2018 ACC Women’s Preview

2018 ACC Women’s Preview
by Travis Clark
August 10, 2018

2018 ACC Women's Preview

2017 Postseason Awards

Offensive Player of the Year: Imani Dorsey, Duke
Midfielder of the Year: Rebecca Quinn, Duke
Defensive Player of the Year: Schuyler DeBree, Duke
Co-Freshmen of the Year: Emina Ekic, Louisville and Alessia Russo, North Carolina
Coach of the Year: Robbie Church, Duke

2017 Record (Overall, Conference)
Duke (23-2, 10-0)
North Carolina (17-3-2, 8-0-2)
NC State (14-5-2, 6-3-1)
Virginia (13-6-4, 5-2-3)
Wake Forest (11-6-4, 5-3-2)
Notre Dame (10-7-5, 5-3-2)
Florida State (13-7-1, 5-4-1)
Boston College (10-9-1, 4-5-1)
Clemson (10-5-3, 3-4-3)
Louisville (9-7-2, 3-5-2)
Syracuse (7-8-3, 2-6-1)
Virginia Tech (7-6-5, 1-5-3)
Miami (FL) (5-11, 1-9)
Pittsburgh (3-12-3, 0-9-1)

It was a dream 2017 season for Duke, all the way up until the College Cup national semifinal against UCLA where the Blue Devils lost on penalty kicks. Replicating that feat is going to be difficult, as the team lost several key starters, including all three ACC individual award winners. Ella Stevens is still there, pulling the strings in the heart of midfield, and she’ll be a key piece alongside Kayla McCoy and Taylor Racioppi. Duke is a huge variable in the upcoming season, because if the new and returning talent meshes quickly, there are still several players that can keep the standard high.

Injuries have dogged North Carolina over the past few seasons, but there’s no doubt that the Tar Heels have talent. Defender Julia Ashley is expected to lead the team at the back, while hard-working midfielder Dorian Bailey is one of the nation's best. The English duo of Lotte Wubben-Moy and Alessia Russo could be the difference between a deep run in the tournament and an early exit; the latter is currently at the U20 World Cup in France, while Wubben-Moy is talented but was in and out of the lineup due to injuries last fall. If it all comes together, the Heels could be among the contenders.

One of the biggest turnaround stories of the past five years in women’s DI soccer, NC State made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament before falling on penalty kicks in 2017. A big reason for that is Tziarra King, an attacking player that scored 17 goals and added six assists. It’s far from a one-woman show, as the Wolfpack compliment King with a trio of Germans: Ricci Walkling, Lulu Guttenberger and Krissi Schuster. Hannah Keogh sets the table in the final third, notching 10 assists a year ago.

Always threatening but also somewhat unpredictable, Virginia brought in a recruiting class that could provide game-changing additions. Lacking pace in the final third last season, Rebecca Jarrett could be the answer, as the first-year forward has the speed and soccer brain to hit the ground running. Claire Constant should be an option off the bench at the back, while Alexa Spaanstra (part of the U.S. U20 World Cup squad) and Ashlynn Serepca both competed with the team in the spring. While UVA is missing four players for the U20 World Cup, it shouldn’t be too significant of a hurdle to overcome. Taryn Torres, Zoe Morse, Betsy Brandon and Phoebe McClernon are all big pieces coming back.

Another team that took a much-needed step forward in 2017, Wake Forest returned to the NCAA Tournament, securing a shootout win against Georgetown in the first round. Replicating that feat is no small task, having lost Maddie Huster and Sarah Preston. Some of the returning players will need to take a step forward for the program to continue the upward trajectory. Bayley Feist is one of those, after leading the team in goals, while Hulda Arnarsdottir should be available after tearing her ACL at the start of last season.

