NCAA College Cup TV schedule

Because I’m pretty sure this can’t be said enough times, have it again before the first game kicks off.

Friday, December 3

  • Notre Dame vs Ohio State at 4 p.m. ET
    Live on ESPN2, ESPNU, and ESPN3.com
  • Stanford vs Boston College at 6:30 p.m. ET
    (or 45 minutes after ND-OSU if the game requires overtimes)
    Live on ESPNU; tape-delayed on ESPN2 on 12/5 at 9 a.m. ET

Sunday, December 5

  • Stanford vs Boston College (tape delay)
    9 a.m. ET on ESPN2
  • Championship Final at 12 p.m. ET
    Live on ESPN2 and ESPN3.com

Watch them. The NCAA soccer season is the most wonderful time of the year, and this weekend, 2010 comes to a close with some wicked good teams in the final games.

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I could write about Stanford or BC, but no…

Let's see those ass-kicking cowboy boots, Coach.

It’s been almost a month since I wrote anything about Notre Dame, although I have talked about the Irish in the tournament in our podcast. Previously, I was cranky about Notre Dame’s loss to UConn in the Big East tournament, but apparently that was good for the Irish. They got some time “off,” and they came back strong for the NCAA tournament.

This season was sort of reminiscent of 2007. It’s been a shaky couple of months, possibly tempered for me by Penn State’s stutter-stop 2010. Knaack was dropped from the roster, the freshmen settled in (right? At least a few of them did), and the senior class has returned to the Final Four. As a four-seed, they sliced through New Mexico, returned to proper Irish form against USC, thrashed top-seeded UNC in North Carolina, and survived again on the road against Oklahoma State. This has been a really, really good run for the Irish after a challenging season. Given the spanking they gave the Tar Heels, I would say that although this season isn’t over yet, it’s been a success.

On Friday, Notre Dame meets Ohio State in the 4 p.m. (ET) semifinal. ESPN2/ESPNU should be carrying the game, as well as ESPN3.com. That’s right, the webcast is for Notre Dame-Ohio State, not Stanford-Boston College (6:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2/ESPNU). Four different conferences are represented, two schools are hitting a consecutive Final Four, and two are in their first semifinal. There are very few ways that a tournament in North Carolina without UNC can go wrong, and with the Irish in the mix, there are a lot of ways it can go right.

Boston College beats UNC (aka Thursday was a good night to be a DiMartino)

September 1, 2007, South Carolina opened the season against North Carolina in Chapel Hill. 16 minutes into the match, the Gamecocks score. That single goal was enough to end No. 1 UNC’s 27 game winning steak and hand the Tar Heels an historical first-ever loss in the home opener. And sure, I was happy for South Carolina, but I was more pumped that they at beaten UNC at UNC. The Tar Heels had plenty of time to come back and put the usual hurting on their opponents, but they didn’t.

In women’s college soccer, the giant slayers are few and far between. So the slaying is sweeter when it’s a team that I’ve been through the ups and downs with. In 2007, UNC lost three games in the regular season (South Carolina, William & Mary, and Miami), but none of those mattered as much as Notre Dame’s arrival in Chapel Hill in the third round of the postseason. 2007 was “rough” on UNC and none too gentle on Notre Dame. I was at Penn State-West Virginia when news came that the Irish had knocked the Tar Heels out of the tournament. While my glee was tempered by the Penn State loss, this is still one of the highlights of 2007 for me–despite Notre Dame’s painful semifinal loss to Florida State.

Yesterday, while most of my twitter feed was fixated on the WPS semifinal between Philadelphia and Boston, I was watching the scoreline and minutes for the Boston College-North Carolina game. UNC had a 2-2 draw earlier this season with Stanford, one of the strongest and most talented teams in the NCAA this year. That was the Tar Heels’ 2010 blemish until last night’s 3-2 loss at home to Boston College.

BC opened this season with a 1-1 draw at home against Stanford. Since then, they have won every game. Granted, until last week, the Eagles’ most significant opponent was probably Boston University (no slouch this year with Kevorkian on the roster). But BC didn’t struggle against Rutgers and did come from behind twice before taking down the No. 1.

The recaps and articles are worth reading. This game was a significant victory for a team that is in its second season as serious contenders, and this win should cement that.

