It’s tournament time! This weekend features the final three games of the NCAA Soccer Tournament. PPL Park, home of the Philadelphia Union, will play host to what looks to be extremely cold College Cup. The New Mexico Lobos will face the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and the Maryland Terrapins play the rival Virginia Cavaliers. The winners of both games will meet Sunday afternoon for top honors and the 54th consecutive College Cup.
First, let’s look at what’s already happened. The NCAA Soccer Tournament doesn’t have just four teams, it started with 48 teams back in November, and like all tournaments has whittled itself down to the four best teams. Of the top four seeded teams (UCLA, Washington, Notre Dame, and California) only one remains (Notre Dame, duh). Now, three ACC teams come to the Final Four ready to prove who wants it the most.
All games will be shown live on ESPNU with the championship being on Sunday at 3 PM (All times Eastern).
(7) New Mexico Lobos vs. (3) Notre Dame Fighting Irish – Friday, 5:00 PM
New Mexico’s Road to Semi-Final: vs. George Mason (1-0), vs. Penn State (2-0), (#2) Washington (1-0)
Notre Dame’s Road to Semi-Final: vs. Wisconsin (4-0), vs. (#14) Wake Forest (4-2), vs. (#11) Michigan State (2-1)
Notice something about New Mexico’s scorelines? Not a single goal against. The Lobos defense is in top form right now and are the only team of the tournament not to allow a goal. Senior defender Kyle Venter is partly responsible for that. Venter and the other Lobos will be up against the attack from South Bend, led by one of the best players in the country — Harrison Shipp.
Shipp is a member of the Chicago Fire youth program, so he won’t have to travel far to begin his professional career once this tournament is over.
This will be a game of midfield action though, and both sides have very capable players. Junior Nick Besler, brother of Matt Besler who plays for Sporting KC and the USMNT, brings a solid defensive mid to the Notre Dame side, but he will be challenged facing the New Mexico midfield duo of Michael Calderon and Michael Kafari.
I expect a low scoring game. My prediction is 1-0 win for Notre Dame coming with a second half goal.
(8) Virginia Cavaliers vs. (5) Maryland Terrapins – Friday, 7:30 PM
Virginia’s Road to Semi-Final: vs. St. Johns (2-0), vs. (#9) Marquette (3-1), vs. Conneticut (2-1)
Maryland’s Road to Semi-Final: vs. Providence (3-1), vs. (#12) UC Irvine (1-0), vs. (#4) California (2-1)
This game marks the third time these two teams have met this season. There was the 3-3 draw during the regular season, and then the ACC Championship that Maryland won, 1-0.
For the Terrapins, attack is the only way to play the game. Led by senior foward Patrick Mullins, Maryland will hope that it can get an early goal to put the Cavaliers down. If Virginia hopes to contend, they will need to find a way to break the play into as many counter-attacks as possible.
The matchup should provide plenty of action, with both sides standing a reasonable chance of coming away victorious. My prediction sees Maryland winning with a 3-1 final score.