Survive and advance. Sixteen teams are left standing on the road to the College Cup in Cary, North Carolina. Three of the top sixteen seeds including number twelve seed Saint Mary's did not advance. UC Santa Barbara, Louisville and Providence were the non seeded teams that played their way into the third round.
Indiana – The cupboard is never bare at Indiana. Regardless it is a tribute to the program that a team that entered the season without ten starters and with the lone returning starter a sophomore could have the type of season that the Hoosiers are having. Defender Simon Waever was the only senior in the starting lineup in Indiana's 3-0 win over Kentucky on Sunday and he transferred in this year from Evansville.
It normally takes a while for a team to jell with so many newcomers in key roles. The conventional wisdom was that Indiana would struggle somewhat early in the season and then improve as the season progressed. They have improved as the season progressed but their learning curve was very short. In fact, a good case could be made that it lasted for only forty-five minutes. After trailing Pitt 2-0 at halftime in their season opener, the Hoosiers rebounded to score three unanswered goals to win 3-2.
The Hoosiers will host UC Santa Barbara on Sunday, December 1 in the Sweet Sixteen.
UC Santa Barbara – The Gauchos selected the right time of the year to have their most complete game of the 2019 season so far. Who would have thought that UCSB would find the back of the net four times against a Saint Mary's team out of the West Coast Conference that came into their second round matchup with the Gauchos out of the Big West Conference having previously allowed a total of only eleven goals.
Perhaps the fact that UC Davis out of the Big West shocked the Gaels in Moraga 4-2 back on September 24 was a sign that UCSB might do the same. The contest looked to be up for grabs at halftime with UC Santa Barbara holding a 1-0 advantage as a result of a header from close range from senior back Noah Billingsley. The complextion of the contest changed when Will Baynham scored in the sixty-fifth minute to give the Gauchos a 2-0 lead. Saint Mary's had to chase the Gauchos from that point forward and the Gauchos used their speed and athleticism to totally take control of the match with Rodney Michael scoring twice to make the final score 4-0.
The takeaway from this contest is that UCSB has the speed, size, and experience to create matchups that can cause problems for opponents. When this team is clicking they are very dangerous. The Gauchos advance to face Indiana in Bloomington on Sunday, December 1 in what has suddenly become a very intriguing matchup.
Louisville – The difference between a win and a loss can be slight. The Cardinals didn't want to have to play from behind and chase a UC Davis team on the road that has been rock solid on the defensive side of the ball.
In all of Louisville's losses this year their opponent sccored first. Their 3-2 win in overtime against Boston College was Louisville's only win of the year in which they came from behind to prevail. So it is not surprising that the Cardinals hunkered down on the defensive side of the ball after junior forward Izaiah Jennings scored out of a counter attack in the sixty-second minute to take a 1-0 lead over UC Davis.
The Aggies were the aggressor throughout the contest as reflected in their eighteen to five advantage in shots and seven to one advantage in shots on goal but they were unable to breakthrough a very solid Louisville defense and an impressive shift in goal by junior Jake Gelnovatch who came up with the big stops that his team needed to have a chance to win.
Louisville advances to the Sweet Sixteen where they will face a Georgetown team that they upset 1-0 in overtime back on September 24.
UC Davis concludes a banner season in which they won both the Big West regular season and tournament titles. Dwayne Shaffer returns a solid core next year but will be without the services of goalkeeper Wallis Lapsley, forward Adam Mickelson, and midfielder Marte Formico among others due to graduation.
Virginia – Virginia continues to take care of business on both sides of the ball securing a 2-0 win over Campbell during which they held the Camels who have averaged 2.68 goals per game this year with fifty-nine goals to only two shots on goal.
The Cavaliers have a balanced attack that compliments their play on the defensive side of the ball. As a result the Cavaliers have the big play ability they need to prevail in the close contests that they lacked at times in the recent past.
Virginia always has talented players with great touch on the ball and impressive resumes but the very best teams to come out of Charlottesville under George Gelnovatch are the ones that combine skill with toughness. This team has both but Gelnovatch would likely be the first to say that despite the success the Cavaliers have enjoyed this year they have to continue to put together a full ninety minutes of play in order to stay alive in the NCAA Tournament.
Wake Forest – The Demon Deacons came into this one having only won only one contest in their last five games. Their lone win during that five game span was a solid 3-1 victory on the road over Louisville.
