Women's DI Tournament First Round Preview

Women's DI Tournament First Round Preview
by Tom Hindle
November 10, 2022

It's admittedly difficult to make anything of an NCAA Tournament bracket. Early predictions can be made, favorites established, dark horses identified. But wholly projecting a 64 team bracket is near impossible. Instead, here are some games to watch. A few could be spots for an upset. Others might be landmark games for programs. And one or two are just good fun.

Vanderbilt vs. Clemson, 11/11, 3 p.m.

Clemson was one of the nation’s hardest teams to figure out. It had big wins over Notre Dame and West Virginia but also lost to NC State, Wake Forest and Alabama. There’s a lot to like here, though. The Tigers have some real attacking talent in Caroline Conti and Renee Lyles and boast experience at the back with Megan Bornkamp and Harper White. Halle Mackiewicz has also delivered between the sticks, consistently producing big saves to keep the Tigers in big games. She will have to be at her best against a Vanderbilt side that can score in bunches — and likes to hit on the break. Raegan Kelley is a dynamic attacking player and has a reliable supporting cast around her for attacking production. Sara Wojdelko, meanwhile, has starred in goal in recent weeks. Though Clemson has the experience, Vanderbilt might just have an attacking edge.

Prediction: Vanderbilt 3-2 Clemson

BYU vs. Utah Valley, 11/11, 8 p.m.

BYU and Utah Valley meet in a rematch of one of the regular season’s strangest fixtures. Back on September 10, Utah Valley put four past BYU on the road, snatching a 4-2 win in Provo, Utah. It was an odd contest. BYU had less than 48 hours to prepare after an exhausting tie with Arkansas, but Utah Valley still looked every part a team that could beat a fresh Cougars side. For the Wolverines, it all starts with the attack. They have scored 57 goals this season, and average 20 shots per game. Four different players have more than 15 goal involvements, with Faith Webber leading the way to the tune of 14 goals and 7 assists. And it’s not hard to see another upset here. Though BYU has found form towards the end of the season, there are question marks all over the pitch — especially at the back. If Utah Valley scores early, another Wolverines win could be on the cards.

Prediction: Utah Valley 3-2 BYU

Michigan State vs. Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 11/11. 6 p.m.

More than anything, it feels like the Spartans really need to get back on track. Jeff Hosler coached his side to an undefeated Big Ten slate but didn’t coax a winning performance out of the Spartans in the ACC Tournament Championship. And for a group that hasn’t played on the big stage yet — this is Michigan State’s first tournament bid since 2009 — a strong start is imperative, if only to calm the nerves. It will face an NCAA tournament regular in Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The Panthers only lost once in conference play and won their conference tournament comfortably. And they might just be a handful, especially given the number of chances they create. Michigan State will need an early goal to settle things. If that doesn’t come, it might be a rocky 90 minutes.

Prediction: Michigan State 2-0 Milwaukee

Texas vs. Texas A&M, 11/11, 6 p.m.

Texas was perhaps unlucky to be seeded so low. The Longhorns’ attack has been as good as any in the nation at times this year — especially when star striker Trinity Byars is firing. There are, admittedly, some concerns about this team’s solidity. The Longhorns defend well, but tend to cede a fair few shots, which might not translate too well to tournament play. They will meet a sneakily good Texas A&M side in the first round. The Aggies haven’t been entirely consistent, and have been forced to settle for a few disappointing draws, but coach G Guerrieri can always get his teams fired up for big games. And if he does, an upset is possible.

Prediction: Texas 2-1 Texas A&M

Georgetown vs. Hofstra, 11/12, 1 p.m.

Can Hofstra’s miracle run continue? The Pride entered the CAA tournament as the last seed, their chances of winning the whole thing written entirely. But Simon Riddough’s team kept rolling, getting goals from all over the pitch to get their hands on some silverware. Georgetown won its conference tournament, too, albeit with less drama involved. The Hoyas have consistently been a top 15 team all season, buoyed by one of the nation’s best defenses — with only eight goals allowed all season. Still, Hofstra comes into the contest on a good run, and might cause some problems. An early goal for the Pride could make this one interesting, but Georgetown appears to have more quality in its ranks. 

