MLS on Campus: Champs go down, favorites flex their muscle as wild Tournament kicks off
Over the course of the week, we saw 32 college soccer games played as the NCAA Tournament made its way through the first two rounds and into the Sweet 16.
That’s a lot of soccer, so let’s get right to it.
Basically, everyone who was supposed to. Indiana’s title defense ended quite early with a 3-2 loss to Akron, but the Hoosiers finished the season under .500, so it’s not necessarily unexpected. Each of the top four seeds in the tournament – UCLA, Washington, Notre Dame and California – won in emphatic style, and all but Cal put up four goals. (The Golden Bears scored just thrice.)
All in all, 12 of the 16 seeded teams are still alive and kicking, though No. 12 UC Irvine owe their spot to senior forward Christopher Santana’s goal vs. North Carolina … with two seconds remaining on the clock.
So there were upsets?
Oh, you bet. The first round featured a couple of kind-of, maybe, sort-of upsets like St. John’s beating Delaware and VCU getting spanked by Navy. Elon beating Clemson was a little bit more upsettish, but the biggest one of the night came in snowy Omaha, as Creighton – who, by the way, were ranked as high as No. 3 this year by the NSCAA, and ranked first by some other people – fell 2-1 to Seattle.
The second round saw four of the 16 seeded teams go down, but whether or not they were “upsets” is kind of up for debate. Connecticut, for example, have plenty of talent on their team but vastly underachieved this year, so the fact that they took No. 16 UMBC to penalties and ended up winning is not exactly earth-shattering. Coastal Carolina, meanwhile, disposed of No. 13 UNC Charlotte with a 1-0 victory, but that was always going to be a close game.
The biggest surprises came from Stanford and Penn State. The Nittany Lions put No. 10 UCSB to the sword with a 78th-minute goal from freshman Connor Maloney, though the Gauchos shot themselves in the foot when Fifi Baiden earned himself a straight red card in the sixth minute. Stanford, meanwhile, logged an impressive defensive effort to beat No. 15 Cal State Northridge 1-0.
It should be mentioned that Stanford were only playing Northridge because they beat Loyola Marymount on Thursday, going down in the 83rd minute before equalizing with 17 seconds in regulation. The Cardinal then missed their first two penalty kicks in the eventual shootout with the Lions, but managed to come back and win anyways. Can you put a glass slipper on a Tree?
Big Men on Campus
Stanford senior goalkeeper Drew Hutchins – He didn’t have a ton to do in goal over Stanford’s two games this week – the senior netminder faced just five shots on target – but he still might just be the reason that the Cardinal are going to the Sweet 16.
It’s probably indicative of the night that Hutchins had on Thursday that he was upset he gave up a goal near-post to Loyola Marymount, but honestly, Gigi Buffon might not have been able to save freshman Adrien Perez’s strike. Whether his fault was imagined or not, however, Hutchins quickly made amends by getting the assist on Stanford’s late equalizer, and though he was aided by some wayward penalty kicks in the eventual shootout, that doesn’t take away from the fact that he both converted the winning kick and saved LMU’s last penalty.
“Clutch Hutch” followed up on Sunday with a clean sheet against Cal State Northridge, who scored 43 goals this year. Some week.
UCLA senior forward Victor Chavez – He scored two goals in the Bruins’… how to put this?... “comprehensive” opening-round victory over Elon. Obviously, this constitutes a “good performance.”
But is it quite enough to earn the honored – hallowed, even – title of “Big Man on Campus?” Just go look at the goals, and then you will truly understand.
Oddly enough, LMU probably have the better highlight reel of their loss to Stanford, but each and every moment of it is worth watching. Kudos to Lions goalkeeper Paul Blanchette for saving two penalties, and we will forgive him his slightly premature celebration.
No forgiveness needed for Providence goalkeeper Keasel Broome’s truly spectacular celebration against Penn after making the winning save in the Friars’ penalty shootout victory over Penn. Come for the epic dance moves (which the highlight reel doesn’t really do justice to, but skip to about 1:25 anyways), stay for the melodramatic background music that only the Ivy League Digital network could pull off.
Would you like more proof that Notre Dame striker Harrison Shipp is, in the words of one Division I coach, a “stud?” Here you go.
What to Watch For:
UCLA vs. Connecticut, Sunday, 8 pm ET
Like we said, UConn underachieved big time this year. Does that mean that they can beat UCLA, though?
Maryland vs. UC Irvine, Sunday, 5 pm ET
The Big West has had a rough go of it so far, but Irvine managed to eke out a win against UNC. Now the last man standing in the conference will have a chance to show that they are the real deal against the best that the ACC has to offer.