November 24, 2013 – What a great day for college soccer coast to coast. No day has more challenging and significant games across the country than the day in which the winners of the first round of play in the NCAA Tournament square off with the top sixteen seeds in round two. The round of thirty-two so to speak has matchups that pique the interest of the most soccer savvy and astute followers of college soccer who follow teams from throughout the country and may be torn between attending a game in person or watching as many of the live feeds of games throughout the country as possible in the friendly and warm confines of their home as well as those fans that are focused solely on one team.
Although your team may or may not have advanced and teams had to battle freezing temperatures in some venues the day didn't disappoint in terms of excitement and the overall level of play as the field was reduced from thirty-two to sixteen participants. The day featured a little bit of everything; offensive explosions, defensive battles, upsets, heartbreak, and the always frustrating but nonetheless electrifying and unique penalty kick shootouts.
College Soccer News salutes all of you who love and follow the college game and whatever your level of interest or knowledge we hope that you will find the following brief synopis of the days activity to be of interest and value. Now it's onward to the Sweet Sixteen.
#1 UCLA Region
The Contest – Elon vs. #1 UCLA
The Background – The Phoenix out of the Southern Conference topped Clemson in penalty kicks after a hard fought contest on Thursday night and then took to the air to make the trip to the west coast to tangle with the number one seeded UCLA Bruins at Drake Stadium. Head coach Darren Powell has directed Elon to three consecutive Southern Conference titles and three consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tourney. The win over Clemson was Elon's first ever win in the NCAA Tournament. Junior forward Jason Waterman is the main man in the Elon attack. Senior midfielder Daniel Lovitz, who was named the Southern Conference Player of the Year, is a four-year starter and the guy who will set the pace for the Phoenix. Junior netminder Nathan Dean has been solid between the pipes for the Phoenix. Elon is a legitimate top twenty-five team and a team that will continue to flourish with Powell at the helm but the Bruins pose matchup problems that will likely be very difficult for the Phoenix to overcome.
Reaching the NCAA Tourney is the norm at UCLA. This is the thirty-first consecutive season that the Bruins have received an invite. Seasons at UCLA are measured by how far the Bruins advance in NCAA Tourney play and frankly anything less than a trip to the Final Four isn't particularly noteworthy. This is a very talented UCLA team but they are not considered to be as strong as the vintage Bruin teams. A run to the Final Four might dispel that.
The Outcome At A Glance – UCLA 4 – Elon 0 – Victor Chavez scored twice and midfielder Leo Stolz contributed three assists for the Bruins. This one was all UCLA from the get-go with the Bruins getting on the board in the 12th minute of play compliments of a back-heel goal from Chavez with assists from sophomores Jordan Vale and Grady Howe. Senior Joe Sofia placed a ball inside the near post in the 22nd minute out of a corner put in play by Stolz to make it 2-0. Midfielder Aaron Simmons headed in a free kick served in by Stolz to make in 3-0 in the 31st minute of play. Chavez netted the fourth goal for the Bruins in the 54th minute after receiving a cross from Stolz to conclude the scoring for the evening. Credit the UCLA backline of Howe, Sofia, Michael Amick and Nathan Smith along with junior goalkeeper Earl Edwards Jr. with the shutout. Edwards had five saves in goal for UCLA. Nathan Dean had one save in goal for the Phoenix. The Bruins improve to 12-3-4 while Elon ends a very solid fifteen win season.
What's Next – #1 UCLA will host Connecticut
The Contest – Connecticut vs. #16 UMBC –
The Background – This was considered the mystery contest of the second round and was appropriately billed as a dog fight since it featured the Huskies from UConn vs. the Retrievers of UMBC. Fair or not, the intrigue centered around questions relating to the competitiveness of UMBC out of the America East Conference despite a sixteen win season to date and whether Ray Reid's UConn team out of the American Athletic Conference would live up to expectations or depart earlier than expected in the tourney as they have in recent years.
