The NCAA Division I Women’s Soccer Championship quarterfinals feature a little bit of everything this year – the nation’s best offense and defense in an NCAA semifinal rematch, a rematch of two squads that faced off in 1-0 overtime regular season contest and a couple of squads that are seeking their first-ever trip to the Women’s College Cup.
This weekend’s winners will advance to the 2014 Women’s College Cup on Dec. 5-7. The championship will be hosted by Florida Atlantic University at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, Fla.
Here’s a closer look at the quarterfinal matchups:
No. 2 seed Virginia (21-2) at No. 1 seed UCLA (20-0-2)
Nov. 28, 5 p.m. PT
Drake Stadium, Los Angeles, Calif.
The nation’s top offense visits the nation’s top defense in a rematch of last year’s NCAA semifinal match, which ended in a 1-1 tie (UCLA advanced to the championship game after winning the shootout). The Cavaliers lead the country with 3.61 goals per game and have outscored NCAA opponents, 18-0, in three contests including a resounding 7-0 victory over Kentucky in the third round. Junior forward MakenzyDoniak contributed three goals and two assists for a single-game school-record eight points. Doniak paces the Cavaliers with 19 goals and 10 assists for a single-season record 48 points. Virginia’s only two losses of the season were 1-0 setbacks to ACC foe Florida State.
Meanwhile, the Bruins boast a 0.178 goals against average and enter the game on a school-record 10-game shutout streak that has spanned 937 scoreless minutes. UCLA is riding a 44-game unbeaten streak into the NCAA quarterfinal round and has scored 41 unanswered goals since a 2-1 defeat of Stanford Oct. 9. Goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland has compiled an NCAA single-season record 19 solo shutouts this year.
The Bruins were tested by Pepperdine in third round action, which was scoreless for 87 minutes until Pac-12 Player of the Year Sam Mewis tallied the game’s only goal. Mewis, who leads the Pac-12 with 16 goals on the season and seven game-winners, knows Virginia will be a challenge Friday.
"They're an awesome team, one of the best teams in the country," Mewissaid. "It's going to be a really hard game and such a challenge, but we're excited for it, and we think (the Pepperdine) game did a lot to prepare us for it. They play a similar style as Pepperdine.”
Virginia feels the same way about the Bruins.
"We're under no illusions," Virginia head coach Steve Swanson said. "We're going to have to play well to win games now, and we know that. There's only eight teams left."
No. 3 seed South Carolina (14-5-5) at No. 1 seed Florida State (21-1-1)
Nov. 28, 2 p.m. ET
Seminole Soccer Complex, Tallahassee, Fla.
South Carolina advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals for the first time in history with a 1-0 victory over North Carolina last weekend. Now, the Gamecocks – the lowest-seeded remaining squad — will face their second consecutive ACC co-champion in as many weeks. The Gamecocks survived two 0-0 penalty kick shootouts against Clemson and Seattle before edging the Tar Heels on Sunday and have netted just one goal in three NCAA contests. Each of the seven other quarterfinal teams have tallied at least seven goals in the same stretch. South Carolina ranks eighth in the nation with a 0.534 goals against average. The Gamecocks advanced behind the clutch play of freshman goalkeeper Abbey Crider, who notched a pair of shutouts last weekend after filling in for the injured All-American Sabrina D’Angelo.
Florida State is riding an 18-game unbeaten streak, including seven consecutive wins, as the Seminoles play in the NCAA quarterfinals for the 10th straight year. FSU ranks third nationally with a 0.38 goals against average and is anchored by freshman Cassie Miller, who has posted seven shutouts in the last nine games. The Seminoles are also solid offensively, scoring 2.60 goals per game, and led by senior Dagny Brynjarsdottir’s 16 goals and 36 points. FSU’s lone loss came at the hands of instate rival Florida, which South Carolina defeated in SEC play.
No. 2 seed Penn State (20-3-0) at No. 1 seed Texas A&M (21-2-2)
Nov. 29, 7 p.m. CT
Ellis Field, College Station, Texas
After earning the program’s first-ever No. 1 seed, Texas A&M seeks its first-ever Women’s College Cup appearance as the Aggies host Penn State Saturday for the final spot in the NCAA semifinals. The Aggies will play in the quarterfinals for the fifth time in program history, but will host the round for the first time. Texas A&M looks to extend its seven-match win and 13-game unbeaten streak, as well as the program’s eight-game NCAA Tournament home winning streak. Senior Kelley Monogue tops the squad with 17 goals and 10 assists for 44 points this season, including six tallies in three NCAA games this postseason. A victory against the Nittany Lions will give the Aggies a school-record 21 wins on the season.
Penn State advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals for the 10th time in program history and the second time in three years following a 2-1 defeat of Virginia Tech last weekend. The Nittany Lions are looking to claim their fifth Women’s College Cup appearance and first since 2012. The Nittany Lions field a balanced team, ranking 20th in the nation with 2.30 goals per game and 26th in Division I with a 0.678 goals against average. Freshman Frannie Couse paces Penn State with 10 goals, while Mallory Webber has contributed 22 points on eight goals and six assists.
No. 2 Florida at No. 1 Stanford
Nov. 28, 7 p.m. PT
Laird Q. Cagan Stadium, Palo Alto, Calif.
The Gators will make a cross country trip for the second time in 2014 as they face Stanford in a rematch of their Sept. 12 1-0 overtime loss to the Cardinal. With a 3-2 victory over Texas Tech last Sunday, Florida advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals for the fifth time in program history and first time since 2003. Sophomore Savannah Jordan is the most prolific goal scorer remaining in the tournament, averaging 0.864 goals per game this season (19 goals, 8 assists, 46 points), which ranks eighth nationally.
Stanford looks to return to the Women’s College Cup after the Cardinal had its five-year streak broken in the third round last season against UCLA. The Cardinal began the season on a nine-game shutout streak, which included their win over the Gators, and have compiled 17 shutouts on the season behind All Pac-12 goalkeeper Jane Campbell. Offensively, Lo’eauLaBontaleads Stanford with 31 points on 13 goals and five assists. She also scored the game-winning goal in the Cardinal’s third-round 1-0 defeat of Washington last Sunday. Stanford’s lone loss was a 2-1 setback against No. 1 UCLA Oct. 9. The Cardinal have won 24 consecutive NCAA Tournament home matches.
Amy Farnum Patronis covers Division I Women's College Soccer for College Soccer News. She can be reached at email@example.com