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A Few Surprises As The Field Is Reduced To Eight

Three Big East Conference members advance to the Elite Eight. Number one seeded Notre Dame's season came to an end but number two seeded UCLA and number three seeded Michigan State advanced to play another day in the Elite Eight. Unseeded North Carolina topped number seven seeded Clemson and unseeded UMBC defeated number thirteen seeded Louisville to keep their magical runs alive. The highly anticipated number nine seeded Syracuse vs. number eight seeded Georgetown contest lived up to expectations with the Hoyas advancing in overtime. 


Virginia 1 - Notre Dame 0 - Down goes number one seeded Notre Dame.  In one of if not the biggest surprise of the third round of play the Cavaliers traveled to South Bend and upset the number one seeded Irish.  This was the third time the two teams had faced each other this year.  When Notre Dame thumped Virginia 3-0 in the ACC Tournament on November 9, Virginia had trouble finishing their scoring opportunities and the Irish didn't.  At the conclusion of that contest Virginia head coach George Gelnovatch referred to the mistakes his team made and stated, "We'll learn from  it and get better."   Virginia entered their Sweet Sixteen match with Notre Dame knowing that they could not allow the Notre Dame offense to get in gear. When the two teams faced each other on Sunday in the Sweet Sixteen Notre Dame outshot Virginia eleven to eight but the Cavaliers who had to play without team leader midfielder Eric Bird due to injury were able to contain the Irish offense and scored the lone goal of the contest in the 82nd minute of the game out of a free kick when sophomore midfielder Nicko Corriveau controlled teammate Pablo Aguilar's blocked shot and sent it into the back of the net.  Calle Brown had two saves in goal for Virginia and Patrick Wall had one save in goal for the Irish.  Gelnovatch stated, "We came in with a good game plan and the guys executed it. We knew that the longer the game went on 0-0, the better the chance we would find the way to get a goal.  We didn't want to give up any goals early, and the guys did a good job of that."  Virginia improves to 12-6-2 and advances to face Georgetown on Saturday, December 6 in Washington.  Notre Dame ends another successful season with a 12-5-4 overall record. Irish head coach Bobby Clark pretty much summed the contest up when he stated, "I thought we controlled the game, but full marks to Virginia. They defended well and they didn't give very many clear-cut chances and they took their chance when it came along."   


Georgetown 2 - Syracuse 1 (OT) - This one was expected to be close and it didn't disappoint.  Both teams came to play and gave it their all but a determined Georgetown team that has decided it is not going to be over until they say it is over found a way to prevail.  Senior defender Jared Rist's goal out of a corner kick put in play by senior midfielder Tyler Rudy in the first overtime period gave the Hoyas the edge they needed to top the Orange and advance to the Elite Eight.  Neither team was able to find the back of the net in the first stanza of play and the teams went into intermission scoreless.  Syracuse came out the aggressor and  took a 1-0 lead in the 55th minute of play when sophomore forward Alex Halis threaded a shot into the far side of the net out of a quick corner which was set up when midfielder Julian Buescher carried the ball into the box and skillfully sent a heel pass to Halis.  Keegan Rosenberry netted the equalizer for Georgetown in the 80th minute of play on a very athletic play when he skied above everyone and converted a picture perfect header out of a corner kick served in nicely by Rudy.  Georgetown head coach Brian Wiese stated, "The fact that we were able to equalize with ten minutes left to play on a corner, which has been our Achilles' heel all season, says a lot about this team."  Wiese added, "They didn't want it to end today, they were talking about that at halftime and talking about that heading into overtime."  Georgetown out of the Big East improves to 14-4-4 and advances to host an always competitive Virginia team on Saturday, December 6 that upset number one seeded Notre Dame 1-0.  Syracuse out of the Atlantic Coast Conference ends a banner season with a 16-4-1 overall record and by all measures looks to be a program with a lot of momentum.   


