denver's second year head coach Jamie Franks was an assistant coach at Denver under Muuss and is no stranger to the program at Wake Forest having had a very productive tenure there as a player and as a member of the 2007 Demon Deacon squad that won the National Championship. 

While the linkages with Muuss and Franks may make for an interesting story line they will not have any impact on the outcome of the contest between the Deacons and the Pioneers. What is important is that this will be the first time that either Muuss or Franks will have been the head coach of a team in the College Cup. 

The Wake Forest and Denver contest is scheduled to get underway in Houston on Friday at 6 p.m. EST and will be shown on ESPNU.  This contest between two very hot teams falls into the category of a "something has to give" match.

#5 seed Stanford 2 - #4 seed Louisville 0 - The Stanford Cardinal out of the Pac-12 representing the hopes of the west coast took their act on the road traveling to Louisville where they secured an impressive road win over the Louisville Cardinals out of the ACC.  The victory enables Stanford to continue their quest for back-to-back National Championships.  Winning one National Championship is a real accomplishment but winning consecutive national titles rarely occurs. 

The Cardinal who entered the season without five key and experienced starters had huge gaps to plug on both sides of the ball but they have continued to gel and improve as the season progressed.  Stanford head coach Jeremy Gunn summed it up perfectly and accurately when he stated, "We graduated out incredible players and people that had been heartbeat of the team. What you hope as a staff is to create a culture that celebrates graduating on great players and then cultivates the next great player to come along.  That's what we've managed to do this year." 

Junior forward Foster Langsdorf, who has continually displayed the ability to come up with big goals in clutch situations, converted a header out of a corner kick served in by freshman midfielder Derek Waldeck in the sixty-fourth minute that gave Stanford the important first goal of the contest and a 1-0 advantage.  The goal was number fifteen on the season for Langsdorf and his eighth game-winner to date.

Redshirt sophomore midfielder Sam Werner contributed the insurance goal for the Cardinal when he sent a picture perfect bending ball out of a free kick into the back of the frame from twenty-eight yards out in the seventy-ninth minute of the match.

Redshirt junior Andrew Epstein who is in his third season year as a starter had a four save evening in goal to anchor the Stanford defense behind a stout backline that features junior Tomas Hilliard-Arce who is a three-year starter, senior Brian Nana-Sinkam a three-year starter,  redshirt Tanner Beason and redshirt sophomore Adam Mosharrafa.  

Louisville concludes a very productive 2016 season with a 14-6-2 overall record.  The Cardinals advanced to the Elite Eight with wins over UCLA and Notre Dame.

Stanford continues on the road to the National Championship with a showdown on their dance card next Friday with another ACC team, number ten seed North Carolina (14-3-3). This matchup features two teams who like to attack but also have been very solid on the defensive side of the ball.  The Tar Heels have only allowed a total of ten goals to date while Stanford has only allowed opponents to find the back of the net a total of fourteen times and has recorded five consecutive shutouts. 

Both teams had to go on the road and win a tough contest to advance to the College Cup.  North Carolina traveled to Syracuse in the Sweet Sixteen and came away with a hard fought 1-0 win while Stanford had an equally daunting task when they traveled to Louisville in the Elite Eight.

Stanford has the advantage of having the experience of being in the College Cup environment last year.  North Carolina has not been on that stage since the 2011 campaign. However Tar Heel mentor Carlos Somoano like Stanford's Gunn has been there before.  Somoano has stated, "We're going to Houston with high ambitions. We're not going there to celebrate, we're going there to achieve." 

This contest, which is slated for Friday night at 8:45 p.m. EST, will be carried live on ESPNU.  It has the makings of a contest that could come down to the wire.


Denver and North Carolina Advance To The College Cup

The two Elite Eight games played on Friday night were nail biters with one goal determining who advanced to the College Cup. Denver and North Carolina punch their ticket to Houston. The remaining two tickets will be decided today.   

#6 seed Denver 1 - #3 seed Clemson 0 - Denver traveled to the east coast and came away with the biggest win to date in program history when they topped Clemson at Historic Riggs Field.  

