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College Soccer News Previews The Elite Eight Matchups

An exciting slate of Elite Eight contests are on tap for this weekend.  Seven of the top ten seeds including the top four seeded teams are still standing. On Friday, #5 seed Akron faces #4 seed Louisville and #7 seed Michigan State squares off with #2 seed Indiana. On Saturday Fordham travels to face #3 seed North Carolina and #9 seed Stanford tangles with #1 seed Wake Forest. 



#9 seed Stanford (16-2-2) vs. #1 seed Wake Forest (19-1-2)

Where – Spry Stadium – Winston-Salem, North Carolina

When – Saturday, December 2, 2017 – 7 p.m.

Background – Many thought this marquee Elite-Eight matchup between two of the top programs in the country would take place in the College Cup (Final Four) but seeding dictated otherwise.  Regardless of where the contest occurs along the NCAA Tournament road, it had to happen at some point.

This is the third year in a row that the Cardinal and the Demon Deacons have faced each other in the NCAA Tournament. Stanford prevailed 2-1 in overtime in the Elite Eight in 2015 when then sophomore Foster Langsdorf converted a header out of a free kick served in by then sophomore Corey Baird.  Last year Stanford prevailed when the two faced each other in the national championship game in a contest  that was determined by a penalty kick shootout after the match was scoreless at the conclusion of 110 minutes of play.  Perhaps the third time will prove to be a charm for Wake Forest.  

The Skinny – Both teams have done three things well all year that are trademarks of a championship team. The first is the ability to find a way to win the close contests.  The second is a clearly understood identity and style of play.  The third is the ability to modify their approach when needed based on the style of play of an opponent. All three of those factors don’t just happen by accident. They reflect what Jeremy Gunn and Bobby Muuss have brought to and instilled in their respective programs and the quality of the players they have recruited.

Key Factors – Senior forwards Foster Langsdorf (13g, 6a) and Corey Baird (6g, 6a) give Stanford a duo up-top that is among the best if not the best in the country.  They play well together and complement each other which adds to their effectiveness. 

Senior Jon Bakero (16g, 14a) who has netted six game-winners is the real deal up-top for Wake Forest as reflected in the number of times that he has come through in the clutch for the Demon Deacons. 

Senior midfielder Drew Skundrich is a playmaker who adds tenacity and additional punch to a very good Cardinal midfield. Sophomore Ema Twumasi (10g, 7a) is a key part of a very talented and deep Wake Forest midfield.

The Cardinal defense which has allowed a total of only nine goals is anchored by senior center back Tomas Hilliard-Arce (3g, 3a) and redshirt sophomore back Tanner Beason (4g, 3a).  Redshirt senior Nico Corti, who assumed the goalkeeper role this year due to the graduation of All-American Andrew Epstein who was a four-year starter, has performed well between the pipes with a 0.45 goals against average. 

Senior Kevin Politz, who was named the 2017 ACC Defensive Player of the Year, has been at the heart of the Wake Forest backline; however, he has not been in the lineup recently due to injury.  Sophomore Andreu Cases Mundet, who emerged last year when he had to take the place of All-American goalkeeper Alec Ferrell who was injured during the latter part of the 2016 season, has recorded a 0.42 goal against average this year while anchoring a Demon Deacon defense that has allowed a total of only eleven goals against a very competitive slate of opponents.

Bottom Line – This is a classic “something has to give contest” in that both teams match up well with each other with no apparent weaknesses.  Stanford will be more direct in their approach.  Wake Forest on the other hand is as good as anyone in the country in terms of knocking the ball around to create space that they can exploit.  Both teams will have to remain organized and avoid getting flat on the defensive side of the ball. 

It is true that big time playmakers come up with big plays in really big games so it is highly likely that Langsdorf and Baird and Bakero and Twumasi will figure prominently in the outcome of the contest either through a goal or assist.  Give Stanford a slight edge up top, give Wake Forest an edge in the midfield, give Stanford an edge in the backline, and Wake Forest a slight edge in goal.  Stanford will have an advantage out of set pieces and Wake Forest an advantage in terms of possession. 

Combine all of that and you have the makings of a nail-biter that could very well go either way. 



 

#5 seed Akron (18-3-1) vs. #4 seed Louisville (13-2-4)

Where – Dr. Mark and Cindy Lynn Stadium, Louisville, Kentucky

When -  Friday, December 1, 2017 – 7 p.m.

Background – Louisville is one of three teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference in the Elite Eight.  The Cardinals are no stranger to the Elite Eight having played their way into it five times in the past eight seasons and for the second year in a row.  Last year Stanford defeated the then #4 seeded Cardinals 2-0 in the Elite Eight despite Louisville having a 12-6 advantage in shots.  Louisville will be seeking to return to the College Cup (Final Four) for the first time since the 2010 season when they were topped by Akron 1-0 in the national championship contest.  