The Outcome At A Glance – Connecticut 2 – UMBC 2 – Connecticut prevails 4-2 in a penalty kick shootout. All the scoring occurred in a back and forth second half in which twice Connecticut took a one goal advantage with UMBC responding on both occasions with a goal to knot the score. UConn freshman forward Cyle Larin started the scoring just 69 seconds into the second stanza after receiving a centering feed from forward Mamadou Doudou Diof. UMBC tied it a 1-1 when Geaton Caltabiano curled a shot just inside the near left post out of an indirect kick just outside the box that was put in play by junior Mamadou Kansaye. Connecticut took a 2-1 lead when Diouf converted a header out of a corner kick put in play by teammate Adria Beso in the 74th minute of play. UMBC responded in the 77th minute when senior forward Pete Caringi II netted his 13th goal of the season via a header out of a corner kick served in by Kansaye. UMBC senior goalkeeper Phil Saunders made one stop during the penalty kick shootout but Connecticut netminder Andre Blake made two stops in the shootout to give Ray Reid's Huskies the edge they needed to prevail.
What's Next – Connecticut travels to the west coast to face #1 seeded UCLA
The Contest – Akron vs. #9 Marquette
The Backgound – This was considered a tough matchup for both teams and in many ways is one you would prefer to see a round or two later down the road. Despite the fact that they had never won a game in the NCAA Tournament, at the beginning of the season Marquette was considered by many to be a legitimate contender for the national title. The Golden Eagles started slowly but have picked up speed and momentum as the season has progressed. Their offense is powered by C Nortey. When he plays well the Golden Eagles play well. Freshmen Louis Bennett II and Coco Navarro have added an additional dimension to the attack and must contribute in order for Marquette to advance. The Marquette backline is anchored by center backs Axel Sjoberg and Eric Pothast. Redshirt junior Charlie Lyon is among the best netminders in the country.
Akron was among the teams that began the season highly regarded based on the past success but in the "wait and see" category. The Zips had a lot of talent on hand but they also were without a ton of talent due to early departures and the fact the program was under new management with Jared Embick taking over the reins of the program from Caleb Porter. Akron has more than met expectations with a 17-3-1 overall record. The Zips earned the right to tangle with Marquette by defeating Indiana 3-2 in a first round match. Akron can compete with anyone in the country but to continue to advance they are going to have to put together a full ninety minutes of play. Akron has a lot of talented and experienced players. Senior forward Reinaldo Brenes gives the Zips a prime timer up-top, senior Aodhan Quinn is among a very solid group of midfielders, and junior Bryan Gallego anchors a backline that may not be as strong as some of the best Akron teams but nonetheless is very good. Freshman midfielder Adam Najem is the X-Factor in the Zip offense and could give them an edge in the contest with Marquette.
The Outcome At A Glance – Marquette 1 – Akron 0 – Both teams gave it their all in this contest that could easily have gone either way. The game was scoreless at the end of regulation. Both offenses were active but most of the play in the first half took place in the middle third as the offenses of both teams were as cold as the frigid Milwaukee weather in terms of the ability of the teams to put together combinations that might result in a scoring opportunity. As the match progressed both sides reverted to the use of the long ball as they struggled with the ability to maintain solid footing. Marquette freshman Coco Navarro came up big for the Golden Eagles when he netted the golden goal with twenty-five seconds remaining in the first overtime period. The win gives Marquette their first ever NCAA Tournament win and propels them into the Sweet Sixteen. Navarro's game-winner was preceded by a back heel pass from senior Adam Lysak to back Paul Dillon who set up the game-winning strike with a long cross to the top of the six-yard box which Navarro side-volleyed past Akron goalkeeper Jake Fenlason who was able to get a hand on the shot but was unable to stop it. Marquette held a 19 to 15 shot advantage with ten shots on frame as compared to five for the Zips. Fenlason had nine saves in goal for Akron. Charlie Lyon had five saves in goal for Marquette. Akron ends the 2013 season with a 17-4-1 record. Marquette improves to 13-5-2.
What's Next – #9 Marquette travels to face #8 Virginia
The Contest – St. John's vs. Virginia
The Background – St. John's was one of the bubble teams to get into the forty-eight team NCAA Tourney. Regardless, few seriously questioned whether the Red Storm deserved a berth. Dr. Dave Masur's team can play clamp down defense and that makes them the type of team that is very capable of pulling off the upset and that no one wants to face in a single elimination type event. Give the Johnnies a goal lead and you have dug yourself in a very deep hole. In fact, St. John's is 41-1-1 when scoring first since the 2010 season. Junior back Tim Parker and redshirt senior goalkeeper Rafael Diaz are the real deal. The Red Storm advanced to the second round by topping Delaware 2-1 in overtime. St. John's returns to the scene of the crime so to speak since they lost to Virginia in Charlottesville 2-0 in a regular season contest back on September 2.
