Three rounds down, three to go. In the final weekend of November, top teams were looking to stave off upset bids, while some unseeded teams were looking to continue their surprising runs. Let’s take a dive into how each game went down. By Brian Ludden
(Home teams are listed first)
(1) Marshall 0-3 (16) Stanford
Since 2012, only one #1 overall seed has made the College Cup. And the last time the top seed won the whole thing was in 2011. History was against top-seeded Marshall, but the Thundering Herd were hoping history wouldn’t repeat itself.
On the other side, Stanford was attempting to get back to the quarterfinals for the first time in four years. Jackson Kiil opened the scoring for #16 Stanford, scoring in his second straight match. A clipped ball into the box found Noah Adnan, before falling to the feet of Kiil as he volleyed it past Marshall keeper Gabriel Perrotta in the 16th minute. The score remained 1-0 for the rest of the first half, as Marshall went into the locker room trailing at halftime for just the third time all season.
The Cardinal doubled their lead in the 61st minute, as clever ball movement in the box led to Will Reilly putting one in off the post. Stanford held their 2-0 advantage for about 20 more minutes, before Liam Doyle put the icing on the cake in the 81st minute.
In the end, Stanford only generated three shots on goal, but scored on each of them. Only two of Marshall’s shots found the target, and the Thundering Herd were shutout for only the second time this season. Unfortunately for Marshall, it was at the worst possible time, and their best ever season record-wise comes to an end.
For Stanford, they’ll face Clemson next weekend in the quarterfinals.
(8) New Hampshire 0-1 (9) Clemson
It was a first ever meeting between New Hampshire and Clemson, as the 2021 national champions made the trip up to Durham for a round of 16 matchup.
In the first half, each side only had one shot on target, but it was the visiting Tigers who made theirs count. In the 35th minute, Alex Meinhard’s shot from outside the box was blocked by a New Hampshire defender. The ball then eluded another New Hampshire defender, before falling to Ousmane Sylla who rifled a shot past New Hampshire keeper Joseba Incera. Sylla’s fifth goal in the past four games gave Clemson a 1-0 lead heading into the second half.
According to the final stats, New Hampshire only registered two shots on goal in the second half. However, neither of these “shots” were tough tests for Clemson keeper Joseph Andema, as he comfortably secured the ball on both occasions. A late corner kick with 30 seconds left gave New Hampshire a chance for a miracle, but they were unable to get a shot away. In the end, Sylla’s goal was enough for Clemson to send them through to the quarterfinals. Sylla will look to continue his fantastic form and extend his four-match goal streak next weekend at home vs. Stanford.
(5) West Virginia 2-1 Vermont
After taking down one seeded Sun Belt team in the previous round, Vermont went down to Morgantown looking to pull off another upset. West Virginia was looking to get back to the quarterfinals for the second time in three years.
It didn’t take long for the scoring to start in this one, as West Virginia’s Yutaro Tsukada gave the Mountaineers the lead in the 4th minute. After Vermont gave away the ball on their own side of midfield, Marcus Caldiera was able to take advantage and push forward, eventually finding Tsukada. The senior, who now has 11 goals on the season, was able to get past the keeper and find the back of the net after just three minutes.
The Catamounts got back on level terms a half hour later, as Carter Johnson’s shot took a big deflection to take it past West Virginia keeper Jackson Lee. The score remained 1-1 for the rest of the first half, and a good chunk of the second half. But as the clock hit 81 minutes, a corner from Frederik Jorgensen was met by Max Broughton, who directed his header into the net giving West Virginia a 2-1 lead. Johnson got a chance to deliver an equalizer for Vermont, but his shot in the 89th minute was saved by Lee.
West Virginia held on for the 2-1 victory, and will host Loyola Marymount in the quarterfinals.
Loyola Marymount 1-0 James Madison
In the lone third round matchup featuring two unseeded teams, it was a single goal that separated the two sides. James Madison was looking to win a third straight road tournament game, while Loyola Marymount was hoping to advance to the quarterfinals for the first time in program history.
James Madison started with a few chances, registering five corner kicks in the first 12 minutes. The Dukes also forced LMU keeper Massimo Oedekoven Pomponi into four saves in the opening 10 minutes, but couldn’t find the net.
After a goalless first half, the second 45 started the same way. But midway through the second half, we finally had a breakthrough. A cross from Loyola Marymount’s Jovan Prado found the feet of Tyger Smalls. Smalls played it back into the middle, where Ryan Kingsford comfortably scored from just a few yards out. The Lions took the lead in the 67th minute, and would not give it up. James Madison was able to generate a few more shots on target, but were unable to find an equalizer.
Loyola Marymount will make the cross-country journey to face West Virginia in Morganton with a College Cup spot on the line.
North Carolina Region
(3) North Carolina 2-2 [5-3 PKs] (14) Hofstra
Hofstra came into the day with the goal of reaching their first ever NCAA Tournament quarterfinal, while North Carolina was seeking their 14th quarterfinal appearance. It took a late equalizer and then penalty kicks, but when the dust settled, it was the home team celebrating and moving on to the quarterfinals.
It was the visiting team who struck first, as a glancing header from Ryan Carmichael fell to the feet of Teddy Baker. Baker then beat North Carolina keeper Andrew Cordes from close range, giving Hofstra a 1-0 lead in the 18th minute.