Akron is one of only five programs to qualify for a berth in the NCAA Tournament in each of the past ten seasons. The Zips last advanced to the College Cup in 2015. Akron has fared well against ACC teams with wins over Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Notre Dame this year.

The Skinny – The old saying that the best defense is a good offense will likely come into play in this match. Both teams are at their best on the defensive side of the ball when they have a total team effort that begins with pressure up-top.  This matchup has the potential to have more shots than any of the Elite Eight contests.  Akron has averaged 14.5 shots per game as compared to 7.3 for opponents.  Louisville has averaged 11.8 shots per contest while holding opponents to an average of 7.6.

Both teams have shown the ability to score in multiples during a short span of time.  Lapses in play will therefore be costly.  Both of these teams will seek to control the tempo of the contest as neither wants to have to play from behind and chase the game.

Key Factors – Junior midfielder Tate Schmitt (9g, 3a), senior forward Mohamed Thiaw (8g, 2a) and senior back Tim Kubel (6g, 7a) have been the big producers on the offensive side of the ball for Louisville. All three have big play ability. The play of redshirt freshman netminder and freshman back Ziyad Fekri looks to be an X-Factor for Louisville on the defensive side of the ball.

Akron is powered on the offensive side of the ball by senior forwards Stuart Holthusen (12g, 3a) and Sam Gainford (10g, 5a).  Look for that duo to press the attack for Akron.  Sophomore Nick Hinds (6g, 4a) and redshirt senior midfielder Manuel Cordeiro (2g, 5a) are among others who add additional punch to an Akron offense that has netted a total of fifty goals.  The play of freshman center back Joao Moutinho and freshman back Daniel Strachan looks to be an X-Factor on the defensive side of the ball for Akron.

Bottom Line – This contest will no doubt have ebbs and flows which means that the team that is able to maintain their composure and play through the pressure will prevail.  The ability to put together a full ninety minutes of play is a requirement when two teams with the talent and tradition that these programs have clash with a trip to the College Cup on the line.  

Whoever scores first and is able to take their opponent out of their rhythm will have a huge advantage. Look for the teams to play conservatively at first but then again both are very capable of coming out from the get-go and trying to secure the upper hand.  Fasten your seat belts for what looks to be an action-packed match as one would expect when a number four seed and a number five seed tangle.



#7 seed Michigan State (13-3-3) vs. #2 seed Indiana (17-0-5)

Where – Jerry Yeagley Field at Bill Armstrong Stadium – Bloomington, Indiana

When – Friday, December 1 – 7 p.m.

Background – These two Big Ten teams met back on October 29 in East Lansing in a contest that ended in a 1-1 tie.  Both goals in that one came out of a penalty kick. 

Indiana has earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament thirty-one straight seasons and have advanced to the College Cup eighteen times. However, this is the first year that the Hoosiers have advanced to the Elite Eight since the 2012 season.

Michigan State is making its third Elite Eight appearance in the last five seasons and the first since the 2014 season.  The Spartans’ season has come to an end in the Elite Eight in all three of those appearances.  

IU head coach Todd Yeagley has done an excellent job this year of reengineering the Hoosier attack and in merging his newcomers in with returning players.  Michigan State head coach Damon Rensing has also done a great job of merging together the individual talents of his players into a unified and very determined team.   

The Skinny – Both teams have been solid on the defensive side of the ball.  Indiana has allowed a total of only five goals while Michigan State has allowed twelve.  Four of the twelve came in a 4-1 loss to Akron back on September 27.  Indiana has been impressive on both sides of the ball all year having found the back of the net forty-seven times while allowing only five goals.  

Key Factors – Forwards Ryan Sierakowski (8g, 3a) and DeJuan Jones (7g, 5a) have provided the firepower in the Michigan State attack having a combined eight game-winners among them. The Michigan State backline of Jimmy Fiscus, Michael Pimlott, Brad Centala, John Freitag, and Michael Wetungu and goalkeeper Jimmy Hague are capable of keeping the Indiana attack in check but the flood gates could open it they have to chase the game.   

Freshman forward Mason Toye (10g, 2a) has been a difference maker on the offensive side of the ball for the Hoosiers contributing five game-winners. Midfielders Cory Thomas (7g, 3a), Trevor Swartz (3g, 7a) and Autin Panchot (4g, 4a) are among those who add balance to the attack and have made IU a much more difficult team to contain than at times in the past. 

The Indiana backline of senior Grant Lillard and juniors  Andrew Gutman, Rece Buckmaster, and Timmy Mehl is experienced and among the best if not the best in the country.  Freshman Trey Muse has been solid in goal for Indiana but he could be the X-Factor for Indiana should the game be decided by a penalty kick shootout.    

The Bottom Line – In order for Michigan State to prevail they will have to play their best game of the year which will require a total team effort on both sides of the ball.  The Spartans margin for error is small. That means that Sierakowski and Jones will have to make an impact up-top and keep the Indiana defense from settling in and others like midfielders Giuseppe Barone and Ken Krolicki and defender Brad Centala will need to add balance to the attack. 

