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NCAA Roundup: Virginia still unbeaten

Top-ranked Virginia beat North Carolina on the weekend and are now 16-0-0. (Copyright, Steve Bruno)

All they do is win, win, win, no matter what. The big storyline out of Week 9 was Virginia’s pair of road victories in North Carolina, particularly their definitive statement over reigning national champions UNC. Aside from that, it was business as usual among the majority of ranked teams as most head into the home stretch of their regular seasons.

Virginia (1, 16-0-0, 10-0 ACC)Beat NC State 5-0 on Thursday and UNC 2-0 on Sunday.

With a critical matchup against UNC at the end of the weekend, the Cavaliers wasted little time in dispatching the Wolfpack in Raleigh. A goal from Gloria Douglas three-and-a-half minutes in got the snowball rolling and the Cavs had four on the board by the time a half hour had passed. In the 32 minutes she spent on the field, Morgan Brian assisted on three of the first half goals before heading out for her national team call-up. Makenzy Doniak and Brittany Ratcliffe contributed to the offensive bonanza, bringing their season totals to 11 and 10, respectively.

While Thursday’s game was a dominating offensive performance, the Cavaliers’ victory over No. 4 North Carolina on Sunday was maybe their most impressive defensive performance of the season as Virginia held UNC’s attack to an almost unthinkable four shots all game, tying a record of offensive futility for the Heels set in last year’s ACC quarterfinal draw against the same UVA squad. While Virginia were held to just six shots of their own, Ratcliffe and Doniak made the most of the chances, scoring early in the first half and late in the second half to continue a recent record of dominance over the Heels. Morgan Stearns and the stellar defense combined for the team’s tenth shutout of the season while midfield dynamo Danielle Colaprico picked up her ninth assist of the season, second only to Morgan Brian for the Cavs, on Ratcliffe’s game-winner.

Still unbeaten and finishing out their season at home, Virginia begin a three-game stand at Klockner with Miami and No. 3 Florida State up next.

UCLA (2, 13-1-1, 4-0-1 Pac-12)Shutout Arizona State 3-0 on Friday.

Facing a Sun Devils team that has already bested Stanford, UCLA weren’t about to mess around on Friday when Arizona State came into Westwood. Ally Courtnall opened Friday night’s match singing the national anthem, then opened the scoring in the 17th minute off a feed from Jenna Richmond which found the defender in the box for the score. With the game still in reach, ASU came out strong in the second half but UCLA struck again off a counter attack as Richmond set up Darian Jenkins for her ninth goal of the season. Courtnall figured into the final score of the night as well when her cross into the box connected with Courtney Proctor, who netted her second of the year in the 65th minute. The Bruins are beginning to see some separation in the conference, with the win putting them a good five points ahead of their closest opponent Washington.

The Bruins have a road swing in the coming week with matches against Utah and Colorado, both tied for third place in the Pac-12 standings.

Florida State (3, 13-0-3, 8-0-2 ACC)Continued the only other unbeaten run in the country with a 2-1 victory over Maryland on Sunday.

FSU got an early goal from Berglind Thorvaldsdottir just over six minutes into Sunday’s game to stake the Seminoles to an early lead. The rest of the half was a relatively lackluster encounter with each team managing only a single shot before halftime. The second half brought a more energetic effort from each side as they traded blows, putting up eight shots apiece. Florida State would eventually get another past the Terrapins’ Rachelle Beanlands when Dagny Brynjarsdottir scored in the 63rd minute, tying her with fellow countrywoman Thorvaldsdottir for the team lead with seven. Ashley Spivey got one back for Maryland with just over two minutes left on the clock, much to the chagrin of the generally impenetrable Seminole defense, but there wasn’t enough time to complete the miraculous comeback as FSU snuffed out a Maryland corner with just over a minute left to extend the Garnet & Gold’s home unbeaten streak to 29.

FSU heads into the penultimate match week of the ACC calendar with their most daunting series of the season, squaring off against Virginia Tech and Virginia on the road.

