The quick fire second and third rounds of the women’s Division I NCAA Tournament are set to take place over the next few days, as the field gets whittle from 32 to eight in the span of only four days.
There are plenty of intriguing clashes amongst the 16 matches scheduled for the second round. Below are six of the most compelling clashes to note.
All games Friday, Nov. 18, kick off times EST - TV
Care to see two potential future U.S. women’s national team members match up against one another? This is one you won’t want to miss. Gator senior Savannah Jordan is the key to her team’s main offensive thrust, and looks like a lock to turn pro at the end of this season. On the other side, Rose Lavelle hasn’t been quite as dominant a figure for Wisconsin in what was an up-and-down season, though she stepped up with the game-winning goal in the First Round. On paper, the Gators hold the advantage, whether it’s Jordan, other standouts like Meggie Dougherty Howard or Gabby Seiler, not to mention home field advantage. Knockout success has been elusive in the past for Florida, however, so the Badgers can’t be counted out.
Whichever side emerges from this tasty second round encounter will provide a stiff challenge to No. 1 seed Florida – provided the Gators advance, of course. Auburn’s three-headed offensive attack features Kristen Dodson and Casie Ramsier providing the bulk of the production in front of goal, while Brooke Ramsier couples her holding midfield role with the supply-link from set pieces, notching 11 assists. High-scoring games tend to be few and far between as the tournament progresses further and further, though this could buck that trend. Connecticut’s strength is in its offense, so expect to see the Huskies throw caution to the win. Rachel Hill and Stephanie Ribeiro have combined for 37 of the team’s 45 goals, so the Tigers will focus on trying to step them. Whether or not the SEC side can pull that off dictates which team will win this game.
The distinction of the nation’s best turnaround already leaned towards NC State, before the ACC side pulled off a first round shootout win at Minnesota. Stakes are against them once again as they jet off to Northern California for a tricky test against a Pepperdine side that is tough to break down. Injuries have hobbled the Wolfpack at this point, as freshman Kia Rankin was one of a handful of players to miss out on last week’s match against the Gophers. That could lead to a more defensive-oriented approach, something that Pepperdine has excelled at doing this year. Goalkeeper Hannah Seabert denied California on more than one occasion in the first round, and if NC State can fashion chances going forward, she’ll be a key figure once again. Senior Rylee Baisden has been the most consistent force in the final third, and will need to deliver again.
In what could potentially be the toughest clash of the second round, Clemson and Arkansas will take the field in Chapel Hill looking to keep their season alive. It’s been a tremendous year for the Razorbacks despite fading somewhat down the stretch, even if they still made the SEC tournament final. Battle-tested in the ACC and playing on relatively familiar turf, Clemson holds the edge with a stout defense bolstered in goal by Kailen Sheridan, not to mention the experience in its lineup. A strong group of seniors are not going to want this game to be their final one in college. However, Arkansas has the threat and menace to create trouble. Set pieces have been a particular source of strength for a team that is organized and disciplined, looking to make inroads with direct play or from dead ball situations. Jessi Hartzler and Lindsey Mayo tend to be at the heart of success in those scenarios for the Razorbacks, and if they are on song, the upset could be within reach.
Four of the best-coached teams in college soccer duke it out at Shaw Field on Friday, with this capping off the best quartet in the tournament. A rematch of an earlier game this season up in New Jersey, a long-distance stunner from midfield maestro Rachel Corboz won it for the Hoyas in overtime back in September. This one could be just as close. Rutgers is a well-run machine defensively, impressive despite losing some stalwarts from last year’s College Cup team to graduation and the U20 World Cup. An early goal for the Knights has to be the emphasis, as they can pack things in deep and pile the pressure on Georgetown.
While there are several compelling second round matches, perhaps none has the potential to be high scoring like this one. Without six of its regulars, on duty at the U20 World Cup, the defending champions Penn State turn to play the role of spoiler against the seeded Cavaliers. It’s a second visit to Shaw Field for UVA, which lost earlier in the year against Georgetown. That it’s a second visit should help the Cavaliers, which is a vastly different team at home than on the road (as evidenced by a 3-4-1 record away from Klockner). Both teams can do damage. Frannie Crouse is a talented, hard-working forward that will pressure Virginia’s back line on a smaller field, while Nickolette Driesse can pick a pass in the final third for the Nitanny Lions. Virginia’s team is a bit younger, meaning the pressure falls on the team’s spine. Goalkeeper Morgan Stearns, defender Kristen McNabb and midfielder Alexis Shaffer are all critical pieces in this one.