Michigan State has tended to come out weak at times this year.  They will have to avoid that if they hope to leave Bloomington with a win.  If they allow Indiana to get the upper hand early on it could be a difficult evening for the Spartans. 

On the other hand, Indiana has never trailed in a game all year.  While that is a good thing, it could also prove to be problematic should they fall behind and have to chase the game. 

If the Hoosiers play to their potential they should prevail.  However, if Indiana is unable to put Michigan State away and the contest goes to a penalty kick shootout the playing field is even. 



Fordham (14-5-3) vs. #3 seed North Carolina (16-3-1)

Where – WakeMed Soccer Park – Cary, North Caolina

When – Saturday, December 2 – 6 p.m.

Background – It is a real accomplishment but not a surprise for North Carolina to be playing in and hosting a contest in the Elite Eight.  The Tar Heels have advanced to this point in the NCAA Tourney in eight out of the past ten seasons.  UNC mentor Carolos Somoano, the active winning percentage leader among Division I head coaches, continues to do an excellent job of attracting talented team oriented players to Chapel Hill.  

Fordham, the only non-seeded team in the Elite Eight, has had a banner season during which they secured their first ever win in the NCAA Tournament by topping St. Francis Brooklyn in the first round of play and have advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time in the history of the program via a 1-0 win over #11 seed Virginia in Charlottesville and by advancing past #6 seed Duke in a penalty kick shootout after the contest was tied 2-2 at the conclusion off regulation and overtime.

The Skinny – No one expected Fordham to still be standing at this point in the Tourney.  The Rams showed a ton of grit in coming from behind twice to top St. Francis Brooklyn 3-2 on the road in overtime, by defeating Virginia 1-0 while allowing the Cavaliers only five shots, and by twice coming from a goal down to knot the score in the contest with Duke.

Accordingly, Fordham is playing with house money so to speak which could give them the edge if it enables them to settle into their rhythm early. On the other hand, North Carolina has been here before so that experience could give them the advantage in terms of not getting caught up in the pressure that goes with playing for the right to earn a trip to the College Cup.  

Fordham has already advanced past two seeded teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference so that should put the Tar Heels on notice that this is a very talented Fordham team which they can’t take lightly.  

Key Factors - Janos Loebe (7g, 9a) and Jannik Loebe (8g, 4a) are the go-to guys in the Fordham attack. Both have big play ability.  Senior back Matthew Lewis, sophomore back Joergen Oland, and junior goalkeeper Rashid Nuhu anchor a bend but don’t break Ram defense. 

Ten different players have scored two or more goals for a multi-dimensional Tar Heel attack that has produced a total of fifty-one goals and features Alan Winn (10g, 2a), Jelani Pieters (9g, 7a), Cam Lindley (7g, 12a) and Zach Wright (3g, 10a).  Redshirt junior James Pyle who missed a large portion of the season due to injury is back in the lineup to anchor the UNC defense and to give the Tar Heels a veteran presence in regard to NCAA Tournament play in goal.  

The Bottom Line – The Tar Heels are very effective at changing the point of attack in order to create the space they need to attack at speed and find a seam in the defense that they can exploit.  North Carolina midfielder Cam Lindley is the catalyst in the center of the park for the Tar Heels. 

The Loebe brothers add playmaking ability to the Fordham attack.  The Rams have demonstrated that they can come from behind to win.  As a result, North Carolina can’t take their foot off the gas if they expect to prevail. 

The longer the Rams hang around in the contest the greater their chances of an upset.  Having said that, the Tar Heels need to play with patience, and take advantage of the scoring opportunities that will come their way, while keeping their shape in the back to avoid allowing a goal out of a counter attack as Virginia did.  

Look for North Carolina to attack from the get-go and pull away as the contest progresses unless they give up an early goal in which case they could become the third team from the ACC to fall prey to Fordham.



  

 

Five Teams Punch Their Ticket To The Elite Eight - Saturday, November 25

Akron, North Carolina, Fordham, Indiana, and Michigan State prevail on Saturday to survive and advance to the Elite Eight. Three more will secure a spot on Sunday to round out the field.  The road to the College Cup continues. 



Akron 3 - Wisconsin 2 (ot) - The seniors on both teams came up big as they have all season in this clash between two teams who have had banner seasons.  Both teams displayed the proficiency on the offensive side of the ball and the determination that have served them well but in the end Akron prevailed in overtime when sophomore Marcel Zajac sent a ball in from the side of the pitch that senior forward Stuart Holthusen controlled and sent into the back of the frame to net the game-winner for the Zips in the ninety-second minute of the contest.  

Senior forward Sam Gainford scored from twenty-five yards out in the fourteenth minute of the match to give Akron a 1-0 lead.  Wisconsin responded when senior forward Chris Mueller made a nice move down the side to open the field of play and sent a ball into the center of the box which senior midfielder Mike Catalano sent into the back of the goal to tie it at 1-1 in the twenty-sixth minute of the match.  The score remained 1-1 at halftime. 

