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  • Sophie Lodes

First Round NCAA Soccer Tournament Recap

Updated: Nov 15, 2023

Round one of the NCAA women’s soccer tournament wrapped up on Sunday with 32 teams advancing on. While most of the matchups went according to plan, the first round wasn’t without drama (thank you, UC Irvine).


Below is a recap of the first round to preview the second, which takes place on November 17th with two games being played on the 16th.


No. 1 Florida State v. No. 8 Texas A&M—5:30 pm

Florida State was cruising in their 5-0 win over Morehead St. It took FSU 35 minutes to open up the scoring, but ultimately, Florida St. would record five different goal scorers with five additional players tallying assists. Exhibiting patience in breaking down Morehead St., dangerous in the run of play and off of set pieces, and with individual confidence in spades, Florida St. looks in control of their destiny.

Texas A&M on the other hand, defeated Colorado 1-0 with perhaps the oddest deflection goal soccer has seen in a while. A Colorado defender attempted to clear a ball outside the 18-yard box, but the ball bounced off Mia Pante’s shin and over the head of the goalkeeper, giving the Aggies the lead. From there, Texas A&M held Colorado scoreless, never allowing Colorado to seize control of the momentum and keeping the pressure up in the attacking third.


No. 5 Texas v. No. 4 Wisconsin—2:00 pm

Both Texas and Wisconsin won their matches 2-0, but the similarities end there. Texas struck early, scoring 21st and 42nd minute, going into the half on the front foot. Goalkeeper Mia Justus had a solid performance in net to preserve the shutout, especially in the second half where Texas bunkered in to protect the lead. While the defense allowed Lamar to take shots, Texas’s offense did the job of giving the team a two-goal lead early.



Wisconsin took a bit longer to get rolling, scoring both of their goals in the second half in the 60th and 67th minutes respectively. Offside was the bane of the Badgers' existence in the first half. But, the team managed to adjust and come out swinging in the second, denying Milwaukee possession and opportunities. The Badgers didn’t fully clean up their offside issue, which will likely be something Texas looks to use against them.


No. 3 Notre Dame v. No. 6 Memphis—4:00 pm

The biggest obstacle to Notre Dame was Valparaiso goalkeeper Nikki Coryell and the woodwork. The 2-0 scoreline doesn’t quite reflect the way that the offense was rolling. Kiki Van Zanten recorded an assist, a good sign for Notre Dame. The defense did give up 14 corner kicks but kept Valparaiso from getting a shot off on any of them, demonstrating their organization.


Notre Dame Women's Soccer celebrate a goal against Valparaiso in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. Photo courtesy of @NDSoccer /Twitter

Memphis defeated LSU 2-1 with both their goals coming in the 3rd minute of play. Exploiting space wide to draw out defenders, Memphis’s bread and butter comes from having multiple runners in the box. Absorbing LSU’s pressure, the Memphis defense only conceded in the 70th minute and the concession jolted them into dominating offense for the next ten minutes.


No. 7 Pitt v. No. 2 Arkansas—7:30 pm

Pitt and Arkansas rolled over their opponents with Pitt beating Ohio 6-0 and Arkansas defeating Grambling 5-0. Pitt had Ohio’s number from the start, scoring three goals in the first half. Another team hampered by offsides calls, Pitt also allowed Ohio chances, especially right after Pitt scored. Quick to capitalize Pitt scored back-to-back, taking advantage of the opposition’s disorganization.


On the other hand, it took Arkansas till the second half to find the back of the net, but once they did they never looked back. Bella Field scored a hattrick while Ava Tankersley scored a goal and two assists. Grambling had opportunities, especially in the first half, but the Razorbacks patiently put the pieces together and dismantled them in the second.


No. 2 Penn St v No. 7 Santa Clara—6:00 pm

Penn St crushed Central Connecticut St. 7-0 with four different goal scorers and a hattrick by Payton Linnehan. Five of the seven goals came in the first half, demonstrating Penn St. control right out of the gate. Keeping the focus on the attacking third, Penn St.'s defense still handled the few and far-between attempts Central Connecticut managed.


Payton Linnehan celebrating one of her three goals against Central Connecticut in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. Photo courtesy of Penn State Athletics.

Santa Clara wanted to start off early with a goal and they got their wish in a 3-0 win over Arizona State. With a foot on the gas, Santa Clara pressed their advantage and continued to take the game to ASU. They focused on executing their game plan for a full 90 minutes. With two goals coming late in the first half, Santa Clara’s ability to unravel an opponent without needing a reset was on full display.