North Carolina (4, 13-2-0, 7-2 ACC)Beat Syracuse 1-0 and lost to No. 1 Virginia 0-2.

Carolina went up early at home against the Orange off Summer Green’s goal in the ninth minute and held the visitors shotless all day to secure the 1-0 win. The Tar Heel offense was unable to manage another goal despite posting 22 shots while Bryane Heaberlin and Anna Sieloff again combined for a shutout, their eighth of the season.

Sunday’s match against Virginia lacked the attacking bite of Crystal Dunn and it showed as the Tar Heel offense had no answer for Virginia’s stout back line. Although the loss will require a few new entries in the history books, Carolina are still very much in the hunt for a top four seed in the ACC Tournament as well as the coveted No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, so Tar Heel fans have little to be upset about other than some light ego bruises.

Thursday UNC host Clemson at Fetzer, then make their way over to Winston-Salem to meet Wake Forest. Wins over both schools would guarantee a home fixture in the ACC quarterfinal.

Portland (5, 12-1-1, 4-0 WCC) Victorious over Gonzaga in overtime, 2-1.

It took 94 minutes, but the Pilots finally defeated Gonzaga to extend their winning streak to nine. Portland accounted for all the goals scored in the 2-1 victory as an own-goal in the 83rd minute canceled out Allison Wetherington’s third score of the season in the opening minutes of the second half. A red card on Gonzaga’s coaching staff in the opening minutes of the overtime period set up a Pilots indirect free kick inside the box. Although Portland’s initial shot deflected off the Bulldog wall, the Pilots kept the play alive, quickly shuffling the ball out to Noelle La Prevotte camped outside the top-right corner of the box. Le Prevotte took a confident strike into the far corner for the game-winner as the sophomore again netted the final goal of the night for the second consecutive game.

San Diego and BYU are next on the agenda for the Pilots, hosting both games at Merlo.

Virginia Tech (6, 13-1-2, 8-1-1) Beat No. 19 Wake Forest in overtime 2-1 and blew past Pitt 4-0.

A goal from freshman Murielle Tiernan with just under 100 seconds on the clock added to Wake’s woes as the Hokies defeated their second straight ranked opponent on Thursday. Virginia Tech had to come from behind in the first half, but Shannon Mayrose’s shot in the 26th minute leveled the score. With the Wake offense in disarray and trying to restructure on the fly, the Demon Deacons struggled to match the Hokies’ pressure and the home side certainly looked favored to win the further on the game went. Tech attempted 12 shots to Wake’s three in the second half and five of those came in the last ten minutes of regulation as the home side put the squeeze on Aubrey Bledsoe’s goal, but couldn’t find a way through. Tiernan would finally send the home crowd away happy as she received a pass through traffic in the box and fired from close range for the decisive score.

Virginia Tech’s unbeaten streak continued in Pittsburgh as the Hokies racked up their ninth straight result without a loss at the expense of the Panthers. Katie Yensen scored twice in the road win and Tiernan tallied her second goal of the week in the victory. The win has Tech in third place in the conference standings, four points above UNC. Of their three remaining games, only Sunday’s game against Miami looks like a winner, with FSU and UVA following, but it should be enough to guarantee they will host the opening round in the ACC Tournament.

The Hokies see the pair of Florida teams in reverse order from the Cavs, with No. 3 FSU on Thursday and Miami on Sunday.

South Carolina (7, 12-2-2, 5-2-1 SEC)Took their lumps in a rough road test, losing 1-2 on Friday to Missouri, then settling for a 1-1 road draw at Ole Miss.

There’s something about the No. 7 spot and Mizzou as the Gamecocks became the second team, following the previously-seventh-ranked Florida Gators, to fall victim to the Tigers in Columbia. A rare mistake from Sabrina D’Angelo spotted the lead to Mizzou as the Carolina keeper mishit her clearing punch on a corner kick to knock the ball into the net. Gamecocks forward Daija Griffin was rewarded for some fancy footwork as she eluded the Tiger defense to find freshman Paige Bendell who scored the equalizer with 18 minutes left on the clock. South Carolina couldn’t hang on though as Alyssa Diggs’ bending shot beat D’Angelo on the far post, marking only the second time in 16 games the Gamecocks have given up more than a single goal.