Make no mistake this is a very good and well coached team. But beginning with a 1-1 tie with Loyola Maryland back on October 22, Wake Forest appeared to be playing a step slower, had gotten away from "Wake Forest" soccer, and didn't seem to have the same level of intensity.
The Deacons needed a good win in their opening game in the NCAA Tournament and got just what the doctor ordered with an impressive 3-0 victory over an always dangerous University of Maryland team.
The Terps pressed the attack right out of the gate but Wake Forest handled the pressure well and applied pressure of their own which resulted in a Bruno Lapa goal out of a corner kick in the twenty-fifth minute followed by two scores in the second stanza. The Deacons were focused and the crowd on hand was fired up. The Wake Forest midfield consisting of Lapa (8g, 3a), Calvin Harris (6g, 3a), Malchop Chol (4g, 7a), Joey DeZart (1g, 1a) and Isaiah Parente (1g, 7a) are tough to handle when they get into a rhythm.
The Demon Deacons will host Michigan out of the Big Ten on Sunday, December 1.
Number nine seed UCF advanced to the Sweet Sixteen with a come from behind 2-1 win in overtime against a very good Missouri State team. Cal Jennings (17g, 4a) netted the game-winning goal for the Knights. This is the first time in the history of the program that UCF has advanced to the Sweeet Sixteen. UCF head coach Scott Calabrese who is in his third season at the helm of the program has done an excellent job of turning the program around. Jennings continues to give the Knights big play ability on the offensive side of the ball.
Number eight seed SMU advanced to the third round of play with a 1-0 win in overtime against a determined Coastal Carolina team with Garrett McLaughlin (16g, 5a) scoring the game-winner in overtime. SMU advanced to the Sweeet Sixteen for the third time in the five seasons that Kevin Hudson has been at the helm of the program.
UCF and SMU will face each other for the third time this year on Saturday with the higer seeded SMU hosting the contest.
It was a little surprising that UCF and SMU out of the American Athletic Conference were placed in the same bracket since the two teams faced each other two times during regular season play. Nonetheless, it sets up "UCF vs SMU number three" with this one being the one that counts the most. The two tied 3-3 back on October 6 when they faced each other in Dallas in regular season play. SMU topped UCF 1-0 when they tangled in the AAC Tournament final in Orlando on November 16.
Chances are pretty good that Jennings and McLaughlin will play a key role in the outcome.
Virginia Tech – The margin of victory for the Hokies in their 4-1 win over New Hampshire was larger than expected. New Hampshire had previously allowed a total of only seven goals.
The take away from this contest is that how a team responds after their opponent scores is huge. The turning point in this contest occurred when forward Kristo Strickler responded to score the equalizer for Virginia Tech a little over a minute after Jacob Gould's goal in the sixteenth minute of play had given New Hampshire an early lead. It is amazing how many goals are scored within a few minutes of each other. Whether it occurs because a goal by an opponent serves as a wake up call or scoring a goal causes a team to temporarily take their foot off the gas makes no difference. What matters is that a quick response shifts the momentum.
Strickler converted a header out of a free kick in the thirty-fifth minute and James Kasak sent a blast in into the back of the net three minutes later to give Virginia Tech a commanding 3-1 advantage at halftime. Junior midfielder Camron Lennon added the final score for the Hokies in the severnty-third minute.
Number ten seed Virginia Tech earns a trip to the west coast where they will face number seven seed Stanford in the Sweet Sixteen on Sunday, December 1.
Stanford – The Stanford and Seattle contest could have gone either way. There is a reason why teams practice penalty kicks.
No one is better at winning the close contests than Stanford. The Cardinal advanced past a very good and determined Seattle team in penalty kicks after the contest was tied 1-1 at the end of 110 minutes of play. Defender Tanner Beason who missed eight conference games this year due to injury is back in the lineup for the Cardinal which increases their chances of making a sustained run in the NCAA Tournament. Beason scored Stanford's lone goal in regulation out of a free kick and converted his penalty kick attempt during the penalty kick shootout.
Andrew Thomas was huge in goal for Stanford stopping four of Seattle's five attempts during the shootout.
Stanford advances to the Sweet Sixteen where they will host Virginia Tech out of the ACC on Sunday, December 1.