Creighton 2 - Xavier 1 - A crowd of a little more than a thousand was on hand at Morrison Stadium in Omaha to see the number twelve seeded Bluejays advance to the Elite Eight for the third time in the four seasons that Elmar Bolowich has been at the helm of the program.  Creighton got a huge momentum building goal with a little over two minutes remaining in the first half when junior midfielder Timo Pitter pushed the ball forward at speed and then sent a well timed through ball to sophomore forward Fabian Herbers  who drove it into the back of the net from the right side of the box.  The goal was Herbers' tenth of the season.  Junior midfielder Fernando Castellanos scored what proved to be the game-winning goal for Creighton in the 62nd minute when he collected and decisively drove the deflection of teammate Lucas Stauffer's shot into the back of the frame.  Xavier continued to press and closed the gap to 2-1 in the 70th minute when freshman defender Cory Brown curled a highlight-reel ball into the left side of the goal out of a free kick from thirty-five yards out but that concluded the scoring for the evening.  Xavier's Eric Osswald and Creighton's Connor Sparrow both had three saves in goal.  Creighton improves to 16-3-2 and advances to host UMBC on Friday, November 5 at Morrison Stadium in Omaha.  A Creighton team that appears to be peaking at the right time under the direction of Bolowich earns the right to host in the Elite Eight since they are the highest remaining seed in their bracket due to the fact that both number four seeded Maryland and number five seeded Indiana previously lost.   Xavier concludes the best season to date in the history of the program with a 15-6-2 overall record.  The Musketeer seniors, Matt Hill, Garrett Halfhill, Owen Steinwall, Will Walker and Eric Osswald end their tenure at Xavier with more wins (51-21-13) than any other class in the history of the program. 


UMBC 1 - Louisville 0 -  Scratch Louisville.  A crowd of 2,723 fans were present at Dr. Mark and Cindy Lynn Stadium expecting to see the hometown Cardinals defeat visiting UMBC out of the America East Conference.  It didn't happen.  Instead the UMBC giant killers win their third contest on the road and now earn the right to advance to the Elite Eight and travel once again to face the Creighton Bluejays out of the Big East Conference in Omaha on Friday, November 5.  The Retrievers have not allowed a goal in 290 minutes of NCAA Tournament play to date.  UMBC head coach Pete Caringi stated, "These guys are used to winning. I am not surprised. We are a very confident team and don't feel like we're done."  The lone goal in the win over Louisville came in the 24th minute of play when senior midfielder Mamadou Kansaye converted a penalty kick that he decisively placed in the upper left hand corner of the goal.  UMBC redshirt sophomore Billy Heavner was outstanding in goal with four saves and the Retriever backline of Marquez Fernandez, Spencer Williams, Oumar Ballo, and Jordan Becker were rock solid.  UMBC improves to 14-5-4.  The Cardinals had a 13 to 8 advantage in shots for the evening.  Joachim Ball had one save in goal for Louisville.  The Cardinals conclude their first season as a member of the ACC with a 11-8-3 overall record.  


Michigan State 2 - Washington 2 (OT) - Michigan State survives and advances 4-3 in a penalty kick shootout.  It was predicted to be a grind and it was.  This one could have gone either way but the Spartans kept their composure after falling behind 2-0 and dug deep and it paid off for them.  Damon Rensing stated, "This team has something that I am proud of, we have a winning mentality and I believe we are capable of doing it, but again there are eight teams that believe that as well." Neither team was able to score in the first half of play with Washington having an eight to six advantage in shots.  Washington came out strong in the second stanza with junior midfielder James Moberg sending a left-footed shot into the far corner of the goal after receiving a pass from  senior Darwin Jones in the 66th minute of the game.  Washington looked to be in control when they went up 2-0 in the 73rd minute on a Stephen Wright goal out of a throw-in put into play by redshirt sophomore defender Justin Schmidt.   It's often stated that a 2-0 advantage is the most dangerous lead to maintain in soccer. The Spartans got new life and the momentum of the game began to turn to Michigan State as a result of a Washington own goal when a long ball played in deflected off a Husky defender in the 76th minute to close the gap to 2-1.  The Spartans tied it in the 88th minute when senior forward Tim Kreutz chested a pass from Adam Montague and placed it into the bottom corner of the goal.  Defender Zach Carroll started the play when he sent a header to Montague.  Neither team was able to score during the two overtime periods.  Carroll, Jason Stacy, Montague, and Fatai Alashe converted their penalty kicks for the Spartans.  Michigan State improves to 12-4-6 and advances to the Elite Eight for the second consecutive season.  The Spartans will host Providence on Friday, November 5 at 1 p.m.  Washington out of the Pac-12 concludes another very successful season under the direction of Jamie Clark with a 12-5-3 overall record.