On Sunday, the Gamecocks traveled to Oxford to face another dark horse team looking to rise above the SEC mid-table pack. South Carolina looked to be off to a good start when Chelsea Drennan put her team up by a goal with just over five minutes played and the Gamecocks continued to press Ole Miss back, posting nine shots through the first half. Meanwhile, the Rebels and their dynamic duo of Mandy McCalla and Rafaelle Souza were shockingly held shotless by the SC defense. Carolina would rue their lack of finishing in the first half, though, as Ole Miss finally put together some offense in the second, while the Gamecock attack dropped off. The home side would eventually level it in the 76th minute off a goal from Olivia Harrison with the game ultimately ending in a draw after 110 minutes.

Carolina splits the next weekend between home and away, drawing Vandy at home, then making the long journey to Starkville to play Mississippi State.

Florida (8, 10-3-1, 4-2 SEC) Hosted two of the top teams in the SEC, beating both Kentucky and LSU 3-0 in Gainesville.

The Gators were dominant over the dark horse Wildcats on Friday as they put three on the board while UK struggled to even register their three shots on the night. Lauren Smith’s seventh-minute goal got the Gators started and the sophomore scored again in the 57th minute for her first career multi-goal game.

Sunday’s match against league-leaders LSU gave the Gators another chance to reassert their authority in the SEC and Florida did just that with some help from scoring leader Savannah Jordan. The freshman put two on the board against the Tigers, upping her season total to 15, and the shutout is the team’s fourth in a row, not having registered a goal-against since the overtime loss to South Carolina at the beginning of the month. The pair of wins moves Florida up to second in the SEC standings and has Texas A&M just above them with a showdown against the Aggies on the horizon.

The Gators are in Knoxville to face the surprisingly-marginal Vols on Friday and return home for the big one in a nationally-televised game against Texas A&M on Sunday.

Cal (9, 9-1-5, 2-1-3 Pac-12)Friday the Golden Bears drew with Colorado 1-1.

Cal went down by a goal in the 67th minute to the 11-win Buffaloes, but evened the score with four seconds left in regulation as Emi Lawson nailed a header off a free kick to send the game into overtime. Although Cal outshot the home side 6-1 through the next 20 minutes, neither side were able to produce a game-winner, giving Cal their fifth draw of the season. Cal currently sit level on points with Stanford and Arizona State for fifth place in the Pac-12 standings. Cal hit the trail for a Friday/Monday series against Oregon State and Oregon in the coming week.

Stanford (10, 10-3-1, 3-3 Pac-12)Defeated Utah 1-0 on Friday.

The Cardinal got their first victory in four games on Friday, but it didn’t come easy, going over an hour deadlocked with Utah until Courtney Verloo’s score off a free kick finally put Stanford on the board. With an even .500 record in the Pac-12 and a 7-point deficit behind league leaders UCLA, Stanford are probably out of the race at this point, but still need to finish strong through their last five games if they have any hopes of a decent seed come NCAA Tournament time. They begin with a weekend road trip against Oregon and Oregon State.

West Virginia (11, 12-2-2, 6-0 Big 12) – A 2-0 result over visiting Kansas kept the Mountaineers at the top of the Big 12 as the conference newcomers are doing their level best to run away with the title. A forward not named Silva or Schwindel opened the scoring as Kelsie Maloney’s strike nine minutes into the game was good enough for her team-high fourth game-winner of the season. Frances Silva assisted on the goal as she dribbled into the box before dishing off to Maloney and notched a goal of her own four minutes later to boost her season totals to 11 goals and 12 assists for 34 points. Silva leads the team in each category. The coming weekend will be the last in the Big 12 regular season as the Mountaineers lead the conference with a perfect 6-0 record for 18 points. Only Texas, two points behind, have any shot of catching the leaders, but WVU still have to survive a challenging road test as they face Oklahoma, currently in the Big 12 basement, and the Red Raiders of Texas Tech, one of the top-ranked defenses in the country.