No. 6 Saint Louis v. No. 3 Georgetown—3:00 pm

Saint Louis now has 11 shutouts in a row after keeping a clean sheet in a 2-0 win over Indiana. Preferring to start off strong, SLU likes to score early to take pressure off their defense. That defense kept Indiana’s few shots from ending up on frame, frustrating the Hoosier offense. Equal parts offensive firepower and lights-out defense, SLU plays a disciplined, measured game.


Georgetown needed overtime to dispatch Old Dominion after they scored first in the 40th minute. Although dominating possession, Georgetown struggled to break the defensive line and allowed Old Dominion to have sustained periods of pressure that went beyond a one-and-down counterattack. Georgetown knew when to turn up the tempo though and largely controlled the game in overtime.


No. 4 Georgia v. No. 5 Iowa—2:00 pm

Patient in the buildup, Georgia defeated Liberty 2-1 after Liberty equalized late in the second. Relying on Croix Bethune to direct traffic in the midfield, Georgia held the ball before advancing forward, looking to attack space and not just the net. Responding to a late equalizer, it took Georgia 13 minutes to regain the lead, determined to win the game in regulation. Both goals were assisted by Bethune.


Iowa Women's Soccer celebrate their second goal in overtime against Bucknell. Photo courtesy of @HawkeyeSoccer /Twitter

Iowa defeated Bucknell 2-0 in overtime, scoring the first in the 94th and adding another in the 108th. Cagey, Iowa grew into the match and held Bucknell to zero shots in the first overtime. The offense might have a hard time creating chances, but the defense did an equally good job at preventing the other team from shooting, giving the forwards time to decipher the opposition's game plan.


No. 8 Columbia v No. 1 Clemson—6:00 pm

Columbia managed to score two goals in the last 11 minutes to win their first-ever NCAA tournament game. The late comeback came off a set-piece goal with the second coming from the Rutgers goalkeeper giving up a rebound in the box. Gritty, not always pretty, Columbia stayed in the game long enough to turn the momentum in their favor at the very end. Mentally tough, Columbia will hang with opponents until the right moment, then strike.


Clemson beat Radford 2-0 to advance with both goals coming after the 55th minute. Caroline Conti had a goal and an assist showcasing her importance to the Tigers' offense. The Clemson defense didn’t give Radford much to work with, keeping the pressure focused squarely on Radford’s goal. Although the two-goal margin isn’t the biggest in the tournament, Clemson stifled threats and showcased just how dominant they could be.


No. 1 BYU v. No. 8 Southern California—Nov. 16th at 9:00 pm

BYU shut Utah St. out 2-0, scoring in the 10th and 73rd minute. Scoring right out of the gate granted BYU some insurance and the late goal made sure that Utah St. couldn’t tie things up. With the first goal coming after a sustained Utah St. attack, BYU demonstrated their ability to absorb pressure and turn it into momentum for themselves. After the goal, BYU only allowed Utah St. flashes of offense, managing to keep control of the game.


Southern California snuck by Grand Canyon State with a 67th-minute penalty. Although having the better of the chances, Southern California couldn’t rest comfortably given the quality GCU brought to the table. It was only after the goal that Southern California’s attack came alive, repeatedly pressuring GCU with multiple shots.


No. 5 Michigan St. v. No. 4 Harvard—Nov. 16th at 6:00 pm

Michigan St. started the game being awarded a penalty kick and didn’t look back, beating Ohio 3-0. Bella Najera was involved in all three goals, either scoring or assisting, in a game where the Spartans didn’t allow Ohio much time or space on the ball. Unafraid of physical play, the Spartans want to control the tempo and score early before continuing to push for more goals.


Harvard beat Maine 3-0 and made it look easy. With control over the midfield and the ability to find an open woman, Harvard relegated the Black Bears to second balls and kept Maine out of the attacking third for most of the game. Harvard’s offense is dangerous from multiple attacks, whether that be a ball over the top, runners in the box, or set pieces.


No. 3 North Carolina v. No. 6 Alabama—3:30 pm

North Carolina scored three unanswered goals after falling behind to defeat Towson 3-1. UNC evened the score in the first half and then scored two insurance goals in the second while keeping Towson from having quality chances. The goal and the second-half reset allowed UNC to step up their game and regain momentum.


Talia Dellaperuta (24) and Bella Sember (18) celebrate a goal in UNC's opening-round win in the NCAA Tournament. Photo credit to UNC Athletics.