Providence 1 - UC Irvine 0 - The Friars out of the Big East under the direction of third-year head coach Craig Stewart advance to the Elite Eight for the first time in the history of the program.  Providence had a nine to two advantage in shots and the best of the run of play at the end of a scoreless first half of play but as this one progressed, it had the look and feel of either a scoreless game that was destined to go into overtime or a contest that would be decided by a single goal.  Redshirt senior forward Markus Naglestad gave Providence the edge they needed when he produced the lone goal of the contest out of a free kick when he deftly placed a ball over the UC Irvine wall and  into the back of the net from around thirty-five yards out in the 77th minute of play.  The goal was Naglestad's team leading tenth and third game-winner of the 2014 season. Providence had a seventeen to eight advantage in shots for the evening. Redshirt junior Michael Breslin had four saves in goal for UC Irvine.  Redshirt senior Keasel Broome who has been brilliant in goal for the Friars all season had a two save evening. The Friars improve to 15-4-2 and advance to face Michigan State out of the Big Ten in East Lansing on Friday, December 5.  UC Irvine under the direction of first year head coach Chris Volk concludes an extremely productive 2014 season with a 16-4-3 overall record.  The sixteen wins match the program's highest single season win total.  Volk stated, "We weren't as dangerous (offensively) as we had been in previous games."  He added, "Credit to Providence.  I thought they were well-organized. They scored an incredible free kick and deserved to move on."    


North Carolina 2 - Clemson 1 - The unseeded Tar Heels continue to take care of business with a huge 2-1 win on the road over fellow Atlantic Coast Conference member and number seven seeded Clemson.  A confident North Carolina team advances to the Elite Eight for the sixth time in the past seven years and will now travel to the west coast to face UCLA on Saturday, December 6.  Senior forward Rob Lovejoy scored twice to power the Tar Heel attack.  Lovejoy's first goal came in the 13th minute of the game when he converted a header out of a corner kick served in by sophomore midfielder Omar Holness.  Clemson knotted the score at 1-1 ten minutes later when Kyle Fisher converted a penalty kick when the Tar Heels were called for a foul in the box.  Lovejoy's game-winning goal came in the 71st minute when he cleanly drove a shot into the lower-right corner of the goal to give North Carolina the edge they needed to top the Tigers at Historic Riggs Field.  Brendan Moore was solid in goal for North Carolina with a seven save evening.  Andrew Tarbell had two saves in goal for the Tigers.  North Carolina improves to 15-5-1.  Clemson ends a very productive season with a 12-7-3 season and a future that looks very promising. 


UCLA 3 - California 2 -  This one figured to be a high scoring affair with the big question mark being which team could get rolling on offense and contain the other on defense.  The third time proved to be a charm for the Bruins who lost to California 3-2 in overtime and 1-0 when the two teams met during regular season play.  UCLA drew first blood when freshman defender Chase Gasper decisively elected to direct a header into the far side of the goal in the 30th minute of play with a double assist from Abu Danladi and Leo Stolz.  Sophomore midfielder Brian Iloski gave the Bruins a 2-0 advantage in the 35th minute of the contest when he drove a left footed shot into the goal from thirty-yards out after receiving a through ball from junior midfielder Grady Howe.  UCLA went into intermission with a 2-0 advantage and were likely reminded by head coach Jorge Salcedo of the fact that they were eliminated in the 2013 NCAA Tournament by Connecticut when they squandered a 2-0 lead.  California started the second stanza strong when Connor Hallisey sent a bending bullet into the upper right corner of the goal from around forty yards out after receiving a pass from teammate redshirt freshman Jose Carrera-Garcia to narrow the gap to 2-1.  UCLA showed mettle when they responded five minutes later to make it 3-1 when redshirt freshman Jordan Vale placed a shot into the near post at close range after receiving a cross from playmaker Stolz who attracted a lot of attention all evening from the  Golden Bear defenders whenever he touched the ball.  California stayed in the contest and got new life when senior Stefano Bonomo scored at close range after receiving a cross in the 74th minute from Connor Hallisey.  Max Oldham was also credited with an assist on Bonomo's goal.  California had a thirteen to seven advantage in shots for the evening that included an eight to three advantage in the second half but when it was all said and done a determined but porous California defense that has allowed a total of thirty-four goals this year proved to be the Golden Bears Achilles heel.  California head coach Kevin Grimes stated, "I couldn't be more proud of our seniors. They left everything on the field tonight, and every one of them had a great game." The number fifteen seeded Golden Bears conclude a productive 2014 season with a 11-7-1 overall record.  Bruin head coach Salcedo stated, "Tonight was a great win against a really good Cal team." He added, "For us to respond after they scored their first goal, to make it 3-1, was very important to us winning the match." The number two seeded Bruins improve to 13-4-4 and advance to the Elite Eight where they will host an unseeded but very talented North Carolina team on Saturday, December 6 at Drake Stadium.