Gainford then gave Akron a 2-1 advantage in the sixty-seventh minute when he sent a bending ball into the corner of the frame after receiving a pass from redshirt senior midfielder Manuel Cordeiro.  Mueller and Catalano then teamed up again ten minutes later with Catalano directing the ball into the back of the net out of a free kick served in by Mueller.  The contest remained tied at 2-2  at the end of regulation which set the stage for Houlthusen's golden goal that sent Akron to the Elite Eight where they will meet the winner of the Louisville and Colgate contest which will take place on Sunday.

Philipp Schilling had two saves in goal for Wisconsin while Ben Lundt had three saves between the pipes for Akron.

Number five seed Akron improves to 18-3-1 while Big Ten Champion Wisconsin conclude a stellar season with a 12-5-5 record.   


North Carolina 2 - SMU 0 - The number three seeded Tar Heels  advance to the Elite Eight for the eighth time in the past ten seasons.  Two high powered offensive teams squared off in this one. 

UNC had a 5-0 advantage in shots during the first half of play but a stout SMU defense anchored by netminder Michael Nelson contained the Tar Heel attack and the teams went into intermission with the contest scoreless.

The Tar Heels got the breakthrough  that they were looking for just four minutes into the second stanza when sophomore midfielder Jack Skahan sent a cross into the box that was intended for senior forward  Alan Winn but nonetheless found its way into the back of the frame. 

Forward Jelani Pieters netted the insurance goal for North Carolina in the eighty-second minute of the contest  from the top of the box after receiving a nice back heeled pass from Cam Lindley that opened up the field of play and gave Pieters the space he needed to push forward off the dribble and score.   

Nelson had a four save evening in goal for SMU while James Pyle had one save in goal to secure the shutout in goal for the Tar Heels along with the backline of Alex Comsia, John Nelson, and Mark Salas.

North Carolina out of the Atlantic Coast Conference  improves to 16-3-1 and advances to the Elite Eight where they will host Fordham out of the Atlantic 10.  Fordham earned a trip to the Elite Eight by advancing past Virginia and Duke out of the ACC.  

SMU under the direction of head coach Kevin Hudson concludes the 2017 campaign with a 17-3-1 record and the most wins the Mustangs have recorded in a single season since 2006.  


Fordham 2 - Duke 2 - Fordham advances 8-7 in a penalty kick shootout - Fordham advances to the Elite Eight for the first time in program history with a gutsy on the road win over Duke in Durham.   

Number six seeded Duke looked like they might take control of the contest when senior midfielder Brian White headed in a cross played in by teammate Max Moser in just the eighth minute of the match to go ahead 1-0.  However Fordham tightened up on the defensive side of the ball and the contest remained 1-0 at half time. 

Fordham then got new life to knot the score at 1-1 when Jannik Loebe scored from inside the box in the fifty-third minute after receiving a well played cross from sophomore Bart Dziedzic.   Duke responded ten minutes later when defender Matthias Frick scored out of a corner kick served in by midfielder Max Moser to White who  set the goal up with a flick to Frick to make it 2-1 Duke.  It felt like that goal might be the difference maker but Fordham dug deep once again to knot the score at 2-2 when Dziedzic  alertly controlled a loose ball in the box and tapped it into the back of the net.

The contest remained scoreless at the end of regulation and overtime which lead to the penalty kick shootout.  Fordham netminder Rashid Nuhu had three saves during the shootout and Joergen Oland, Matthew Lewis, Matt Miller, Nuhu, Dziedzic, Vincenzo Zuccala, Connor DeFlippis and Jordan Black converted their penalty kick attempts.

Fordham advances to face North Carolina in the Elite Eight.  The Tar Heels will be the third consecutive team the Rams have faced from the ACC.  It was a heartbreaking outcome for a Duke team that concludes a very successful season with a 13-4-3 record.


Indiana 2 - New Hampshire 1 - The still undefeated number two seeded Hoosiers top the Wildcats to remain undefeated and advance to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2012 where they will host fellow Big Ten Conference member Michigan State thus ensuring that the Big Ten will have a representative in the four team College Cup.

The Hoosiers jumped out to a 1-0 advantage when redshirt junior midfielder  Cory Thomas placed a header into the upper right corner of the goal from twelve yards out after receiving a cross from defender Rece Buckmaster.  Both sides had four shots in the first stanza of play but the contest remained 1-0 when the teams headed into intermission at the conclusion of forty-five minutes of play.

Indiana upped their lead to 2-0 when midfielder Francesco Moore converted a penalty kick in the sixty-fifth minute of the match.  New Hampshire continued to press the attack and narrowed the gap to 2-1 when freshman Jacob Gould scored out of free kick put in play by defender Dante Lamb in the seventy-seventh minute.   That concluded the scoring for the evening.   