Michigan (12, 11-2-1, 5-1-1 Big 10) – Nkem Ezurike took eight shots in Friday’s match against Indiana, eventually getting on the scoresheet in the 75th minute for the game-winner as the Wolverines topped the Hoosiers 1-0. Sunday they hosted struggling Purdue and Ezurike scored twice in the 3-1 victory, making her the career goals leader for the Wolverines with 45. The Canadian forward also sits in fourth on the all-time points leader chart with 107, only nine behind Abby Crumpton’s record-setting 116. More importantly, the Wolverines keep pace with Nebraska, sitting just two points behind the conference front-runners with 19 points and one ahead of league favorites Penn State. Michigan have three games left in conference play and head to Illinois for their next two, taking on the Fighting Illini on Friday and Northwestern on Sunday.

Notre Dame (13, 9-5-1, 5-4-1 ACC) – It’s gone from bad to worse in South Bend as Notre Dame suffered a 1-2 loss in overtime to Duke, giving the Blue Devils only their third win in ACC play this season. The Irish came back after going a goal down when freshman Rilka Noel knocked in Karen Simonian’s endline cross from the far post to send the two teams into the locker rooms tied at the half. The Irish couldn’t take advantage of a road-weary Duke side playing their fourth-straight away game and coming off another double-overtimer in Clemson as the home side posted nine shots, four on target, with nothing to show for it by the end of regulation. It was ultimately a rookie mistake from Kaela Little, so often a hero in goal for the Irish, that would cost them the game as the freshman keeper tried to dribble out of the box only to have Laura Weinberg (aka Weinburglar) steal the ball off her toes and shoot into the empty net before Little could recover. The Irish have now dropped four straight, but remain in fifth place thanks to a strong start in the ACC. A spot in the conference tourney isn’t necessarily a slam-dunk for ND at this point, though, with only a slippery four-point margin bridging the gap between No. 5 and No. 10.

Santa Clara (14, 10-3-1, 4-0 WCC) – The Broncos cruised through a pair of WCC opponents, beating Saint Mary’s 4-0 and Pacific 2-0 on the road. Julie Johnston scored a pair while Sofia Huerta and Dani Weatherholt each added to the total as the Broncos jumped all over Saint Mary’s to score all four goals in the first half. Weatherholt and Huerta would combine again on Sunday to down Pacific, and againnthey got the job done in the first half as the Broncos maintain a six-game winning streak to keep pace with Portland at the top of the West Coast Conference. The two teams meet on Nov. 7th for a nationally-televised showdown in Portland, but first things first, the Broncos host San Francisco in the coming week.

Georgetown (15, 13-1-2, 5-1-1 Big East) – Georgetown were probably still smarting from last Sunday’s thumping at the hands of Marquette and the Hoyas took out their frustration on this week’s opponents—St. John’s and Creighton. Georgetown dropped a ton of goals on the visiting teams, winning each game by a 4-0 margin. Four different Hoyas scored in Thursday’s match against Saint John’s while keeping compulsive goal-scorer Rachel Daly off the board for the Red Storm. Daphne Corboz netted one in Thursday’s game and added a goal and an assist in Sunday’s thumping of Creighton to earn Big East Offensive Player of the Week honors while Emma Newins won Goalkeeper of the Week for her pair of shutouts. With the Golden Eagles still perfect through seven, though, it looks like the Big East Tournament will be the Hoyas’ only shot at a team trophy barring a phenomenal Marquette meltdown.