Boston College won with a complete effort. It won because DiMartino, Mewis and Mastroianni may be among the 15 or 20 best players in the nation. It won because its back line, particularly the unsung combination of Beyar and Alyssa Pember on the left side, has now hung for 180 minutes with the best Stanford and North Carolina had to offer. It won with role players such as Natalie Crutchfield, the speed merchant off the bench who changed the tempo when she came on as a first-half substitute.

It won because, at least on this night, it was a better than No. 1.

Quick points from the Boston College-Rutgers game

Looks like Rutgers head coach Glenn Crooks is not happy with his team’s performance yesterday. Rutgers fell 3-1 to Boston College (ranked 4th in the nation). I would handwave the scoreline and “L” for this game–take issue with that Seton Hall loss on Friday!–but I agree, Rutgers made it easy on BC for most of the game. The visitors dominated without needing to put in much effort. Jonelle Filigno was the only consistent offensive presence for the Scarlet Knights, and you need more than one (albeit very good) player to compete with a defense like that. If this is the usual for Rutgers this year, then Filigno is going to be exhausted by the time the season ends.

Jillian Mastroianni (a US U-23) was a commanding presence in back for Boston College, although she was mostly unchallenged in this contest. She was vocal particularly at the start of the game, and she was called upon to make a few saves. However, in the closing seconds, she gave up BC’s second goal of the season:

At one point during the second half (I think), Mastroianni got in a footrace with a Rutgers player, chasing the ball way out of her box instead of clearing it. Very amusing for us and probably scary for the Eagles to see; confidence can only get you so far before it becomes reckless.

Victoria DiMartino had a decent game. It was definitely a better showing than she gave for the U-20s this year. No offsides, only hit the wood two or three times, took eight shots and assisted on the first goal. Similar to Filigno, she seems to be the main striker, but she has much more support (and BC definitely has other forward options). It was very interesting to see the offensive dynamic for BC, particularly how DiMartino and fellow U-20 Kristie Mewis factored in. Mewis, also with five shots and an assist (the third goal), did a great job of linking up DiMartino and the rest of the forwards.

Altogether, the BC-Rutgers women’s game was a good experience and good way to see both of these teams in person for the first time. I even took some video. The weather was good, the traffic wasn’t bad, and there were a fair amount of fans for both the home team and visitors. The game was the first of a double-header with the men’s team, which we didn’t stick around for. We passed by the field later while that match was still going on, and the crowd had shrunk considerably.  Have to admit, I was a little smug over that.

WPS Philadelphia-Washington, or NCAA Boston College-Rutgers?

Last year, I made it to six regular season WPS games, one regular season W-League game, and the W-League final.  I didn’t manage to attend any NCAA games, missing my chance to see UCLA at Illinois because of the rain that weekend.

This year, I made it to one preseason WPS/NCAA game (Chicago at Illinois), four regular season WPS games (three of which were FC Gold Pride road games!), and now my WPS season is over. My personal attendance is definitely down. Philadelphia is hosting the first round of the WPS playoffs, but I am (somewhat) superstitious when I am emotionally invested in a game. So I already have plans to attend Boston College-Rutgers in New Jersey instead. These two teams have both started the season strong, with the exception of Rutgers’ strange loss to Monmouth at home.

BC is probably the better-known team these days. Last year, they had an incredible season, both in the ACC and NCAA.  The roster is peppered with US youth national team players (U-20 and U-23), and I would guess they are due at least one player from the 2010 U-17 squad. Boston College is currently ranked 5th in the nation, owing their undefeated season largely to junior goalkeeper Jillian Mastroianni.

Rutgers is a respectable Big East team that doesn’t draw much attention lately. There are a few Canadian WNT and YNT players on the roster, namely Jonelle Filigno, a redshirt freshman with strong showings for both her national team and U-20 squad in 2008. This season, she has scored three goals, assisted two, and converted a PK for Rutgers. She is joined by Shannon Woeller (CWNT and U-20 team), Karla Schacher (U-20 team in 2008), and Rheanne Sleiman (U-20 in 2008 and 2006). Schacher has also added two goals this season. Their starting keeper is redshirt sophomore Emmy Simpkins.

Boston College has to take on UNC next, and Rutgers will ease into conference play by sandwiching BC between match-ups with Seton Hall and Georgetown. So this will be the last non-conference game for both teams. It will also be my first time seeing either of them in person, which is a great way for me to start the travel portion of my season. Brand new, exciting, and full of potential.