Virginia has as much pure soccer talent as any team in the country. The Cavaliers can knock the ball around with anyone but the best Cavalier teams in the past have been the ones who in addition to playing one-touch soccer can hang in there when the play gets a little more physical. Virginia, like UCLA, is no stranger to the NCAA Tourney with thirty-three consecutive invites. Likewise the NCAA Tourney is considered a beginning rather than a destination for the Cavalier faithful. Virginia enters the contest with St. John's after advancing to the championship match of the ACC Tourney where they lost a heartbreaker 1-0 to Maryland as a result of an own goal.
The Outcome At A Glance – Wake Forest 2 – St. John's 0 – A determined and focused Cavalier team advanced to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since winning the national championship in 2009. Ryan Zinkham scored the first Virginia goal, his fourth of the season, in the 35th minute out of a free kick with a double assist from freshman Patrick Foss and junior Eric Bird. The play began when Foss served a free kick into the box that Bird redirected inside the six-yard box to Zinkham who decisively headed it into the upper left corner of the goal. Bird added the insurance goal for the Cavaliers in the 64th minute when he outworked everyone to get his head on a corner kick served in by Scott Thompson. The goal was Bird's seventh of the season to date. Calle Brown had four saves in goal for Virginia to up the Cavalier's shutout total this year to ten. Rafael Diaz had one save in goal for the Red Storm. Virginia improves to 11-5-5 while St. John's concludes their season with a 11-7-2 record.
What's Next – #8 seeded Virginia will host #9 seeded Marquette
#3 Notre Dame Region
The Contest – Wisconsin vs. #3 Notre Dame
The Background – It took John Trask several years as the head coach at Wisconsin to put together a team that from top to bottom was strong enough to secure enough wins to get the Badgers back into the tournament. Wisconsin returned to the NCAA Tourney field for the first time this year since the 1995 season and subsequently defeated a good Milwaukee team on Thursday to earn the right to face number three seeded Notre Dame. This is a good Wisconsin side and they are well coached. Perhaps the biggest plus is that the program is now surrounded by a new level of excitement and tangible momentum. Junior defender A.J. Cochran, the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, and senior forwards Tomislav Zadro, the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, and Nick Janus are key ingredients in the resurgence of the program. However for now Wisconsin's margin for error is still pretty slim. That means they have to finish the scoring opportunities that come their way and they can't make mistakes on the defensive side of the ball if they hope to top Notre Dame and continue to advance.
Notre Dame has always fielded a very good team under the direction of Bobby Clark. They have earned a spot in the NCAA Tourney in twelve of the thirteen seasons (the 2011 season was the lone exception) that Clark has been at the helm of the program. However, this is another program for which the standard of excellence is now beyond just getting into the tournament. This is a well balanced Irish team with senior forward Harrison Shipp, the ACC Offensive Player of the Year, the go-to guy who sets the pace. Sophomore midfielder Patrick Hodan and junior forward Vince Cicciarelli are among others who add punch to the attack. Notre Dame has had success in the NCAA Tourney but count them among the teams that have not played to their potential when dancing. You have to look no further than last year for an example when as the number one seed they opened the door for Indiana's run to the National Championship when they let the Hoosiers come to their house and leave with a 2-1 Sweet Sixteen win. This year with a number three seed the Irish can once again play their way into the Final Four without ever leaving the friendly confines of Alumni Stadium but the questions remains, can the Fighting Irish play to their potential and avoid the upset?
The Outcome At A Glance – Notre Dame 4 – Wisconsin 0 – The Irish attack was in full gear despite the blustery temperature at game time. The folks in attendance were still adjusting their blankets when junior forward Vince Cicciarelli started things off on the right foot for Notre Dame by skillfully lofting a chip shot into the back of the net from fifteen yards out in the 7th minute of play. You got the feeling that it was going to be all Irish when Harrison Shipp made it 2-0 when he slipped a free kick inside the near post from twenty yards out in the 22nd minute. Sophomore midfielder Patrick Hodan added the third Irish score out of a free kick in the 55th minute when he netted his seventh goal of the season. Shipp scored in the 65th minute of play to conclude the scoring for the evening with Notre Dame comfortably in front 4-0. Notre Dame improves to 13-1-6. A successful season comes to an end for the Badgers with a 14-5-2 record.