New Hampshire out of the America East Conference played its way into the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in the history of the program by  topping Fairfield 3-0 and advancing past Dartmouth in penalty kicks after the contest was scoreless.  The Wildcats conclude a very productive season with a 13-4-5 overall record. 


Michigan State 2 - Western Michigan 1 - The atmosphere was electric in this Sweet Sixteen  contest between two seeded in-state teams.  It could have gone either way but in the end number seven seed Michigan State came from behind  to top number ten seed Western Michigan. 

Western Michigan took a 1-0 lead in the twenty-fifth minute and brought the Western Michigan fans to their feet when sophomore midfielder Pepe Martinez made a nice move to create the space and the angle he needed to skillfully chip a shot into the back of the net from five yards out after receiving a pass from senior forward Jay McIntosh.

With two minutes remaining in the first half, forward Hunter Barone came up big for Michigan State when he netted the equalizer after a solid combination of passes out of a give and go situation with midfielder Giuseppe Barone.  The goal gave Michigan State momentum and sent the two teams into intermission tied at 1-1. 

Senior defender  Jimmy Fiscus alertly scored what proved to be the game-winning goal in the fifty-fourth minute out of a free kick served in by junior defender Connor Corrigan that was redirected to Fiscus by  John Freitag.  Michigan State then clamped down on the defensive side of the ball to maintain the 2-1 advantage to survive and advance to the Elite Eight where they will face number two seed Indiana in Bloomington.  The Spartans and the Hoosiers tied 1-1 when the two squared off in East Lansing on October 29 in regular season play.

Drew Shepherd had four saves in goal for Western Michigan.  Jimmy Hague had one save between the pipes for Michigan State.  

As expected, no prisoners were taken in this rivalry contest which had a combined total of twenty-five fouls.

Michigan State improves to 13-3-3 while Western Michigan concludes a impressive breakthrough 2017 campaign with a 17-4-1 record, the best in school history.  Seniors Brandon Bye,  McIntosh, Shepherd, and Zach Bock conclude their tenure at Western Michigan as the winningest class in the history of the program.

Western Michigan head coach Chad Wiseman stated, "All-in-all I don't think we could ask for a better season.  Over the past four-five years we have changed the culture of Western Michigan men's soccer and have built a championship and national-caliber program."



Sunday's Sweet Sixteen Contests

Butler at Wake Forest

Coastal Carolina at Stanford

Colgate at Louisville  

College Soccer News Previews The Sweet Sixteen Contests

The Road to the College Cup heats up this weekend when the Third Round of the NCAA Tournament gets underway with the right to advance to the Elite Eight at stake. College Soccer News takes a look at each contest and identifies what both teams likely have to do well in order to survive and advance.  



Butler (14-4-2) vs. # 1 Wake Forest

Place - Spry Stadium - Winston Salem, North Carolina

Time - Sunday, November 26 - 5 p.m.

The Skinny - Wake Forest  advanced to the Elite Eight two years ago and to the College Cup last year.  This year they hope to take things one step further and secure the national championship.  They have all the ingredients to accomplish that if they continue to do the things well that have worked for them all year but the one and done environment of the NCAA Tourney sometimes can cause a team to play not to lose instead of to win which is problematic. Perhaps the only team that can beat Wake Forest this year is Wake Forest.  Butler is very good and could pull off the upset but to do so they will have to play their best soccer of the year on both sides of the ball. 

Wake Forest will prevail if Butler is unable to contain a high octane Wake Forest attack powered by senior forward Jon Bakero (15g, 14a), Ema Twumasi (10g, 5a), Luis Argudo (8g, 6a) and Omir Fernandez (6g, 5a).  The Demon Deacon attack which has scored a total of fifty-six goals has been contained in their last two contests during which they tied Virginia 0-0 and topped Columbia 1-0 when Bakero converted a penalty kick during the last minute of regulation. 

Butler will prevail if they stay organized on the defensive side of the ball and keep Wake Forest from getting into a grove on the offensive side of the ball.  A one goal contest favors Butler.  A high scoring run and gun contest favors Wake Forest. Sophomore forward Brandon Guhl  (13, 4a) and sophomore midfielders Lewis Suddick (6g, 8a) and Isaac Galliford (3g, 7a) will have to find a way to breakdown a very good Wake Forest defense and come up with the big play or two on the offensive side of the ball that Butler must have in order to have a chance of upsetting the number one seeded Demon Deacons.

X-Factors -  The ability and toughness of the Butler backline of junior Joe Moulden, sophomore Alex Lehtinen, junior Kieran Geldenhuys, redshirt sophomore Braden Van Allen and junior Michael Peay and goalkeeper Eric Dick to contain the Wake Forest attack.    


Coastal Carolina (14-6-1)  vs. #9 Stanford (15-2-2) -

Place - Maloney Field at Laird Q. Cagan Stadium - Stanford, California 

Time - Sunday, November 26, 5 p.m.