Much less nerve wracking than Philly trying to lay a smackdown on DC without giving the game away through silly fouls.

How are the U-20s doing in the NCAA season?

Since we are about a month into college play and certain U-20 influenced teams are having surprising results (both good and bad), I feel as though it would be beneficial to check up on the NCAA-based youth nationals. This list might be incomplete, as it’s mostly based on the clubs submitted to FIFA for the rosters. If I know that the players are with NCAA teams that aren’t included on FIFA’s rosters, then I have listed them (a couple of Mexico’s, for instance), but otherwise, I have probably missed a few internationals. Because Canada did not qualify for the World Cup, I have not included those players.

Arizona is 2-3-1 so far with wins over Cal Poly and Tennessee. This is a rough start to the season, and Pac-10 play won’t be any easier.

  • Renae Cuellar (Mexico) has played all six games. She has taken 26 shots (14 on goal), put away six goals (one game-winner), and recorded three assists. Overall, the Wildcats have 11 goals this season. You do the math.

Auburn is ranked in the top 25 for the first time since 2007, at 21/25, having started the season 5-2-0. One of the highlights so far was beating Florida State 3-2 in an overtime game.

  • Ashley Kotero (Mexico) has played two games and already recorded two shots and a goal.
  • Bianca Sierra (Mexico) played all seven games with two starts. She has taken three shots and notched one assist.

Boston College (5) holds a 5-0-1 record, having tied Stanford in the season opener. They have had a decent non-conference schedule, but it’s not as competitive as some other teams’.

  • Victoria DiMartino (USA) is having a standard season: 19 shots (nine on goal), seven goals (two game-winners), and one assist.
  • Kristie Mewis (USA) has 18 shots (nine on goal), three goals (one game-winner), and five assists.

California is 4-0-2 on the season and ranked 18/19 in the nation. We might get a chance to see how they fare without Alex Morgan this season, as she is still getting call-ups for the USWNT.

  • Betsy Hassett (New Zealand) started in four of the six games she has played this season. She has taken seven shots, two of which were on goal.

Creighton is 4-2-2 and (unsurprisingly, as this is a Missouri Valley Conference school) not ranked.

  • Gabriella Guillen (Costa Rica) started two of her six games so far. She has taken six shots, one on goal, and recorded one assist.

Duke is having a good season, starting 5-1-1 and ranked 14/15 depending on whom you ask. The loss came at the hands of Stanford, and the tie was a scoreless draw with FIU.

  • Mollie Pathman (USA), a freshman, has played all seven games. She is credited with 15 shots (10 on goal), two goals (one game-winner), and two assists.

Florida State isn’t necessarily struggling, but 5-2-0 with losses away (Auburn) and at home (Florida!) could be troubling. At the very least, that home loss to Florida must smart. The Seminoles are ranked 8th in the nation.

  • Ines Jaurena (France) has started and played in six games (DNP vs Stetson). She has taken three shots (two on goal), scored one goal and assisted on another. She has also converted a penalty kick. Too bad she couldn’t play for the US.
  • Toni Pressley (USA) has also converted a pair of PKs this season. She has taken six shots (five on goal!) and scored two goals (one a game-winner). She also has an assist.
  • Casey Short (USA) hasn’t taken PKs, but she does have 13 shots (six on goal). She’s tallied one goal in seven games played.

Georgia has advanced to 21 in the national polls and is 4-2-1, with losses to surging Duke and strong Stanford teams and a recent tie with Santa Clara.

  • Ashley Baker (England), a redshirt freshman, has started all seven games for the Bulldogs. She is credited with 41 saves, has seven goals-against, and notched an assist in the Georgia State game. Right on, keeper.

IPFW is 2-5-0 to start. This probably won’t be the Mastadons’ best season.

  • Erin Nayler (New Zealand) has started six of the seven games she has played as a freshman. She and junior GK Kristen McFadden split netminding duties in a 4-3 loss to unbeaten SIUE. Nayler has 14 goals against and 37 saves.

Lynn University is a DII school in Florida. The team has a 3-0 record.

  • Melissa Ortiz (Columbia) has played 200 of 273 possible minutes. She leads the team with 17 shots taken. She has one goal and one assist.