What's Next – #3 seeded Notre Dame will host #14 seeded Wake Forest
The Contest – Navy vs. #14 Wake Forest
The Background – You have to respect what Dave Brandt has accomplished at Navy. Nonetheless as a member of the mid-major Patriot League there exists the question regarding how many wins would the Mids have if they played in one of the "big" name conferences. Navy partially answered that in the affirmative when they traveled to Richmond and topped a solid VCU team out of the Atlantic 10 in a first round game. If the Mids can sink Wake Forest out of the ACC that would be a huge win and add credibility for the program. Navy led on the offensive side of the ball by Jamie Dubyoski travels to Winston-Salem on a fifteen game winning streak. Martin Sanchez, who scored twice in Navy's win over VCU, is a playmaker.
Wake Forest is always competitive. In fact from 2006 through 2009 they advanced to the Final Four and were the dominant team in the country. They are not back at that level yet but this is a team that is very capable of making a run in the tourney. The Deacon attack is led by Luca Gimenez, Sean Okoli and Ian Harkes. Wake Forest has had several good wins with signature wins over Maryland 4-3 and Virginia 3-2 but losses to Coastal Carolina, Elon, Akron, Notre Dame, and Virginia (in the ACC Tournament) raise questions about a deep run.
The Outcome At A Glance – Wake Forest 2 – Navy 1 – Ricky Greensfelder's first career goal was a big one as it give the Demon Deacons the edge they needed to top Navy and advance to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since the 2009 season. The win halted Navy's fifteen match winning streak. Forward Sean Okoli drew first blood for Wake Forest when he touched a shot into an empty net in the 27th minute of the contest after receiving a picture perfect cross from Greensfelder. Navy responded a little over four minutes later when Jamie Dubyoski worked his way behind the Deacon backline and drove a shot into the back of the net. The teams were tied 1-1 at halftime. Greensfelder converted what proved to be the game-winner in the 54th minute when he used his left foot to place a shot into the back of the frame after receiving a cross from Chris Duvall. Wake Forest improves to 10-5-5 while Navy concludes the best season in the history of the program with a 16-4-2 overall record.
What's Next – #14 Wake Forest travels to face #3 Notre Dame
The Contest – Louisville vs. #11 Michigan State
The Background – Put this one in the clearly up for grabs category. Louisville won the regular season AAC Conference title but they were one and done in the conference tournament when they were upset 1-0 by Rutgers. On Thursday night they slipped past Denver out of the Summit League in penalty kicks after a scoreless 110 minutes of play to advance to face the Spartans. The Cardinals have looked really good at times this year and not so good at others. Many view the good Louisville team as a sleeper in the tourney. In past years Louisville has always seemed to make a decent run in the Tourney with the best being the 2010 season when they advanced to the National Championship match before losing to Akron 1-0.
Michigan State has avoided the injuries to key players this year that seemed to haunt them the past few seasons. The Spartans are making their fourth appearance in the NCAA Tourney in the five seasons that Damon Rensing has been at the helm of the program. Michigan State is a very solid and balanced soccer team on both sides of the ball. Senior defender Kevin Cope and sophomore goalkeeper Zach Bennett anchor the backline while redshirt juniors Tim Kreutz and Adam Montague, and sophomore Jay Chapman are among those who power the attack.
The Outcome At A Glance – Michigan State 1 – Louisville 0 – This one was played under windy conditions with the temperature at game time in the 20's. It looked like it might take a penalty kick shootout to determine who advanced before Michigan State put the game on ice in the second overtime period with Tim Kreutz heading in the game-winning goal from ten yards out. The goal came out of a free kick served in by senior Kevin Cope that Adam Montague flicked to Kreutz whose header was placed just inside the left post. Zach Bennett had six saves in goal for Michigan State. Joachim Ball had six saves between the pipes for Louisville.
What's Next – #11 Michigan State travels to face #6 seeded Georgetown on Sunday, December 1 in third round action.
The Contest – Old Dominion vs. #6 Georgetown
The Background – ODU entered the season with a lot of unanswered questions. For starters, they had a ton of talented seniors to replace and they were making the move from the CAA to CUSA. Count Alan Dawson among the coaches who always fields a solid team. Senior forward Tim Hopkinson is among the best finishers in the country, senior midfielder Gideon Asante has been an impact player since arriving on campus and senior back Jason Gaylord and redshirt senior Sean Stowe have been stalwarts on the defensive side of the ball. Georgetown is beatable but ODU will have to play their very best soccer of the year to have a chance of topping the Hoyas.
