Texas vs. Texas Tech, UCF vs. BYU, Pittsburgh Vs. Florida State – By Sarah Sparkman
Pittsburgh (14-4-1) vs. Florida State (14-0-1) – Thursday – Semifinals of ACC Tournament – FSU has owned the ACC Tournament winning it eight times out of the last ten years including the last four in a row.
This matchup features two teams with high powered attacks. Pitt led by Sarah Schupansky (10g, 10a), Amanda West (9g, 8a), Samiah Phiri (10g, 3a) and Landy Mertz (3g, 9a) has scored a total of 51 goals. A multi-dimension Florida State attack powered by Onyi Echegini (11g, 3a), Jordynn Dudley, Taylor Huff (5g, 11a) and Jody Brown (4g, 3a) has found the back of the net a total of 50 times.
Florida State topped Pitt 3-2 when the two met in Tallahassee on October 22 during regular season play. The Panthers have never beaten the Seminoles but then again, they had never beaten North Carolina until they upset the Tar Heels 2-1 in overtime in Chapel Hill to advance to the semifinals.
Look for the playmaking ability of Pitt midfielder Landy Mertz and FSU midfielder Taylor Huff and the big play ability of Pitt’s Amanda West and FSU’s Onyi Echegini to factor into the outcome. Both teams will apply pressure and are capable of scoring in multiples so look for the play on the defensive side of the ball to determine who gains the upper hand and settles into a rhythm as the contest progresses. Give the Noles defense anchored by backs Heather Gilchrist and Lauren Flynn and goalkeeper Cristina Roque the edge on the defensive side of the ball.
FSU is the favorite and should pull ahead in the second half but if they do not bring their A game this Pitt team has established that they are capable of pulling off the upset.
Texas (13-4-2) vs Texas Tech (15-0–4) – Wednesday – Semifinals of the Big 12 Tournament – Mike A Myers Stadium in Austin will be rocking on Wednesday with two outstanding college soccer contests on tap.
Texas Tech defeated Texas 2-1 when the two teams faced each other in Austin during regular season play back on September 21 with the game-winner coming in the last seconds of the contest. That on the road win over the Longhorns and a subsequent 2-2 tie with BYU in Provo served notice that this Texas Tech team had grit and was for real.
This second matchup between the Red Raiders and Longhorns looks to be up for grabs and could go either way. Texas Tech will face an explosive Texas team led by Lei Missimo (22g, 10a), the Big 12 Midfielder of the Year, and Trinity Byars (16g, 12a), the Big 12 Forward of the Year, and Jilly Shimkin (4g, 11a) that has produced a total of 62 goals. Missimo and Byars are both capable of taking over a game and are not easy to contain. Should either or both get in gear it could be a long day for the Red Raiders.
Not so fast. It also could be a long day for the Longhorns. Texas Tech counters with an attack led Ashleigh Williams (14g, 6a) and Alex Kerr (10g, 5a) who also have big play ability and a stout defense anchored in goal by graduate student Madison White, the Big 12 Goalkeeper of the Year, and Hannah Anderson, the Big 12 Defender of the Year, that has only allowed a total of nine goals.
Texas is the more explosive of the two teams but Texas Tech has been the more consistent. Much will hinge on which team is able to settle in, gain momentum, and set the pace. Texas will be fired up and will have the added benefit of playing at home.
The Red Raiders will have to match the Longhorns level of intensity, play through the pressure they will likely face, and continue to do the things that have worked well for them all year. There likely will be momentum shifts.
Breakdowns on the defensive side of the ball will be costly. This one has all the makings of an outstanding college soccer contest
UCF (10-6-1) vs BYU (15-1-3) – Wednesday – Semifinals of the Big 12 Tournament – Both of these teams are in their initial season as a member of the Big 12. UCF was previously in the AAC while BYU was in the WCC.
BYU made the move to the Big 12 without experiencing the growing pains that often accompany a team that is facing new opponents and playing in new venues. UCF has had a bit of a roller coaster regular season that includes a noteworthy 1-1 tie with league leader Texas Tech.
Number two seed BYU advanced to the semifinals by defeating number ten seed Oklahoma 6-0 scoring five goals in the second stanza of the match. Number six seed UCF upset number three seed TCU 3-2 to punch their ticket to the semifinals.
BYU features a high octane multi-dimensional balanced attack led by Brecken Mozingo, Elle Walbrunch, Erin Bailey, Olivia Katoa, and Allie Fryer that has produced a total of 64 goals. Accordingly, much will hinge on the ability of a UCF defense anchored by fifth year senior Caroline DeLisle, the 2022 and 2021 AAC Goalkeeper of the Year, to contain the pressure they will face.
UCF will enter the match with the sense of urgency and focus that comes with knowing that their chances of earning a berth in the NCAA Tournament are dependent on success in the Big 12 Tourney.
Chloe Netzel (7g, 3a) is the key ingredient in a UCF attack that has produced a total of 26 goals.
BYU will likely apply pressure from the beginning. The Cougars defeated UCF 3-2 during regular season play on October 24 scoring twice during the first 20 minutes.
Neither team wants to have to play from behind in the one and done environment of post season play. The Cougars should prevail but UCF has the ability to make this one interesting. The longer the game remains close the greater the chance of UCF pulling off the upset.
Picture from University of Texas
Sarah Sparkman is a contributing writer for College Soccer News covering women’s college soccer.