Denver (16, 14-1-1, 5-0 Summit) – The Pioneers look set to run the table in their first year in the Summit Conference, winning 3-0 at Omaha on Friday and 4-0 against South Dakota on Sunday. Through their five Summit games, Denver have outscored the conference 19-0. Kristen Hamilton deferred the weekend’s goal-scoring heroics to her teammates, but chipped in for an assist in each game. Her 31 points have Hamilton in a five-way tie for 15th in the NCAA with players the likes of Savannah Jordan and Mckenzie Meehan. Nicholette DiGiacomo scored her eighth and ninth goals of the season, bringing the senior midfielder within a goal of Hamilton for the team lead.

Penn State (17, 12-3-1, 6-2 Big 10) – Thursday the Nittany Lions jumped out to a two-goal lead over Ohio State, ultimately downing the Buckeyes 4-2. Mallory Weber created both goals in the first half through strong endline runs, the first connecting with Taylor Shram, the second deflecting off an OSU defender for an own-goal. The PSU defense would again give up some goals, though, allowing the Buckeyes to put a pair on the board to level it. Maya Hayes would break away a minute after OSU’s leveler, nipping a back pass off the hands of goalkeeper Jillian McVicker then taking her shot on an empty net to move PSU back in front for good. On Sunday, the Fighting Illini visited Jeffrey Field as the Big 10’s two most prolific offenses, yet two of its leakiest defenses, squared off. It would be all the home side in this one, though, as Penn State hammered the back of the Illinois net incessantly, leading to a 5-0 victory. A pair of goals from Raquel Rodriguez put the Nittany Lions up by two within 15 minutes and Tani Costa came on as a sub to score the third. If Illinois had any thoughts of a comeback at the half, the Lions crushed those dreams quickly as Mallory Weber and Maya Hayes quickly joined the parade, scoring the fourth and fifth goals within the first five minutes of the second half. PSU still trail Michigan and Nebraska in the standings, but square off against the conference-leading ‘Huskers on the back end of this weekend’s contests.

Texas Tech (18, 13-1-2, 3-0-2 Big 12) – TTU had a rare bye week in the Big 12, giving them time to prepare for Kansas and Big 12 top dogs West Virginia in the coming week. The Red Raiders currently sit six points behind the top spot in the conference, but control their destiny with home fixtures to come against the two teams perched above.

Wake Forest (19, 9-4-2, 4-4-2 ACC) – Thursday’s match against No. 6 Virginia Tech didn’t hold much promise for the Demon Deacons as the majority of their arsenal are sidelined with injuries, but Wake fought valiantly, going up early in Blacksburg off Kendall Fischlein’s goal in the 11th minute. The Hokies drew level 15 minutes later, but Aubrey Bledsoe and the Deacs’ defense managed to hold the Va Tech attack off the board through the end of regulation despite the Hokies’ 12 second-half shots. Perhaps most troubling for coach Tony Da Luz is the fact that, of the three players he rotated into the lone striker position, none managed a shot all night. Sunday the team traveled to South Carolina to face Clemson, a team that has already beaten Boston College at home as well as taking a point off Duke and FSU. Coach Da Luz played three forwards up top in the away fixture, including Riley Ridgik, playing on the front line after supporting the attack so ably from the midfield all season. Ridgik has already stepped into the goal-scorers role several times this season and netted her third game-winner of the season to defeat the Tigers 1-0.

Marquette (20, 14-3-0, 7-0 Big East) – A pair of 1-0 results got the Golden Eagles through a tough road test over the weekend, beating Seton Hall and DePaul. Since a mid-September defeat to Illinois State, Marquette have been on a nine-game winning streak, going through the Big East like a buzz saw in the process. Through seven games, Big East opponents have only scored on Marquette twice and the Golden Eagles hold a five-point edge over second-place Georgetown with two games left to play. With the final road series of the season over, Marquette can drop their bags in Milwaukee, playing a single game in each of the next two weeks at home, then preparing to play host for the Big East Tournament the second week of November.