Georgetown had a breakout season last year in which they advanced to the National Championship match. The Hoyas are not a one hit wonder with all indicators pointing to the fact that Georgetown mentor Brian Wiese has developed a program that is going to remain at the top echelon of college soccer. Steve Neumann and Brandon Allen are arguably among the most talented forward tandems in the country. Midfielder Joey Dillon is a four year starter who has had a brilliant senior season. Junior Tomas Gomez gives the Hoyas a very skillful presence in goal. Georgetown is definitely on the short list of many as a possible Final Four team once again in 2013.
The Outcome At A Glance – Georgetown 3 – Old Dominion 0 – The Hoyas took control early on and never relinquished it. Sophomore Cole Seiler game the Hoyas a 1-0 lead when he scored at close range with a double assist from teammates junior midfielder Tom Skelly and sophomore forward Brandon Allen. Old Dominion pressed the attack in the second half but tkey were unable to convert. Freshman midfielder Bakie Goodman scored in the 60th minute after receiving a well played cross from sophomore defender Josh Turnley to make it 2-0. Freshman midfielder Alex Muyl netted the final score for the Hoyas in the 87th minute with an assist from Allen.
What's Next – #6 Georgetown hosts #11 Michigan State
#4 California Region
The Contest – Providence vs. #5 Maryland
The Background – What a turnaround at Providence. After winning only four games in 2012 the Friars rebounded big time in 2013 and enters the contest with Maryland with a 12-5-3 overall record that includes advancing past Penn in a penalty kick shootout in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Maryland plays a style of soccer that is enjoyable to watch and lends itself well to attack oriented soccer. The Terp's 2012 Hermann Trophy winning forward Patrick Mullins returned for his senior season with the goal in mind of winning it all. Clearly a possibility but despite all their talent the Terps can't have a letdown of any sorts on either side of the ball if they hope to make that a reality. Maryland's loss last year to Georgetown in the semifinals of the College Cup has to be in the back of their minds and is a memory they would like to put on the back burner by winning it all in 2013. Maryland has plenty of offensive firepower from the likes of Mullins, Tsubasa Endoch and Schillo Tshuma. This is a bunch that will find a way to put the ball in the back of the net. The key to a return trip to the Final Four and another shot at a National Championship for Maryland is their effectiveness on the defensive side of the ball. In that regard a lot rests on the shoulders of freshman goalkeeper Zack Steffen.
The Outcome At A Glance – Maryland 3 – Providence 1 – The Terps take care of business rolling forward into the Sweet Sixteen for the 12th consecutive season. Michael Sauers, Patrick Mullins, and Jake Pace scored for the Terps. Phil Towler netted the lone goal for the Friars. Sauers made a nice move to beat his defender before sending a shot into the back of the frame in the early going to give Maryland a 1-0 advantage. The contest remained 1-0 at halftime. Tower gave Providence new life when he utilized his left foot to loft a shot into to the back of the net from eight yards out with an assist from Fabio Machado. As is often the case after a goal is scored, Maryland responded in less than a minute with Mullins converting a penalty kick to enable the Terps to regain the lead. The penalty kick resulted from a foul in the box on Tsubasa Endoh. Redshirt senior Jake Pace added the insurance goal for the Terps out of a breakaway from eighteen yards out in the 87th minute. Providence ends a very impressive season with a 12-6-4 record while Maryland improves to 14-3-5.
What's Next – #5 Maryland will host #12 seeded U.C. Irvine
The Contest – North Carolina vs. #12 UC Irvine
The Background – Both of these teams are capable of making a deep run. Who would have thought that the Tar Heels would be traveling to the west coast to tangle with UC Irvine in the second round of the tourney. It may not be good for UNC but it is for college soccer. The Heels are long on defensive productivity this year and short on offensive firepower. However, that is not to say that North Carolina is not talented on the offensive side of the ball but the fact that the Heels have only scored nineteen goals so far this year is pretty telling. On the other hand they have allowed a total of only twelve goals. What this means is that the Tar Heels fall in "the little margin for error" category. It is unlikely that they are going to outscore anyone like they might have in years past but if they finish opportunities and continue to play solid team defense they remain a very dangerous opponent.