There’s a new coach in South Bend, as Nate Norman was promoted as the head coach of Notre Dame earlier this year. Natalie Jacobs’ transfer to USC is a blow, though rising junior Jennfier Westendorf is extremely capable of continuing to dominate in the attack, scoring 10 goals and adding seven assists last fall. If a newcomer like Brianna Martinez or Olivia Wingate can step in and contribute goals, it will be a big positive for the Fighting Irish.

By their own lofty standards, the 2017 campaign was a down year at Florida State, even though they made it to the third round of the NCAA Tournament. Expectations are high once again, as FSU earned the most first-place votes from ACC coaches. While that guarantees nothing, the returning talent is still impressive, from forward Deyna Castellanos, defender Natalia Kuikka and midfielders Megan Connolly and Gloriana Villalobos. Newcomers include youth internationals like Yujie Zhao and Jaelin Howell, both competing at the Under-20 World Cup. With six seniors leading the way, don’t be surprised to see FSU back among the national title contenders this season.

Boston College is well poised to put together a decent campaign, with several veterans returning to the fold. That includes rising sophomore Samantha Coffey, part of the U.S. U20 World Cup squad, and Jillian and Kayla Jennings, midfielders from New Jersey. Turning all that experience – eight of the team’s starters from last year are back – into results at the right time of the season is the goal.

Defense has been a huge part of Clemson’s surge into relevance in the ACC. Goalkeeper Sandy MacIver, who is on duty with England’s U20s, is back and will start in goal. All-ACC defender Sam Staab is also back in the picture, giving the Tigers two big pieces of their foundation. It goes without saying that goal-scorers are important for every team, though a team like Clemson doesn’t need a ton. Freshman Mariana Speckmaier chipped in seven last season, though co-leading scorer Jenna Polonsky is gone. Finding another source for offense could be the difference between competing for an ACC title and a mid-table finish.

Freshman Emina Ekic burst onto the scene last season for Louisville, sharing Freshman of the Year honors with Alessia Russo from UNC. She scored seven and setup three, and while things picked up for Louisville, it didn’t get the program into postseason action. Finding a supporting cast in the final third needs to be priority one for this side to climb the standings.

Since joining the ACC prior to the 2013 season, Syracuse has mustered a 11-36-6 record in conference play. Will this season be different? Generating offense was a big issue during the 2017 campaign, as the program was solid enough defensively, but scored only 18 goals in 18 games, getting shutout eight times. It remains to be seen if anything has changed, though English youth national team player Georgia Allen might be one of the candidates to help turn things around after her stint at the youth World Cup. Forward Sydney Brackett led the team with five goals in 2017 and could be in for an even bigger year.

Arguably one or two wins in ACC play away from securing an NCAA Tournament spot, Virginia Tech seeks to snap a two-year absence from postseason play. There’s a decent enough roster on paper that if the Hokies can pick up a marquee win or two and finish above .500 that it could be within reach. One of the keys to that hopes is Mandy McGlynn, the U.S. U20 goalkeeper and preseason All-ACC selection. Finding goals, like for many college programs, is the key after mustering 16 tallies in the 2017 campaign. One of those candidates to step into that role is Canadian-Ukrainian forward Nicole Kozlova, who joins the program this year.

One of two programs in the conference that changed head coaches this past year, Miami (FL) hired Sarah Barnes to lead it. As noted, quick turnarounds in the ACC are no small feat, though there are interesting pieces there. Goalkeeper Phallon Tullis-Joyce is one of the most overlooked in the country, and midseason newcomers Alexa Ferreira (transfer from Rutgers) and Gudrun Haralz bring youth international experience to the fold.

A former national title winning coach returned to the college circuit when Pittsburgh hired Randy Waldrum to head the program after the 2017 season. Half the team is new to Pitt, and the growing pains are sure to be evident in the upcoming campaign. Holdovers include a pair of redshirt seniors in Taylor Pryce and Ashley Moreira. While this season might have some bumps, the future should be bright in Pittsburgh under its new leadership.

Related Topics: Atlantic Coast
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