In the penultimate weekend of the college soccer season, four teams punched their tickets to the College Cup next weekend in Louisville. This year’s edition of the College Cup will feature some traditional powerhouses who expected to be here, as well as a few first-time participants. Let’s break down how each quarterfinal played out. By Brian Ludden
(Home teams are listed first)
(9) Clemson 2 (16) Stanford 0
Saturday’s fourth and final quarterfinal match featured two teams who know what it’s like to win at this point in the season. Clemson was looking to get back to the College Cup for the first time since 2021, when they won the National Championship. Stanford was attempting to get back to the national semifinals for the first time since 2019.
In front of an energetic home crowd, Clemson struck first in the 7th minute. A corner kick from Joran Gerbet found Gael Gibert, whose flicked header beat Stanford keeper Rowan Schnebly, putting Clemson up 1-0. Tyler Trimnal doubled Clemson’s lead a half hour later in the 37th minute. Arthur Duquenne’s shot was saved by Schnelby, but the rebound fell right in the path of Trimnal who had no trouble scoring into an empty net.
Clemson took a commanding lead into the break, and would hold onto that lead throughout the second half. Stanford created a few chances throughout the second 45, forcing Clemson keeper Joseph Andema into making a couple important saves. Stanford’s best chance and Andema’s best save came with less than five minutes to play, as Noah Adnan’s header forced Andema into making an impressive kick save. The Cardinal were unable to break through, with Andema making two saves to keep his sixth clean sheet on the season.
Going back to my pre-tournament predictions article, I got this semifinal spot on: Clemson will face West Virginia on Friday for a spot in the College Cup final.
(5) West Virginia 3 Loyola Marymount 1
In a matchup between two teams seeking a first College Cup appearance in program history, Loyola Marymount made the cross-country journey to Morgantown, where they met with #5 West Virginia.
It was the visitors who jumped out to an early lead in the second minute. A pass from Jovan Prado took a fortunate touch off a West Virginia defender, going right into the path of Steven Anderson. Anderson then calmly placed his shot past West Virginia keeper Jackson Lee, giving Loyola Marymount an early 1-0 lead. But it didn’t take long for the Mountaineers to respond, as a through ball from Otto Ollikainen found Luke McCormick. McCormick found the back of the net for his 7th goal of the season, leveling the match at 1 in the 9th minute.
Just seven minutes later, the hosts took the lead, as a long ball from Lee found the feet of Sergio Ors Navarro. Ors Navarro cut into the middle, and beat Loyola Marymount keeper Massimo Oedekoven Pomponi. Jackson Lee was credited with his second assist of the season. Marcus Caldeira had a chance to double West Virginia’s lead in the 56th minute as he found himself 1-on-1 with Pomponi, but his shot was saved.
The Mountaineers did indeed find a third goal, however, as Yutaro Tsukada scored his seventh goal in as many games in the 67th minute.
Loyola Marymount did have a few chances to score in the second half, including a shot off the crossbar. However, they were unable to generate a comeback and West Virginia secured a spot in the College Cup. West Virginia will now face Clemson in the College Cup semifinals.
North Carolina Region
(3) North Carolina 0 Oregon State 1
After a big 7-1 win over #6 SMU in the third round, Oregon State went to Chapel Hill looking to pull off another upset and reach the College Cup for the first time.
Oregon State had the best chance of the opening half hour, with Pere Belmonte firing his shot off the base of the post. A few minutes later, the Beavers found a breakthrough. Vicente Castro’s low cross found Dante Williams, whose first-time strike beat North Carolina keeper Andrew Cordes.
Oregon State took a 1-0 advantage into halftime, but the Tar Heels were just inches away from an equalizer in the 54th minute. Andrew Czech’s cross found the head of Martin Vician, only for Vician to see his header come back off the post. Logan Farrington had a decent chance to double Oregon State’s lead, but his shot from inside the box was right at Cordes who made the comfortable save.
With North Carolina desperately seeking a goal to force extra time, their task was made harder in the 86th minute. Following a video review, North Carolina’s Quenzi Huerman was shown a red card, forcing the Tar Heels to play the final few minutes down a man.
Oregon State keeper Luis Castillo only had to make one save throughout the 90 minutes, keeping his sixth clean sheet of the season. Oregon State will now face Notre Dame in the College Cup semifinals.
Notre Dame Region
(2) Notre Dame 1 [5-4 PKs] Indiana 1
Having already taken down two ACC teams in consecutive matches, Indiana was looking to make it a third straight win over ACC opposition and 9th straight win overall. However, nothing was ever going to be easy against the number two overall seed, and this in-state battle went all the way to penalties.
Notre Dame struck first in the 17th minute, courtesy of a Daniel Russo free kick. After Ethan O’Brien won a free kick from about 25 yards out, Russo stepped up and curled his effort perfectly around the wall and past Indiana keeper JT Harms. The Fighting Irish held a 1-0 lead until the 63rd minute, where the Hoosiers pulled even. A cross from Indiana’s Alex Barger was headed away by a Notre Dame defender, but only as far as Patrick McDonald. McDonald’s shot from outside the box flew past Notre Dame keeper Bryan Dowd and rippled the back of the net, tying the match with less than 30 minutes left in regulation.
With extra time looming, Indiana nearly had a chance to get a last-minute winner. After a Tommy Mihalic free kick was momentarily cleared, Sam Sarver’s long range shot rattled the crossbar. Seconds later, a Karsen Henderlong ball across the face of goal was missed by two Indiana players. Instead of a dramatic, last-minute winning goal to send Indiana through to the College Cup semifinals, it was on to extra time, and after no goals in 20 more minutes, penalties.
The first penalty kick was taken by Indiana’s Joey Maher, but he watched in pain as his shot bounced back off the post. JT Harms had a chance to pull Indiana level in the shootout in the second round against Matthew Roou, but the ball went through his legs as he dove to the left. Notre Dame ended up converting all five of their penalty kicks, and locked up their ticket to Louisville. As the highest remaining seed, Notre Dame will face Oregon State in the semifinals.
Picture from West Virginia Athletics
Brian Ludden is a contributing writer for College Soccer News.