UC Irvine rebounded this year big time from an uncharacteristic 5-14-1 season in 2012 in which they didn't earn a berth in the NCAA Tourney. Although George Kuntz's Anteaters do not always get the press that UCLA and UC Santa Barbara does, this is a program over the past few seasons that has been among the most consistently successful teams on the left coast. The 2013 squad features Big West Midfielder of the Year senior Enrique Cardenas and Big West Defender of the Year senior Marco Franco. Redshirt sophomore Michael Breslin has performed well in goal for UC Irvine. This is a very good UC Irvine team with the potential to make a good run but they may have a difficult time getting past a very tenacious Tar Heel defense.
The Outcome At A Glance – U.C. Irvine 1 – North Carolina 0 – This one went down to the wire with U.C. Irvine scoring the game-winning goal with just two ticks remaining in regulation. Christopher Santana one timed the rebound of teammate Michael Sperber's shot into the back of the net to give the Anteaters the win. North Carolina concluded the 2013 season with a 9-6-5 record. The Tar Heels had difficulty creating scoring opportunities as has often been the case this season and for the first time since 2007 will not advance to the NCAA quarterfinal round. UC Irvine improves to 15-4-3 and advances to the Sweet Sixteen.
What's Next – #12 seeded U.C. Irvine travels east to face #5 seeded Maryland
The Contest – Coastal Carolina vs. #13 Charlotte
This one should be a dandy. Coastal is explosive on the offensive side of the ball and solid on the defensive side. They have impressive non-conference wins over Wake Forest, VCU, and South Carolina but since they play in the Big South Conference they always face the "show me" element which means that they have to make a deep run in the NCAA Tourney to make believers out of many. This team has the potential to do just that but they face the big hurdle of getting past a red hot Charlotte side on their home turf at Transamerica Field.
Charlotte captured the attention of the college soccer world when they advanced to the National Championship contest in 2011 before falling to in-state rival North Carolina from the ACC. Jeremy Gunn then jumped ship so to speak and accepted the head coaching job at Stanford and was replaced by the players choice Kevin Langan. The 49ers didn't experience the drop off that some thought they might as a result of Gunn's departure. Instead Langan has successfully directed Charlotte to NCAA Tourney berths in 2012 and 2013 including the program's first ever seed this year. Charlotte got the best of Coastal Carolina 2-1 when the two teams faced each other back on September 6. The 49ers enter the match with the Chanticleers on an eight game winning streak.
The Outcome At A Glance – Coastal Carolina 1 – Charlotte 0 – The 49ers came out on top when the two faced each other in regular season play but the Chanticleers won the one that really counted to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. Coastal Carolina scored the lone goal of the evening in just the 5th minute of play when forward Ricky Garbanzo scored his 13th goal of the year with an assist from Simon Laugsand. Laugsand crossed a ball into the box that was deflected to Garbanzo who alertly sent it into the goal at close range for what proved to be the game-winner. Credit the Coastal Carolina backline and sophomore keeper Devin Cook, who is a transfer from SMU, with a solid job of containing the Charlotte offense. Charlotte ends the 2013 season with a 12-6-4 record. Coastal Carolina out of the Big South Conference improves to 19-4-0.
What's Next – Coastal Carolina takes a plane ride west to square off with the #4 seeded California Golden Bears
The Contest – Bradley vs. #4 California
The Background – Bradley is 14-6-2 and advanced to face number four seeded California by topping Northwestern 3-2 in overtime in the first round. Senior forward Wojciech Wojcik is a playmaker who is the key to the Bradley attack. The Braves are a well coached side and they have a ton of momentum with a six game winning streak. Bradley is no stranger to the NCAA Tourney with three appearances in the past four seasons.
California – The Golden Bears return to the NCAA Tourney field after being absent in 2011 and 2012. California has had an impressive season but they have struggled down the home stretch going 2-4-0 in their last six contests. Midfielders Seth Casiple and Alex Sundly and forward Stefano Bonomo are the key playmakers. Steve Birnbaum anchors the Golden Bear defense and adds offensive punch as well. It is possible that the Golden Bears peaked early. If that is the case they need to regroup and get back on track or they could be the first of the top four seeds to exit the tourney.
