So long, Sweet 16. It was fun while it lasted.
Because if you weren’t following, we’re here to inform you that, after eight drama-filled contests on Sunday, the NCAA men’s soccer tournament is now down to the Elite 8. And we’re also here to answer all your burning questions. Namely…
How about we start with the team that didn’t win? Because for all the fight and heroics of Sunday’s seven victorious teams, it was Connecticut’s 3-3 draw with No. 1 UCLA that provided the most drama of the night.
The Huskies got themselves in a hole early on, trailing 2-0 inside of 13 minutes via goals from Felix Vobejda and Leo Stolz. Then UConn’s Canadian freshmen took over, with a goal from Kwame Awuah and two from Cyle Larin to send the game to a 3-3 tie in regulation. Connecticut fell behind in the shootout, as well, after a miss from senior Juho Karpinnen, before storming back to secure an upset victory over the No. 1 seed.
Here are the full results (winners in bold):
- (1) UCLA 3, Connecticut 3 (UConn win 5-4 in PKs)
- (2) Washington 1, Stanford 0
- (3) Notre Dame 4, (14) Wake Forest 2
- (4) California 1, Coastal Carolina 0
- (5) Maryland 1, (12) UC Irvine 0
- (6) Georgetown 0, (11) Michigan State 1
- (7) New Mexico 2, Penn State 0
- (8) Virginia 3, (9) Marquette 1
Right. What does all that mean?
It means that basically everyone won who was supposed to, and that it’s usually the best course of action to play your tournament games at home. Virginia, for example, were down to 10 men within a minute of the opening whistle at Klöckner Stadium and still managed to beat Marquette soundly. Of the hosts, only Georgetown suffered a loss, which was slightly surprising simply because the entire game seemed to look like a power play for the Hoyas, and only a Herculean effort from State kept them off the board.
In more substantive terms, it means that Virginia, Notre Dame, Washington and Cal all have home games coming up on Saturday. The Cavaliers will host UConn, Notre Dame will host MSU, New Mexico will face Washington and Maryland will get a rematch against Cal to try and avenge a 3-2 overtime loss on the opening weekend of the season.
Big Men on Campus
Michigan State senior center back Kevin Cope – We mentioned this in our first mockery of the 2014 SuperDraft, but Cope has been suffering from cracked ribs since the Big Ten Tournament, and he has yet to tap out.
In addition to being tough, though, Cope is a really capable defender, as evidenced by his lockdown performance against Georgetown. With the Hoyas on the front foot for most of the game, Cope’s services were required frequently, and more often than not it seemed like he was in the middle of the Spartans’ latest crucial clearance, tackle or block.
UCLA junior midfielder Leo Stolz – His missed penalty in UCLA’s shootout against UConn will be the last action that the average North American soccer nerd sees of the German until August of next year, as multiple sources have asserted that Stolz will return to the Bruins for his senior year.
So let’s give the reigning Pac-12 Player of the Year some love now while we still have the chance. Because even though he missed a penalty late in the game, Stolz converted one earlier to make it 2-0 for UCLA, and then scored later in the contest to make it 3-2. Final tally for the season: 11 goals, eight assists. Auf wiedersehen.
So how does one earn a red card in under 60 seconds? To demonstrate, Virginia’s junior defender Matt Brown.
New Mexico and Penn State weren’t able to get a ton going against each other in the first half of their Sunday-evening contest, but that changed about 10 minutes into the second half as the Lobos popped off two goals within four minutes of each other.
What to Watch for:
California vs. Maryland, Saturday, 4:30 pm ET
We’re in the Elite 8, so none of the games are bad at this point, but the one really intriguing matchup of the weekend will come out of Berkeley.
Yes, Cal beat Maryland early in the year, but that was just two games into the college careers of the immense cadre of freshmen that the Terrapins were playing at defense. These are different teams now, and if the bracket had been more obliging they could both have been going to play for the national title in two weeks. Buckle up for a good one.