Mississippi State is off to a 6-1-0 start but will probably struggle when meeting with Oklahoma State this weekend. MSU’s schedule doesn’t seem to have been strong so far.

  • Monica Alvarado (Mexico) started and played six games this season. Eight shots (five on goal) and one assist. She missed the recent game against Jackson State.

North Carolina, ranked No. 1, etc, etc. 6-0-1 with a tie against Stanford. Second verse, same as the first… twenty or so, right? Anson Dorrance has 700ish wins and says his team probably shouldn’t be No. 1. Okay then!

  • Amber Brooks (USA) is a regular starter for the Tar Heels. She has taken ten shots (half on goal) and scored with three of those.
  • Crystal Dunn (USA) is also a regular starter and has played at least a hundred more minutes than Brooks. She has taken a shot and notched an assist.
  • Meg Morris (USA) is a starter and only has about 400 minutes on the field, but she has taken four shots (one on goal) and tallied an assist.

Pacific spent September playing a surprisingly tough schedule against ranked teams. They are 2-4-1, highlighting with a recent tie against Oregon.

  • Angelica Figueroa (Mexico) started six of her seven games for Pacific. She has taken six shots, two on goal, and scored once. She also has three assists and a yellow card.  Her game-tying goal (and her yellow) came in the Oregon game.

Penn State is struggling more than expected this season. A strong schedule has left them 1-5-1 after a month of play. They have lost five straight games and mercifully dropped out of the top-25. Things are only going to get worse with Lexi Marton injured.

  • Maya Hayes (USA) has started six of seven games in her freshman year. She has 13 shots (seven on goal), two goals, and one assist. Not bad, compared to…
  • Christine Nairn (USA), one of the U-20 captains. She has started all seven games for the Nittany Lions, taken 27 shots (put only 8 on frame), scored two goals, and assisted one. This is a very frustrating season already. Edit: given my later comment on Leroux, it’s important to note that Nairn had a PK blocked (by 2008 U-20 GK Chantel Jones) in the game against Virginia. She did convert in the game against Portland, but the final result was disappointing.

Portland is, as my co-writer says, flying under the radar at No. 3 in the nation with a decent schedule (comparable to UNC’s, probably) and 8-0-0 record.

  • Kendall Johnson (USA) started all four of the games she has played in and took two shots. [A/N: knee injury, but not season ending?]

Oklahoma State, 5-1-0, has been okay against okay teams. They ended August with a loss to Portland.

  • Adrianna Franch (USA) has been sharing the net with two other keepers but played all six games. She has 19 saves and three goals against.

San Diego has played a good schedule so far and kept a decent 4-2-1 record. Their recent loss to UC Irvine is surprising, but they beat USC in the preseason!

  • Natalie Garcia (Mexico) is a regular starter. She has taken four shots, all on goal, and has one assist.

Santa Clara has played a mixed-strength non-conference schedule to a 4-1-2 record. The Broncos’ ties with Cal and Georgia are probably a good indicator of what can be expected this season. Somehow, SCU still sits at 9th in the polls.

  • Bianca Henninger (USA) has played all 670 minutes in goal for the Broncos. She has made 26 saves and has five goals against.

Stanford is off to a 4-0-2 start and ranked No. 2 in DI under UNC, who they tied soon after tying Boston College (both road games). All of the Cardinal’s U-20 players have been regular starters in all six games.

  • Alina Garciamendez (Mexico), Courtney Verloo (USA), and Rachel Quon (USA) are all playing on a backline that has only allowed six goals so far. Verloo has two shots and one assist. Quon has one shot, one goal, and one assist.
  • Teresa Noyola (USA) is an attacking midfielder with 16 shots (nine on goal), three goals, and three assists.

Texas is doing alright (5-1-1) so far, but the Longhorns are not in the top 25.

  • Leah Fortune (Brazil) has taken 21 shots with 12 of those on goal. Of two goals, one was a game winner. She also has three assists. She is a redshirt freshman this year, having lost most of 2009 to an ankle injury.

UC Irvine is Joan’s randomly chosen second favorite team! Their 4-1-2 record is highlighted by wins over Gonzaga and San Diego and draws with Cal and Pepperdine.

  • Mar Rodriguez (Mexico) has four shots (three on goal) and one goal!