UCF (21, 13-2-2, 6-0-1 AAC) – Speaking of teams blowing through a conference, Central Florida seem to be quite happy in the new American Athletic and the Knights collected two more scalps over the week, defeating two difficult programs in Rutgers and Memphis. The Scarlet Knights initially took the lead in Orlando, but a superb free kick from 25 yards out by Jennifer Martin tied it in the second half. UCF completed their comeback three minutes later as goalkeeper Lianne Maldonado rejected a Rutgers free kick, punching it well clear of the box and starting a Knights fast break that ended in Kayla Adamek’s game-winning goal. Sunday’s 4-1 victory over Memphis didn’t require anything as dramatic as the team claimed a four-goal lead with less than 40 minutes gone in the match. In the process, the Knights notched their 13th consecutive game without a loss, the best run in the program’s 26-year history. Currently sitting second in the conference, two points behind Louisville, the Knights still have a game in hand over the Cardinals and play two of the weaker conference teams, SMU and Houston, on the road for their last two games.

Nebraska (22, 12-3-1, 7-1 Big 10) – Nebraska survived a tense weekend, beating both Wisconsin and Minnesota on the road by a single goal to stay ahead of challengers Michigan and Penn State at the top of the Big 10 table. Games don’t get much more intense than Friday’s matchup in Madison as Nebraska battled through a tough, physically-demanding contest in which the feisty Badgers committed 17 fouls and fired 25 shots over the course of a grueling double-overtime contest. The Badgers combative play got them in trouble in the second overtime period as a straight red on defender Kylie Schwarz reduced Wisconsin to ten while a yellow card with three seconds left on the clock set up a free kick opportunity outside the box. Husker Caroline Gray stepped up and rescued a victory when her free kick shot skipped past Genevieve Richard to give the visitors the last laugh in a controversial 2-1 victory. Jordan Jackson scored in her fourth straight game on Sunday to put the Huskers up in the 24th minute for the game’s only goal and the Nebraska defense shut the Gophers down despite being outshot 16-20 for only their third shutout in conference play.

Kentucky (23, 12-3-1, 6-2 SEC) – Kentucky’s five-game win streak didn’t impress Florida as the Gators shut the Wildcats out Friday 3-0 in Gainesville. UK were pressed back for most of the match and only eked a paltry three shots out all match, even with Arin Gilliland’s driving force up front. Gilliland wouldn’t end the weekend meekly, though, as the junior almost single-handedly demolished Alabama with her second hat-trick of the season, leading the Wildcats to a 4-2 win in Tuscaloosa. Kentucky went down early, giving up a PK to the Crimson Tide seven minutes in, but the rampaging Gilliland retaliated with three of her own before the half was done. Gilliland now has ten on the season, tying her for the team lead with Stuart Pope, who scored the fourth goal on Sunday. Kentucky are hardly out of the woods as they face Missouri and LSU in the coming week before the Halloween season finale on the road against South Carolina.

Ole Miss (24, 12-3-2, 5-2-1 SEC) – Rafaelle Souza got on the board in the ninth minute in Friday’s home match against former SEC leaders LSU and it would be the only score in the match as Ole Miss won 1-0. Sunday, the Rebels fought No. 7 South Carolina to a 1-1 draw. The pair of results puts Ole Miss in a three-way tie with both the Tigers and the Gamecocks near the top of the SEC table. Next up, the Rebels travel to College Station to play SEC leaders Texas A&M, but the schedule lightens significantly afterwards with home draws against Alabama and lowly Mississippi State.

BYU (25, 9-4-1, 3-1 WCC) – The Cougars dominated most of Thursday’s match against a tough Pepperdine team, but had just a Niki Fernandes goal to show for it in the 1-0 win. On Saturday, the Cougars kept another clean sheet while a pair of second-half goals from Cloee Colohan and Ella Johnson lifted BYU to their second win in a row. The Cougars head north in the coming week to take on Gonzaga and league leaders Portland. BYU currently sit in third place, three points behind the Pilots and Santa Clara with five games left to play in the season, so taking any points off Portland would be a massive boost to their hopes of a WCC Champion repeat.


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