The Skinny -  Coastal Carolina was a dismal 4-5-1 through the end of September but the Chanticleers gelled as a team in October and are undefeated in their last eleven games including a huge momentum and confidence building win in the second round of the NCAA Tournament over number eight seed Clemson.  That upset changed the landscape of the NCAA Tournament.  Had Clemson prevailed, number nine seed Stanford would be traveling to the east coast to play in the Sweet Sixteen instead of hosting a match.  Two-time defending national champion Stanford dodged a bullet in the second round of the NCAA Tournament when they slipped past a determined Pacific team in a penalty kick shootout that occurred when the teams were tied at the conclusion of one-hundred and ten minutes of play.

Stanford is the stronger team from top to bottom but Coastal Carolina is an explosive side which means that they are very capable of pulling off the upset.  The Chanticleers have been in their share of big games against marquee teams so don't expect them to be intimidated by Stanford.

Stanford will likely prevail if senior forwards Foster Langsdof (12g, 6a) and Corey Baird (6g, 5a) are able to put together the type of combinations that make the Cardinal attack difficult to defend.  Midfielders Amir Bashti (6g, 2a) and Drew Skundrich (5g, 4a) will also need to bring their "A" game. 

Coastal Carolina will likely prevail if forward Frantzdy Pierrot (10g, 4a) and midfielder Martin Melchor (7g, 3a) get into a zone on the offensive side of the ball and the Chanticleers are able to remain organized on the defensive side of the ball for a full ninety minutes plus some if necessary. 

X-Factors - The Stanford defense has allowed a total of only nine goals but they are facing a Coastal Carolina offense that they are not familiar with which could cause problems.  Both teams will attack so it should be an interesting and entertaining contest.  


Wisconsin (12-4-5) vs. #5 Akron (17-3-1)

Place - FirstEnergy Stadium - Cub Cadet Field - Akron

Date - Saturday, November 25 - 4 p.m.

The Skinny - This may be the most intriguing of the Sweet Sixteen contests because it features two very good teams who match up well.  It is going to be strength on strength which means the potential exists for one of the teams to pull away and take control as the contest progresses if they are able to find an advantage and exploit it.  The unanswered question and the intriguing part is that it is difficult to get a handle on which team will get the upper hand in this "something has to give" matchup when strength meets strength.

Akron has the advantage in terms of NCAA Tournament experience and the fact that this one is taking place on their home turf before a very supportive fan base.  Wisconsin has momentum and looks to be a team of destiny which makes them very dangerous.

Akron will likely prevail if senior forwards Stuart Holthusen (11g, 3a) and Sam Gainford (8g, 5a) are able to get into their rhythm up-top.  Sophomore midfielder  Nick Hinds (6g, 4a) is among several other Akron players who add punch to an attack that has produced a total of forty-seven goals to date.

Wisconsin will likeky prevail if senior midfielder Chris Mueller (9g, 18a) and senior forward Tom Barlow (10g, 5a) are able to exploit the Akron defense.  Senior forward  Mark Segbers (5g, 7a) and senior midfielder  Mike Catalano (8g, 1a) add additional firepower to a Wisconsin attack that has scored a total of forty-one goals.

The X-Factors - Both of these teams have seniors in key roles who are determined to advance.  They will set the pace for both teams.  However the difference maker will be the performance of the underclassmen in the back and their ability to contend with the pressure that they will face.  


Colgate (12-10-1) vs. #4 Louisville (12-2-4)

Place - Dr. Mark and Cindy Lynn Stadium - Louisville

Time - Sunday, November 26 - 5 p.m.

The Skinny - On paper this one should be all Louisville. But contests are not played on paper and who would have thought a few weeks ago that Colgate would be among the teams advancing to the Sweet Sixteen.  The Raiders' magical ride down the homestretch of the season looked to be over when Michigan jumped out to a 2-0 lead last week in the second round of the NCAA Tourney but Colgate dug deep and ended up upsetting the Wolverines 3-2 to keep their season alive.  Louisville has advanced to the Sweet Sixteen six times in the past eight seasons which is impressive but for the most part the Cardinals have not played to expectations in the NCAA Tournament.  Louisville is no stranger to the Sweet Sixteen but Colgate is traveling in uncharted waters having never before advanced this far in the NCAA Tournament. 

Louisville has the advantage in terms of overall athletic ability and big game experience.  Colgate has the advantage in that they are playing their best soccer of the year.  The Raiders maximize their individual talents by playing very well together as a team.  

Louisville will likely prevail if they play a full ninety minutes and avoid mistakes on the defensive side of the ball. Junior midfielder Tate Schmitt and senior forward  Mohamed Thiaw are excellent finishers who will likely be able to create and finish several scoring opportunities.  Senior defender Tim Kubel adds big play ability and an additional dimension to the attack out of the back. Chances are pretty good that one or more of that trio will find the back of the net for Louisville.