UCLA is not off to an impressive start, but at least they aren’t as bad as Penn State. 4-1-1 so far, the Bruins lost to Northwestern, tied UC Santa Barbara, and needed overtime to beat Notre Dame. UCLA is ranked 10th.

  • Zakiya Bywaters (USA) has taken 19 shots (9 on goal), scored twice (one game-winner), and assisted once.
  • Sydney Leroux (USA) has taken 28 shots, half of them on frame. She has five goals, one assist, and (no joke) didn’t manage to convert her PK attempt. Maybe her four-goal game against Cal Poly makes up for that.
  • Jenna Richmond (USA) beats Leroux’s four goals with two against Notre Dame. 16 shots (11 on goal), 4 goals (2 game-winners), and an assist. As a freshman.

Webster University is DIII. They are 1-3-0 so far.

  • Maria Arias (Costa Rica) is one of two players on the roster not from Missouri or Illinois. I don’t think she’s played yet this season.

In honor of the NCAA preseason starting this week

A few weeks ago, an anon on tumblr asked who my top 5 players were to watch for this upcoming college season. That is a really hard question to answer, because I presume the question is meant in terms of skill and record-breaking and the like. Those aren’t the reasons I find players worth following. Besides, you know everyone is going to be keeping an eye on the current seniors from the 2008 U-20 team. Alex Morgan and Sydney Leroux are going to be the ones under scrutiny. They’re a two-year tired story. Obviously, the players you really need to keep an eye on if you liked 2008 are at Portland.

So I came back to the question with a somewhat better, if redirected, answer. Switch “teams” for “players,” and I can give you a Top 5 and honorable mentions. This hasn’t changed, even now that the U-20s finished their crash and burn cycle.

Here are my top 5 teams to watch this season in NCAA women’s soccer, and my reasons to jump on the emotional roller coaster with them.

  • Santa Clara. I always watch Santa Clara – for the injuries, for the chemistry, for the mocking (so many captains!), for the goalkeepers and backlines. I waited patiently through the injuries of 2006, 2007, and 2008 for the team’s return in 2009. I think a lot of their comeback can be attributed to the strength and determination of the two senior captains, the energy brought by the freshman class, and the confidence and skill of their starting goalkeeper. I think Olivia Klei’s health and the team’s overall fitness and chemistry will factor into SCU’s ability to contend with an equally strong, more consistent Portland team.
  • Boston College. This is a team that finally burst out of the ACC shadow last season, again because all of the pieces were in place: senior leadership, freshman energy, team chemistry, and a wild but underrated goalkeeper. The question this year is whether the team can maintain their focus without the graduating class, and now that they don’t have the element of surprise.
  • Stanford. Kelley O’Hara and Ali Riley were huge in the Cardinal’s resurgence. This team still has big names, though, and the incoming and future freshmen are solid bets. But can they dominate UCLA this year? Will Alex Morgan try to make something of her senior season at Cal? The Pac-10 is worth watching, and I will be taking it in from a Stanford angle.
  • Penn State. The only question I have related to the graduating seniors is who will the Nittany Lions trust in goal? Otherwise, I am excited to see the sophomores and freshmen carve out new space for themselves on this team. I want them to do well. I think they can, and I want to enjoy that. From youth, they can only get better. [Additionally, I can’t wait to see how Nairn approaches this season, considering how the U-20 WWC went down.]
  • Notre Dame. Again, a team I always follow. This year, I feel more mellow than usual. Lauren Fowlkes is a senior, and who knows what position she will end up playing this year. Leon and Laddish are joining the team. Melissa Henderson might keep scoring! A couple of last year’s non-seniors have left the team. Etc. This team entertains me year in and year out, and I love their coach, Randy Waldrum. He is one of the few coaches in any sport that I like and respect both on the field and off. The rumors that are going around about his being back on the market worry me. The fact that he’s signed with LTA worries me. So I am watching very, very closely this year.

My honorable mentions go to Wisconsin and Virginia. The Badgers have the potential to challenge Penn State again this year. The Cavaliers might or might not make a real showing this season, but I like to have the background when I feel like something big is coming. I definitely feel like their future recruiting classes are going to bring something special to a team I already like.

And as I said above (so it shouldn’t require any mention at all), it’s important to watch Portland this year. They have the seniors.