The Division I women’s soccer season is winding to a close, with conference tournaments set to wrap up on Sunday.
Keep an eye on these five conference tournaments/races over the next few days
ACC (in Charleston, S.C.)
Attention in the ACC turns to South Carolina, as Charleston hosts Friday’s semifinals and Sunday’s final of the tournament. Duke heads into the weekend as slight favorites, looking to maintain an 18-game winning streak. The Blue Devils have recently crowned ACC Player of the Year Imani Dorsey to look to for an offensive spark, while Kayla McCoy has raised her game of late. Friday’s semifinal is a rematch of last week’s game at Virginia, which Duke won by a 1-0 score. Losing Alissa Gorzak has been a blow for the Cavaliers’ attack, though head coach Steve Swanson has done an admirable job leading his team to this stage of the season.
An inter-state clash looms in the other semifinal, as the relatively surprising NC State seeks a win against North Carolina. Midfielder Tziarra King leads the Wolfpack attack, and a five-goal outburst in the last two games sees her in second place in the conference with total goals (14). North Carolina continues to be a tough out, and can seal a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament is they can win the ACC version.
American Athletic (in Orlando, Fla.)
There’s an interesting juxtaposition set for the American Athletic tournament, which will be hosted by top seed UCF in Orlando. For SMU and Memphis, advancing to the final is necessary to shore up chances of an at-large bid, and for the Mustangs, winning the entire event could be their only hope. The hosts enter as overwhelming favorites, when considering the run they’ve been on and the individual talent that’s stepped up in 2017. The Knights earned at least a share of every single postseason conference award, with Morgan Ferrara and Kayla Adamek stepping up in a big way to lead the attack.
Of course, the other three sides aren’t without a chance. Memphis started the season strong before hitting a midseason funk, but have the likes of Marie Levasseur and Elizabeth Woerner primed to spring an upset on Friday. South Florida and UCF drew 1-1 last week, signifying that there isn’t too much separating the sides. Senior midfielder Claire Oates rides into Orlando looking to keep her career alive and extend it into the NCAA Tournament.
Atlantic 10 (in Richmond, Va.)
The A10 serves up an intriguing field for a variety of reasons. With no side realistically within reach of an at-large bid, it’s winner-take-all for the quartet heading to Richmond. There’s the surprise table-toppers (La Salle) looking to avoid defeat, hosts VCU aiming to take advantage of hosting the three games, the surging upstarts (No. 7 seed Saint Joseph’s(w)) and the solid and steady Duquesne side that needed an overtime winner to advance into the semifinals.
Anything can happen at this point of the season, and while La Salle enter the weekend as the top seed in the tournament, that is likely to fire up their opponents all the more.
Big Ten (in Grand Park, Ind.)
The Big Ten shifts its focus to Grand Park, Indiana for the conference tournament, with all four semifinalists relatively safe no matter who earns the crown. Penn State, which dipped to the No. 5 seed in the tournament after an up-and-down season, gets the chance to avenge a regular season lost at the hands of the Buckeyes. Sammy Edwards’ stellar season paved the way for Ohio State’s victory, and they’ll be hungry to pick up another win against the Nittany Lions.
Northwestern is the lone Big Ten side that could be on the bubble if they miss out on a conference title. The Wildcats did manage to finish second overall in the conference, and enter the weekend on a surge. Winners of five straight, Northwestern hasn’t conceded a goal during that stretch, having bounced back nicely from two losses in a row to Purdue and Illinois that put their postseason hopes in jeopardy. Goalkeeper Lauren Clem has shown her quality once again leading the back line, that will look to snuff out Wisconsin’s Dani Rhodes.
While it may not be a conference tournament, the intrigue surrounding the final day of Ivy League play is compelling. Columbia was in the driver’s seat for the conference’s automatic bid, but came up short last weekend at home against Yale, and now is in must-win territory in order to get the automatic spot. They face a Crimson side that they haven’t defeated since 2007, and that will surely hang on Lions’ minds despite Harvard’s struggles this season.
Princeton is in solid enough shape that if Columbia wins, an at-large bid should be in reach; the Tigers sat at No. 8 in the most recent RPI, but the program is likely to feel better if an Ivy League crown is clinched. If both Columbia and Princeton do win, the former secures the automatic spot, having won the head-to-head clash a few weeks ago.