Colgate will likely prevail if they avoid costly lapses in their play on the defensive side of the ball, match the intensity that Louisville will bring into the contest, and stick to what has worked well for them down the homestretch of the season.  It has to be a total team effort for the Raiders to have the chance of upsetting the Cardinals.  Senior midfielder Jared Stroud is the guy who is the catalyst and playmaker for Colgate.  Look for his play in the middle third to set the pace for the Raiders.  First Team All-Patriot League selection junior Aram Ouligian is a key for the Raiders on both sides of the ball.

X-Factors - Which team will put together a full ninety minutes of play.  Colgate has come from two goals down to win in several key contests but the Raiders can't afford to spot Louisville a two goal lead if they want to keep their season alive.  On the other hand Louisville can't take their foot off the gas against Colgate or this one could be upset city. 


SMU (17-2-1) vs. #3 North Carolina (15-3-1)

Place - WakeMed Soccer Park - Cary, North Carolina

Time - Saturday, November 25 - 6 p.m.

The Skinny -  Run and gun.  Both teams have high powered offenses.  That means the play on the defensive side of the ball will be the difference maker.   In other words who can contain the other side while still finding a way to put the ball into the back of the net.  The Tar Heels can score in multiples when their attack gets in gear.  Senior forward Alan Winn (10g, 2a)  redshirt sophomore forward Jelani Pieters (8g, 7a), sophomore midfielder Cam Lindley (7g, 11a) and senior forward Zach Wright (3g, 10a) are all playmakers.  North Carolina has scored a total of forty-nine times.  Sophomore forward Garrett McLaughlin (14g, 3a) and senior forward Mauro Cichero (9g, 7a) are the big guns in the SMU attack.  Junior midfielder Emil Cuello (2g, 5a) senior midfielder Bryce Clark (0g, 4a), and freshman midfielder Nicky Hernandez (2g, 4a) are all gamers.     

Both teams have talented and battle tested and very talented goalkeepers.  Redshirt senior Michael Nelson anchors an SMU defense that has held opponents to a total of only eleven goals.  Redshirt junior James Pyle who missed a large part of the season due to injury just recently returned to the pitch for the Tar Heels.  UNC has allowed opponents to score a total of seventeen times.

North Carolina will likely prevail if Winn, Pieters, and Wright are able to break down the SMU defense and set the pace of the contest from the get-go.  Should SMU get on the board first, the Tar Heels could be in trouble.

SMU will lekely prevail if they are able to control the middle third of the field and get the ball to the feet of McLaughlin and Cichero in the attacking third. Senior defender Jordan Cano has also factored into the Mustang attack down the home stretch.   

X-Factors - You don't win seventeen games as SMU has and fifteen as North Carolina has without being very good.  The team that is able to settle in and play their game from the get-go will have a huge advantage.  Momentum will be huge. Look for the ability of the netminders to come up with the big saves they need to make to be a key.  Both SMU's Nelson and UNC's Pyle are prime timers.  However, Pyle has the disadvantage of having missed most of the season due to injury but he appears to be fully recovered and is no stranger to big games.  Also the play in the middle third featuring UNC's Cam Lindey and SMU's Emil Cuello among others will be a key factor.   


Fordham (14-5-2) vs. #6 Duke (13-4-1)

Place - Koskinen Stadium - Durham, North Carolina

When - Saturday,  November 25 - 6 p.m.

The Skinny - Who would have thought that when these two teams faced each other back on August 27 in Durham that Fordham would be returning to Durham to tangle with Duke in the Sweet Sixteen.  In that contest Duke topped Fordham 3-0 but you can throw out that score in terms of the upcoming contest as both teams now have a season of play under their belts.  

Duke has had a banner season during which they had marquee wins over Georgetown and Virginia during regular season play and FIU in the second round of the NCAA Tourney.  The Blue Devils retrun to the NCAA Tourney field for the first time since 2011. Fordham has earned a berth in the NCAA Tourney for three out of the past four seasons.  They topped St. Francis Brooklyn 3-2 in overtime and upset number eleven seed Virginia 1-0 in Charlottesville to earn a return trip to Durham and a rematch with the Blue Devils.

Duke will likely prevail if senior forward and captain Brian White (9g, 2a) has a good day on the offensive side of the ball and the Blue Devil defense anchored by freshman netminder Will Pulisic is able to contain Janos (7g, 9a) and Jannik Loebe (7g, 4a) who are the go-to guys in the Fordham attack.  However they are not the only weapons in a Fordham offense that has produced a total of thirty goals.

Fordham will likely prevail if their defense anchored by senior back Matthew Lewis who is a four-year starter and junior goalkeeper Rashid Nuhu plays with the type of intensity that they displayed in the win over Virginia and the Loebe's are able to keep the Blue Devils off balance on the defensive side of the ball. 

X-Factors - Factor number one is the abilty of center back Carter Manley and the Duke backline to contain the Fordham attack. Factor number two is the ability of the Fordham backline lead by Lewis (2g, 4a) and sophomore Joergen Oland  (5g, 0a) to contain the Duke offense while also adding an additional dimension to the offense.  