It didn’t take long for the Tar Heels to respond, however, as Ahmad Al Qaq got on the end of an Andrew Czech cross, and directed his header into the goal from close range. But the game didn’t stay level for much longer, as just six minutes later, Hofstra retook the lead. A poor pass along the backline was intercepted by Carmichael, giving Carmichael a one-on-one with Cordes. Carmichael came out on top, beating Cordes and giving the Pride a 2-1 lead at halftime.
It took nearly the entire second half for North Carolina to respond, but in the 86th minute, they found the equalizer that they were looking for. Quenzi Huerman floated a deep ball into the box, where Martin Vician rose highest and nodded the ball past Hofstra goalkeeper Wessel Speel.
Neither side could get the winning goal in extra time, meaning that spot kicks from 12 yards out would determine a winner. After both sides scored their first penalty kick and North Carolina converted their second, Hofstra’s Stefan Mason saw his kick saved by Cordes. The #3 seeded Tar Heels scored each of their remaining three kicks, with Czech scoring the clincher in the fifth round.
North Carolina will move on to host Oregon State in the quarterfinals.
(6) SMU 1-7 Oregon State
The most shocking result of not only the tournament, but likely the entire season, came on Saturday night in Dallas. SMU was trying to get back to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2019, while Oregon State sought to advance to the quarterfinals for just the second time in program history.
The day started off nicely for SMU, as Niv Berkovitz opened the scoring in the 7th minute, giving the Mustangs a 1-0 lead. But that would be the last time SMU got on the scoreboard. At the other end, Arnau Farnos equalized shortly after the 30 minute mark, beating SMU keeper Cole Johnson at his near post. In the 44th minute, Dante Williams put Oregon State ahead. Johnson had made the initial save on Ellis Spikner, but Williams was on the scene to turn home the rebound.
Less than ten minutes after the break, Oregon State extended their lead through Logan Farrington, who pounced on another rebound. Vicente Castro and Williams each found the back of the net in the 62nd and 67th minutes, extending Oregon State’s lead to 5-1. Farrington scored his second of the night and Oregon State’s sixth in the 72nd minute, driving through the heart of the SMU defense and leaving Johnson helpless. Finally, Spikner got a goal of his own in the 79th minute, capping off the onslaught. For the Mustangs, it’s a disappointing end to what was a successful season.
On the Oregon State side, the Beavers will travel to Chapel Hill for a quarterfinal matchup with North Carolina.
Notre Dame Region
(7) Virginia 0-1 Indiana
In a matchup between two of college soccer’s most reputable names, unseeded Indiana looked to take down another ACC opponent and pull off another upset. Virginia, on the other hand, was trying to get back to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2019.
Indiana took an early lead shortly after the ten minute mark, as a cross from Maouloune Goumballe found Collins Oduro. Oduro did the rest with a one-touch finish past Virginia keeper Joey Batrouni, giving the Hoosiers a 1-0 advantage. Indiana took that lead into the halftime break, but Virginia had a chance for the equalizer shortly after the restart. A low shot from Elias Norris in the 47th minute forced Indiana keeper JT Harms into a diving save down to his left. Virginia created another good chance in the 67th minute, as Albin Gashi sent a long ball forward to Stephen Annor. With Harms rushing out off his line, Annor flicked a header past Harms, but Jansen Miller recovered to clear the ball off the line. Annor got another good chance just a few minutes later at the 70 minute mark, but his shot was cleared off the line once again by Miller.
Desperately searching for a chance to send the match to extra time, Virginia had a late penalty shout turned away by the referee, and Indiana held on for the narrow 1-0 lead. It’s the eighth straight win for Indiana, and a sixth consecutive one-goal victory.
I predicted the Hoosiers would make a run to the College Cup Final, and they are now just two wins away from accomplishing that. Next up from Indiana will be a tough in-state quarterfinal matchup at Notre Dame.
(2) Notre Dame 0-0 [4-2 PKs] Western Michigan
It was a winter wonderland at Alumni Stadium, as a layer of snow covered the field. After defeating one ACC team, Duke, in the previous round, Western Michigan was hoping to pull off another shock and reach their first quarterfinal. Facing the daunting task of going against the #2 overall seed, the prospects of an upset became a bit more likely in the 27th minute. After a VAR check, Notre Dame’s KK Baffour was controversially shown a red card, giving Western Michigan a man advantage for the remainder of the game. Despite being down a man, it was Notre Dame who created a brilliant chance just a few minutes after the red card. A free kick fell to Kyle Genenbacher, but his shot was saved by Ethan Brandt.
Neither of the two teams were able to break through in the first half, and the second half didn’t bring any goals either. Despite still having an 11-10 advantage in terms of players on the field, Western Michigan was unable to capitalize. Notre Dame was also unable to score in extra time, and after zero goals across 110 minutes, it was on to penalty kicks.
From the onset of PKs, Notre Dame grabbed an early advantage. Notre Dame keeper Brian Dowd saved Western Michigan’s first penalty kick, and the second one clattered back off the post. The Fighting Irish in turn buried both of theirs, and despite Western Michigan scoring their 3rd and 4th kicks, it wasn’t enough. Daniel Russo scored Notre Dame’s fourth penalty kick, securing the victory.
With the win, Notre Dame moves on to the quarterfinals, where they will host a high-flying Indiana team.
Pictures from Stanford, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Indiana Athletics
Brian Ludden is a contributing writer for College Soccer News