Women’s Tourney Starts in Routine Fashion | College Soccer – TopDrawerSoccer
Mya Jones’ pass simply floated. The Memphis midfielder created a yard of space, and dinked the ball to the back post, leaving two St. Louis defenders rooted, helplessly watching it fly to a lurking Saorla Miller. The striker produced a finish befitting of the delivery, her right foot stretched out to roll it through the keeper’s legs. Her goal knocked off a top 10 Billikens side in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, standing as one of few upsets in a gripping first round of play. And although it was a fairly predictable weekend, some storylines emerged. Here’s a brief summary of how everything went down.
It was a weekend of “almosts”. For 85 fleeting minutes, unseeded Buffalo lurked as Pittsburgh toiled. The Bulls held off Pittsburgh pressure throughout the first half, with Emily Kelly parrying two shots away. And they almost found the back of the net when Jasmine Guerber had a look — but she dragged her shot wide. There were other moments, too. Suggestions that Buffalo might nick a goal. But free kicks were served in the wrong areas, shots were skewed away from the net. And although Pittsburgh’s goal was deserved — with Leah Pais knocking a header in off a floated cross from Anna Bout — Buffalo almost did something incredible.
Michigan State endured a similarly testy contest. Milwaukee(w) took the lead early, with Natalie Auble rounding the keeper and finishing for a 1-0 lead. But Michigan State’s quality showed, and although it was pushed to extra time, a winner always seemed to be coming.
New Mexico State also made an opponent sweat, knotting its contest against Mississippi State in the 74th minute — and showing plenty of attacking intent over the next few minutes. And although the Bulldogs scored in the 88th minute, things were nervy in Starkville, Mississippi. Texas, Georgetown, Bucknell and California all had to work despite being favored in their respective contests, too.
And then, the inevitable upsets. There were, admittedly, some signs that a few ranked sides might lose. Rutgers, for example, was in the middle of a torrid run — and a loss to Brown wasn’t too hard to envisage. UC Irvine, too, seemed poised to take advantage of a USC side playing without its star. St. Louis was perhaps always up in the air — such are the inevitable questions around a high ranking given to a non-power 5 program. Tennessee, too, had always looked slightly vulnerable this year.
Perhaps, then, it’s unfair to dub any of the five situations in which a seeded side lost as massively unexpected. There were no results that required a double take, an extra glance — especially given the form of the two teams involved in the matchup. This year, as ever, the bracket spit out some difficult contests. Teams out of form were made to face opponents on the rise. Teams that liked to play on the break toiled against low blocks. And some teams, perhaps, just met the wrong opponent on the wrong day.
And What Now?
So much of tournament play is based on form. It is not necessarily that a win comes — but how exactly it happens. And the signs were good for the favorites. North Carolina, Notre Dame, Florida State, Alabama, Duke and UCLA had all effectively sewn up results by half time. For all of the favorites, then, it was a relatively straightforward opening weekend. Alabama, which thrashed Jackson State 9-0, appeared particularly ready for the contests to come. Predicting things from here becomes difficult. The bracket appears to have yielded some trickier matchups for some. Duke might have some trouble against Texas. Notre Dame won’t get an easy game from Santa Clara. And West Virginia’s defense won’t let up for Penn State. After a week of predictability, things might get a bit more interesting.
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