The Outcome At A Glance – California 3 – Bradley 1 – Senior midfielder Alec Sundly continues to come up big for the Golden Bears with a two goal and one assist evening in California's win over Bradley. Sundly started the scoring in the 20th minute when he placed a shot into the bottom corner of the near post from close range after receiving a pass from midfielder Seth Casiple. Defender Steve Birnbaum gave the Golden Bears a 2-0 lead in the thirty-fifth minute of play when he cleanly drove a shot into the top corner of the far post from thirty-five yards out. The score remained 2-0 at intermission. Bradley closed the gap to 2-1 early in the second half when freshman forward Christian Okeke made a nice run down the left side and centered a ball that forward Wojciech Wojcik deposited into the back of the net. Sundly netted his eighth goal of the season when he alertly redirected teammate junior midfielder Connor Hallisey's shot into the net. Alex Mangels had five saves in goal for the Golden Bears. Brian Billings also had five saves in goal for Bradley. California improves to 13-4-2. Bradley's seniors end their tenure with the distinction of being the first senior class in history of the program to make three appearances in the NCAA Tournament.
What's Next – #4 seeded California will host the Chanticleers from Coastal Carolina
#2 Washington Region
The Contest – George Mason vs. #7 New Mexico
The Background – George Mason is unbeaten in their last thirteen contests. They won the Atlantic 10 Tournament by defeating Saint Joseph's, VCU and Saint Louis. The Patriots then topped William and Mary 4-2 in a penalty kick shootout in one of the more entertaining first round contests. The match with William and Mary was tied 2-2 at the end of regulation and extra time. Greg Andrulis is in his ninth year at the helm of the program. Sophomore defender Taylor Washington, senior defender Zak Haapaoja and freshman goalkeeper Steffen Kraus anchor a George Mason defense that will be tested by New Mexico.
New Mexico had an early exit from the CUSA Tourney when they were defeated 3-0 by Tulsa. The Lobos have had an up and down season with impressive wins over the likes of Georgetown and UC Santa Barbara but also several unexpected losses. Forward James Rogers and midfielder Michael Calderon are always dangerous on the offensive side of the ball. Center back Kyle Venter is among the best at his position in the country. It all depends on which New Mexico team shows up.
The Outcome At A Glance – New Mexico 1 – George Mason 0 – The Lobos come away with a gutsy 1-0 win on a snowy evening at the UNM Soccer Complex. Forward James Rogers gave New Mexico the edge they needed to survive and advance to the Sweet Sixteen when he scored in the 83rd minute after receiving a pass from Niko Hansen. Hansen pushed the ball down the right side of the field at speed before treading a pass into the six-yard box that Rogers was able to finish from point-blank range. Michael Lisch notched the shutout in goal for the Lobos. George Mason's 13 match unbeaten streak came to an end as the Patriots completed the season with a 12-3-7 record. New Mexico improves to 12-5-2.
What's Next – #7 seeded New Mexico hosts Penn State
The Contest – Penn State vs. #10 UC Santa Barbara
The Background – The Big Ten regular season champion Nittany Lions squeaked past St. Francis Brooklyn 1-0 in the first round to earn an airplane ride to the west coast to face the Gauchos in Harder Stadium. Bob Warming coached teams are always fundamentally sound. They do a good job of knocking the ball around and move well off the ball. Penn State features a balanced attack lead by redshirt junior forward Jordan Tyler, freshman midfielder Connor Maloney and senior forward Owen Griffith. A stout Nittany Lion defense is anchored by junior goalkeeper Andrew Wolverton. Penn State should match up well with UC Santa Barbara.
The Gauchos had a difficult stretch of play earlier in the season but recovered from it and upped the level of their play. The fact that the status of forward Achille Campion and defender Peter Schmetz is questionable and that midfielder Drew Murphy and defender Kevi Garcia-Lopez will have to sit out the match due to red card suspensions makes UC Santa Barbara vulnerable but this is a team that has effectively overcome adversity and the Gaucho faithful should come out in force to support them which is always a plus.
