Women's NCAA Soccer Tournament Preview
Updated: Nov 9
With women’s soccer conference tournaments wrapped up, only the top 64 teams are left dancing in November. NCAA tournament matchups start November 10th and continue on the 11th, giving soccer fans everywhere an excuse to sit on their couch all weekend. Below are some of the top matches to watch, as well as a couple of upset predictions. All times are listed in Eastern Time.
Milwaukee v No. 4 Wisconsin—8:00 pm, Nov. 10
The Badgers shouldn’t have too much trouble dispatching Milwaukee, given the team’s consistency this season and their habit of bouncing back after losing a match. What gives this match must-watch status is the local dimension. With both teams local, there’s more at stake than just advancing to the next round, adding to the intensity. Milwaukee won the Horizon League, with Wisconsin falling just short of claiming the Big Ten Championship. It will also be a matchup of two opposite styles. Milwaukee has scored 47 goals this season, limiting opponents to 17. Wisconsin on the other hand scored 28, limiting opponents to 13. Expect a tightly contested match, with Wisconsin focusing on defending against a rolling Milwaukee attack. The no.4 seed should pull of the win, but not without plenty of tension.
LSU v. No. 6 Memphis—8:00 pm, Nov. 11th
On the upset side, there’s a battle of the Tigers brewing. While unranked, LSU has beaten two ranked opponents this year, beating no. 9 Texas at Texas and no. 22 Georgia. The Tigers also tied no. 9 Arkansas 1-1. On the flip side, Memphis only played one ranked opponent on their way to their impressive 18-1 record. That one loss was to no.7 Alabama in late August. Coming into the tournament, LSU recently lost in penalty kicks to the University of Kentucky in the SEC tournament. That should provide motivation for a team coming in with everything to gain and nothing to lose. A nearly perfect record could hurt Memphis here, since the team has rarely played from behind all season.
If LSU can keep Memphis off the scoreboard through the first half and settle into the game, then the unranked team just might be able to pull off another 1-0 win. I also give LSU the edge if the game goes to penalty kicks, with the SEC tournament game providing motivation.
No. 6 Saint Louis v Indiana—8:00 pm, Nov.10
On the bottom half of the bracket this is the must watch match simply because there aren’t likely to be many that are closely contested in this quadrant. SLU has won the A10 tournament for the past six years, making them pros at coming up clutch in big moments. The Biliken shutout each of their three A10 tournament opponents and are on a ten-game shutout streak. Meanwhile, the Hoosiers have put together an impressive season, with two of their four losses coming to no.4 Penn. And while Indiana doesn’t have quite the firepower that SLU does, the schedule Indiana has favors them over SLU. Both teams score twice as often as their opponents do, which means this is a match that could easily become an offensive slug fest.
Arizona St. v No. 7 Santa Clara—4:00 pm, Nov. 11
This might be an unpopular opinion, but Arizona State losing four in a row is the perfect set up for a win over Santa Clara. While the losses got progressively worse—a four goal shutout loss to Colorado, the Sun Devils managed to end their season on a 2-1 loss to Arizona. They were down 2-0 in that game, before clawing back a goal. And while Santa Clara has only lost four games all season, they haven’t had a blowout win since mid-October. The Broncos have more offensive firepower and kept opponents to 11 goals all season, but the Sun Devils have managed to eke out wins all season, even if things were falling apart at the end.
Santa Clara probably scores first, but with the season on the line Arizona State might finally put the pieces together and push back. They’ve found four different ways to lose, this time, perhaps, they find a way to win.
No. 7 Princeton v Michigan—7:00 pm, Nov. 10
On the right side, this might seem like the best bet for an upset but given Michigan’s consistency it wouldn’t really be a surprise if the Wolverines came out on top. Instead this is the game to watch in the top right, given how competitive and up in the air the result can be. With the Ivy League being chaotic, Princeton has experienced just about every type of win, loss, and draw possible. They’re experienced, battle tested, and won’t be expecting an easy game. Michigan started the season strong, but have struggled recently and haven’t won a game since October 1st. Princeton’s offense has the ability to explode, whereas Michigan will want to turn this into a cage match. Given how much of a toss-up this game is, there’s entertainment written all over it.
No. 1 BYU v Utah St.—8:00 pm, Nov. 10
Utah St. was BYU’s first loss this season—one of two, the second coming recently to Texas in the Big 12 championship. Given the sting of the recent loss, it might be expected that BYU comes out looking for to make a statement and exact revenge. But on the flip side, Utah St. just might have BYU’s number and will want to prove their September win wasn’t just a fluke. BYU is a team that scores a lot—69 total goals—and only scored one goal or less in four of their 21 games. But the flip side of that is BYU can also cough up goals in clusters, relying on their ability to outshoot an opponent. Utah St. doesn’t like to score and they don’t like to give up goals, a recipe sure to frustrate BYU.
Just like their win in September, Utah St. finds a way to score, throwing off BYU while increasing their own confidence. This is another match that could go to PK’s and once again the specter of Utah St.’s win helps undermine BYU’s confidence.
South Dakota St v. No. 5 Nebraska—8:05 pm, Nov. 10
There’s one reason to watch this match and her name is Eleanor Dale. The Nebraska forward leads the nation in goals scored this season with 25 and it’s a matter of when, not if she scores. Nebraska only has one more win than South Dakota St., with both teams’ records looking like mirror images of each other. Nebraska is 14-3-3 while South Dakota St. is 13-3-3. Watching Dale try to unlock the Jacks will be a chess match fans won’t want to miss. It would be a mistake to rule out South Dakota St. from scoring a goal or two—their offense is formidable in its own right. Either way, this match will be a track race and the biggest question will be how early the 0-0 deadlock gets broken.
Quinnipiac v No. 3 Brown—4:00 pm, Nov. 11
Quinnipiac lost both of their matchups against Ivy League opponents—4-2 to Harvard and 1-0 to Dartmouth. Meanwhile, Brown has two losses on the year, which makes them the favorite to move on from this match up. But that precise combination of haven’t won against this League yet this year and Princeton’s earned confidence are why the Bobcats might pull off the upset. Princeton is coming in with an agenda and the goal of moving on, the Bobcats just won the MAAC championship and will be remembering last year, when their first-round opponent was also an Ivy league team. Quinnipiac has an axe to grind some valuable experience.
When it rains for the Quinnipiac offense it usually pours and if the Bobcats can get one early, then they could be off to the races with Princeton trying to keep up. They’d need some help from the Princeton defense, but it’s not an impossible outcome.