This showdown between two of the best teams in the country came down to containment on the defensive side of the ball and which team was able to find a way to come up with the big play on the offensive side of the ball. 

This one could easily have gone either way but Denver got the edge they needed to prevail when junior centerback Kortne Ford, who has been dangerous all year out of set pieces, drove a header from six yards out into the back of the net out of a free kick in the eighty-ninth minute of the contest. The goal was set up by a beautiful service into the box from midfielder Alex Underwood that Ford ran onto and decisively placed into the back of the frame to shock the partisan Clemson crowd and send the Pioneers into the College Cup for the first time in the history of the program.

Both teams were solid on the defensive side of the ball all evening showing a ton of grit and determination.  Redshirt sophomore Nick Gardner had two saves in goal for Denver. The Pioneer backline of redshirt senior Reagan Dunk,redshirt sophomore Scott Devoss, junior AJ Fuller,and Ford were once again rock solid as Denver effectively contained a very productive Clemson offense to record its fourteenth shutout of the 2016 campaign.

Clemson had eleven shots for the evening while Denver had eight, five of which were in the second half. Both teams had two shots on goal and both had two corner kicks.

Clemson sophomore netminder Ximo Miralles had a one save evening between the pipes for the Tigers behind a solid backline of sophomore Patrick Bunk-Andersen, senior Inman Mafi, and freshman Malick Mbaye.

It was a heartbreaking loss for a Clemson team that concludes another very successful season with a 14-4-5 overall record.  Tiger head coach Mike Noonan stated, "First of all, congratulations to Denver.  It was a hard fought game and both teams played well."  He added, "Before the game, there were three things I told the team that would not change despite the result: I believe in them, I trust them and I love them. That has not changed. We're disappointed as a team, and for the fans, but, we'll be back."

Denver improves to 20-0-3 and will next face the winner of the Virginia Tech at Wake Forest contest in the College Cup.  The Hokies (13-4-4) and the #2 seed Deacons (17-2-3) will square off on Saturday at Spry Stadium in Winston Salem at five p.m.

#9 seed North Carolina 1 - Providence 0 (ot) - Redshirt junior midfielder Drew Murphy, who transferred to North Carolina this year after playing portions of three seasons at UC Santa Barbara but whose playing time has been limited this year due to only six games as a result of a foot injury, netted the game-winning goal for the Tar Heels in the 102nd minute of play. Murphy made a nice move from the left side of the park after receiving  a pass from freshman midfielder Mauricio Pineda to create the space and angle he needed to send a blast that deflected off Providence netminder Colin Miller and into the back of the net to trigger a UNC celebration before the partisan crowd of 4,009 at Fetzer Field in Chapel Hill.  

Redshirt sophomore goalkeeper James Pyle had two saves to help the Tar Heels record their twelfth shutout of the 2016 season. The UNC backline of senior Colton Storm, redshirt senior Walker Hume, and Alex Comsia was rock solid once again in containing a Providence attack spearheaded by senior forward Julian Gressel that has done an excellent job in the NCAA Tournament of finding a way to produce the goals needed to prevail. 

Miller was solid in goal for the Friars recording five saves.

North Carolina was the aggressor most of the night with a sixteen to six advantage in shots and a six to two advantage in shots on goal for the evening. The Tar Heels also had a six to one advantage in corner kicks.

North Carolina head coach Carlos Somoano stated, "I'm really proud of these guys for what they were able to do tonight. "We're going to Houston with high ambitions. We're not going there to celebrate, we're going there to achieve."

Providence under the direction of head coach Craig Stewart concludes a banner season in which they won the Big East Regular Season title followed by an impressive and gutsy run in the NCAA Tournament that included wins over Delaware, number one seed Maryland, and fellow Big East member Creighton to advance to the Elite Eight.

UNC improves to 14-3-3 and advances to the College Cup for the seventh time and the second time with Somoano at the helm of the program. 

The Tar Heels will next face the winner of the #5 seed Stanford vs. #4 seed Louisville contest.  The Cardinal (13-3-4) out of the Pac-12 and the Cardinals (14-5-2) out of the ACC will tangle on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Lynn Stadium in Louisville in what shapes up to be an exciting college soccer match.  

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