The Outcome At A Glance – Penn State 1 – UC Santa Barbara 0 – No prisoners were taken in this one with a combined total of 37 fouls booked and six cards displayed. The game took a downward turn early on for the Gauchos when they were forced to operate at a disadvantage numbers wise from the sixth minute of the match on due to the fact that senior midfielder Fifi Baden was shown a red card. Freshman Connor Maloney's second career goal in a Penn State uniform ultimately gave the NIttany Lions the edge they needed to secure a huge on the road win over a good UC Santa Barbara side. The goal unfolded when Mike Robinson sent a cross to Jordan Tyler at the top of the box. Tyler then laid off a soft ball that Maloney ran onto and blasted into the left-side of the goal with a little over twelve minutes remaining in regulation. Penn State had a ten to four advantage in shots for the evening. UCSB finishes a roller coaster season before a crowd of 4,420 at Harder Stadium with a 12-6-3 record. Penn State out of the Big Ten improves to 13-5-2 and advances to the Sweet Sixteen for the fifth time and second under the direction of Bob Warming.
What's Next – Penn State travels to Albuquerque to face #7 seeded New Mexico
The Contest – Stanford vs. #15 Cal State Northridge
The Background – A Jeremy Gunn lead Stanford squad is among the schools that many feel has a shot at making a run. The consensus is that this is a program on the way up. The Cardinal have had a good but not necessarily great season. Returning to the tourney was a big plus for Stanford as was their first round win over a competitive Loyola Marymount team. In that contest Cardinal goalkeeper Drew Hutchings did just about everything but sell programs. Zach Batteer is among those who make the Stanford offense difficult to contain. Anything from here on out is icing on the cake for Gunn's team.
Cal State Northridge under the direction of Terry Davila and the offensive productivity of forward Saqi Levi-Ari soared upward in the polls but were unable to sustain it. The Matadors are a potential force to contend with but the fact that they have lost two out of their last four raises flags.
The Outcome At A Glance – Stanford 1 – LMU 0. Stanford continues to roll upsetting #15 seeded Cal State Northridge 1-0. Redshirt junior defender Matt Taylor headed in the game-winner in the 21st minute of play. The goal came out of a free kick put in play by sophomore midfielder Aaron Kovar who sent a beautiful curving ball over the C.S. Northridge keeper that Taylor was able to run onto and blast into the goal.
What's Next – Stanford travels to face #2 seeded Washington
The Contest – Seattle vs. #2 Washington –
The Background – The Battle of Seattle. This is Seattle's first season in the NCAA Tourney as a Division I program. The Redhawks secured a berth by defeating Air Force and San Jose State to win the WAC Tourney. They then pulled off one of the upsets of the first round when they traveled to Omaha and defeated Creighton 2-1 in a match that featured snow and a not so visible ball. St. Mary's and San Diego out of the West Coast Conference have been the two teams that have made magical runs to the Elite Eight the past two years. Could it be Seattle University out of the WAC this year? Miguel Gonzalez is the go-to guy in the Redhawk offense producing fifteen of the thirty-nine goals that Seattle has produced to date.
Number two seeded Washington is 14-1-4 with their only loss to date coming at the feet of number one seeded UCLA. The Huskies claimed their first Pac-12 title in 2013 since the 2000 season. Jamie Clark's team is well positioned to advance to the Final Four with a potential match with his father Bobby Clark's Notre Dame squad down the road should both teams take care of business and not trip along the way. Junior Darwin Jones drives the Husky attack up-top. Freshman Cristian Roldan adds to the offensive out of the midfield. Senior Taylor Peay anchors a very tenacious backline and don't forget the additional dimension that defender Michael Harris' flip throw adds to the attack.
The Outcome At A Glance – Washington 4 – Seattle 2 – Washington prevailed in the "Battle of Seattle" before a standing room only crowd at Husky Soccer Stadium. Darvin Jones started the scoring for Washington netting his seventh goal of the season in the 28th minute off an assist from freshman Cristian Roldan. The teams went into intermission with Washington clinging to a one goal lead. Josh Heard made it 2-0 a little over two minutes into the second stanza. The play began with a Michael Harris flip throw into the box that was cleared to James Moberg whose shot rebounded to Josh Heard who dispatched it into the back of the frame. Roldan netted the third Washington goal of the evening in the 57th minute with a double assist from Heard and Moberg. Mason Robertson gave the Huskies a comfortable 4-0 lead when he found the back of the net with an assist from Heard in the 66th minute. Chase Hanson and Brady Ballen gave the Seattle University fans something to cheer about with both scoring in the 72nd minute but it was too little too late. Seattle ends a very productive season with an 11-9-4 record. Washington ups their win total to 15-1-4 and advances to the Sweet Sixteen for only the second time in the history of the program.
What's Next – #2 seeded Washington will host fellow Pac-12 member Stanford