Prediction: Georgetown 3-1 Hofstra

Memphis vs. Saint Louis 11/12, 2 p.m.

Saint Louis hasn’t really been challenged in conference play. It dispatched its nearest rivals, 4-0, in the A-10 tournament final, and spent the last 30 minutes rotating in a cast of eager bench players. Memphis might offer a bit more of a threat. The Tigers have flirted with a top 25 spot for much of the season and won six of their last games. They can be a bit leaky defensively, but have a dynamic forward duo in Jocelyn Alonzo and Mya Jones — a tandem that can cause any defense problems.

Prediction: Saint Louis 3-2 Memphis

Rutgers vs. Brown, 11/12, 6 p.m.

Kiam McNeill has worked wonders with this Brown side over the last five years, leading the Bears to three straight Ivy League Titles. But NCAA Tournament success has evaded them, with a narrow win over Monmouth standing as its only national tournament victory. Could this be the year things change? Rutgers won’t be an easy out. The Scarlet Knights struggled through the Big Ten, and were knocked out by Northwestern in the first round of the conference tournament. But this is still a loaded team, with stars such as Sam Kroeger, Allison Lowrey and Riley Tiernan continuing to a dynamic attack. If Brown can put in a shift defensively, it will have a good chance to pull off a significant upset.

Prediction: Brown 2-1 Rutgers

Pittsburgh vs. Buffalo, 11/12 7 p.m.

Regardless of the result, this is a massive fixture for Pittsburgh. The Panthers are appearing in their first ever NCAA Tournament — just two weeks after making their first ever ACC Tournament showing. It’s been a mixed season for Pittsburgh. It lost top scorer Amanda West to a season ending injury back in September and hasn’t quite been the same attacking power since. Still, with head coach Randy Waldrum at the helm, the Panthers are always set up to win. But Buffalo could cause some problems. The Bulls rolled through the MAC, and haven’t lost since August 28 — when they narrowly fell to Rutgers in New Jersey. They’re a well balanced side, and have only conceded eight goals all season. Jasmine Guerber and Arianna Zumpiano are proven goalscorers, while Payton Robertson is an excellent creative player. But Pitt — injuries and all — might just have enough quality.

Prediction: Pitt 2-0 Buffalo

NC State vs. UCF, 11/13, 12 p.m.

This is a clash of two teams that have seen their seasons go differently. NC State was fast out of the gate but fell off in ACC play. UCF, meanwhile, struggled through its nonconference schedule but heated up once AAC play began. The Knights won their last seven regular season games, before narrowly falling to Memphis in the AAC Tournament. Still, they picked up the conference regular season title — an accolade enough to get them to the tournament. NC State is at its most dangerous in open games when winger Jameese Joseph can exploit spaces with her pace and dribbling ability. UCF isn’t likely to let that happen. The Knights control possession and surrender less than 10 shots per game. It will likely come down to who can be more clinical on the day.

Prediction: UCF 2-0 NC State

Virginia Tech vs. West Virginia, 11/13, 1 p.m.

West Virginia enjoyed a shock run in the Big 12 Tournament, knocking off both Texas and TCU to win the championship. And it was certainly deserved, with a series of strong defensive performances good enough to carry the Mountaineers to some silverware. Virginia Tech will certainly test the Kountaineers’ back line. The Hokies average over two goals per game and are led by the ever-improving Taylor price — who can change a game singlehandedly. For other teams, slowing Price down has been the key to beating Virginia Tech. If WVU can mark the exciting freshman out of the game, they should advance. But it won’t be easy.

Prediction: West Virginia 1-1 Virginia Tech (West Virginia wins on PKs)

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