Alabama shut out Western Carolina 2-0, dominating possession, and game tempo while forcing Western Carolina to rely on substitutions to keep pace. Opening and closing the game with goals, Alabama looked just as dangerous in the first ten minutes as they did in the last ten, making it a challenge to disrupt their game flow. With a lethal ability to control time and space, Alabama can make the most dangerous lead in sports feel like a security blanket.


No. 7 Princeton v No. 3 Texas Tech—7:00 pm

It took Princeton 80 minutes to find the game-winner against Michigan, but the Tigers found it when it counted. Although Michigan did their best to counter and racked up six corner kicks, Princeton had several chances to shoot and maintain offensive efforts. Pouring the pressure on and having multiple chances per possession ultimately paid off for the Tigers sneaking one past the Michigan goalkeeper in dramatic fashion.


Another late-game winner saw Texas Tech advance past FGCU with the goal coming in the 79th minute. Although it took almost 80 minutes to score, Texas Tech had control of the match and just struggled to find the back of the net. With the defense stepping up when called upon, there was plenty of time for the Texas Tech forwards to finally get a shot on net and little threat of a comeback once a goal was scored.


No. 2 Stanford v. No. 7 South Carolina—9:00 pm

Stanford rolled past Pepperdine 3-0 with three different goal scorers and five players tallying assists. After a shaky stretch in the first, Stanford made sure not to give Pepperdine much of the ball to work with, limiting chances. With more possession came more shots, leading to the two goals in the second period. Stanford might have taken a moment to adjust but also scored their first goal immediately after Pepperdine’s most dangerous stretch.


Corinna Zullo (20) and Lily Render (25) celebrate their first-half goal in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Photo courtesy of @GamecockWSoccer

South Carolina beat James Madison 2-0 by way of the chemistry between Lily Render and Corinna Zullo. Render scored both goals with Zullo assisting. By limiting the opportunities James Madison had, the defense proved how difficult they were to break down and how organized they were on set pieces. Able to quickly counter, South Carolina proved dangerous in precisely the moments when it looked like momentum might be going against them.


No. 6 Mississippi St. v. No. 3 Brown—6:30 pm

Mississippi St. took overtime to sneak past Providence, winning 1-0 with a goal coming in the 95th minute. The back-and-forth affair showcased Mississippi St.'s dedication to their game plan and how unafraid they are of taking on a physical opponent. Executing a perfect offside trap in the first half, Mississippi St. forced Providence to change their strategy, changing the game’s momentum.


Brown gritted out a 3-0 win against Quinnipiac, scoring goals that demonstrated their ability to frustrate defenses by sneaking into the smallest of spaces and taking advantage. Brown allowed Quinnipiac only the occasional half chance, keeping the ball in Quinnipiac’s defense end for most of the game. Although allowing nine corner kicks in the second half, Brown didn’t allow Quinnipiac to have a shot on goal from any of those chances, showcasing their organization.


Tennessee v. No. 5 Nebraska—8:00 pm

Tennessee is the only other unranked opponent to escape the first round, beating Xavier 1-0 in overtime. The goal came in the 101st minute, showcasing Tennessee’s tenacity to hang with Xavier throughout the match. Preferring to weather the storm and then spring a counter, Tennessee allowed Xavier possession and trusted their goalkeeper, Ally Zazzara, to keep them in the game until they found their breakthrough.


Nebraska got off to a bit of a shaky start, allowing South Dakota St. to score twice in the first 25 minutes, but had control of the situation, eventually winning 5-2. The firepower up top can cover up defensive errors or even a slow start and Nebraska can be confident that it’s a matter of when, not if a goal is scored. Nebraska is another team that might take a minute to settle in, but once they are, the momentum is entirely in their favor.


No. 8 Gonzaga v. UC Irvine—4:30 pm

Gonzaga eked out a 1-0 win over Idaho, scoring in the 16th minute. With a back-and-forth game, Gonzaga was never comfortably in control. But, they did enough to keep Idaho from having a ton of high-quality scoring chances. In the second half, Gonzaga managed to pressure more, preventing Idaho from being able to sustain counterattacks. At their best in the first 20 minutes of each half, Gonzaga looks to score early and defend if they can’t.


UC Irvine has the upset of the tournament, unseating last year’s national champions UCLA 1-0 in a match that also saw UC Irvine go down to ten women with 15 minutes left to play. It was a free-kick conversion that sent the Anteaters into the next round, although UC Irvine is not necessarily new to the spoiler role, having upset UCLA two years ago. Committed to defending and bending but not breaking, UC Irvine is comfortable waiting for any chance, no matter how small, to find the back of the net.

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