#10 Western Michigan (17-3-1) at #7 Michigan State - (12-3-3)

Place - DeMartin Stadium - East Lansing, Michigan

When - Saturday, November 25 - 6 p.m.

The Skinny - Michigan State leads the overall series with Western Michigan 33-2-8. Who would have thought that a number ten seeded Western Michigan team would be facing a number seven seeded Michigan State team in the Sweet Sixteen. This one is special indeed. In fact, it is the only Sweet Sixteen contest that features two seeded teams. A solid Western Michigan side out  of the Mid-American Conference has exceeded all expectations this year. The Broncos claimed the program's first-ever NCAA Tournament win defeating Albany 2-0 in the second round to advance to earn a rematch with Michigan State out of the Big Ten Conference. The Spartans topped Western Michigan 1-0 when the two teams faced each other in regular season play.

Junior forwards Ryan Sierakowski (8g, 3a) and DeJuan Jones (7g, 5a) have been the top goal scorers for Michigan State while Connor Corrigan (1g, 6a) leads the Spartans in assists.  This is a very good but sometimes unpredictable Michigan State squad. One of the Spartans biggest strengths has been their ability to find a way to win the close contests. A big key factor in that has been a stout defense that has only allowed an opponent to score more than a single goal in two contests this year.  

Michigan State will lekely prevail if they play with the intensity on the defensive side of the ball that has been their trademark this year. Goalkeeper Jimmy Hague and senior defender and captain  Jimmy Fiscus are the guys who must keep things organized. In particular that means containing Western Michigan senior midfielder  Brandon Bye and senior forward Jay McIntosh.  The Spartans can also help their chances by doing a better job of finishing their scoring opportunities than they did when the two teams faced each other during regular season play at the WMU Soccer Complex.  

Western Michigan will lekely prevail if their defense anchored by defender Zach Bock and goalkeeper Drew Shepherd can avoid any breakdowns particularly in the early going and keep Michigan State from getting into any kind of rhythm on the offensive side of the ball.  Midfielder Bye will also need to have a productive contest by either finding the back of the net or contributing helpers.  

X-Factors - There are several. The first is the play of Michigan State midfielder Ken Krolicki (0g, 4a) who is a workhorse and the guy who will set the pace for the Spartans.  Ditto that for redshirt junior midfielder Tommy Clark (1g, 8a) who can make good things happen for Western Michigan. The ability of someone unexpected on either team to come up with a big play is also a key factor in this type contest.  This Sweet Sixteen matchup between in-state teams that are very familiar with each other could go either way. The margin for error is pretty small for both teams so chances are good that the team that settles into its rhythm first, plays simple, and does not make costly mistakes on the defensive side of the ball will be the one that survives and advances.    


New Hampshire (13-3-5) vs. #2 Indiana (16-0-5)

Place - Jerry Yeagley Field - Bill Armstrong Stadium - Bloomington, Indiana

Time - Saturday - November 25 - 7 p.m.

The Skinny - IU is making its thirty-first consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tourney.  A spot in the NCAA Tourney is an expectation at Indiana. At Indiana seasons are judged on how far the Hoosiers advance in the NCAA Tourney.  Last year Indiana was upset by Virginia Tech 2-1 in overtime in the Sweet Sixteen.  That loss should keep the number two seeded Hoosiers from looking past a New Hampshire team that is making its second appearance in the NCAA Tournament after a twenty-three year absence.  New Hampshire advanced to the Sweet Sixteen by topping Fairfield 3-0 and advancing past Dartmouth in a contest that was decided by a penalty kick shootout after it was scoreless at the conclusion of regulation and overtime.

Indiana has allowed a total of only four goals and posted seventeen shutouts. New Hampshire has held opponents to a total of eleven goals while recording twelve shutouts. The first team to scores will have a huge advantage. Both teams will attack but chances are pretty good that the side with the lead will begin to settle into more of a defensive mode in the later part of the second half.

Indiana will likely prevail if they take advantage of the scoring opportunities particularly out of free kicks that come their way and the Hoosier backline of Grant Lillard, Andrew Gutman, Rece Buckmaster and Timmy Mehl continues to take care of business.  IU will also need freshmen goalkeeper Trey Muse, forward Mason Toye (10g, 2a) and midfielder Griffin Dorsey (3g, 6a)  to continue to contribute.

New Hampshire will likely prevail if striker Robin Schmidt is able to create and finish the scoring opportunities that come his way and if the Wildcat defense anchored by graduate student goalkeeper  Andrew Pesci can keep a very potent IU attack off the board.

The X-Factors - New Hampshire is traveling in unchartered waters and will have to avoid getting caught up in the atmosphere that accompanies an NCAA Tournament match in Bloomington.  The X-Factor for Indiana is their ability to stay focused and take it one game at a time. The Hoosiers are undefeated but their record to date includes five ties. Ties in NCAA Tournament play are settled by a penalty kick shootout during which anything can happen.