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NCAA Week 10: Virginia still perfect, Penn St. run ends

Kadeisha Buchanan and the West Virginia Mountaineers are the Big 12 champions for 2013 (Copyright, Steve Bruno, Equalizer Soccer)

The schedule-makers must’ve been smiling to themselves as Week 10, marking the penultimate match week for the ACC, SEC, Big Ten and Big 12, featured a number of crucial, title-deciding battles among the top contenders. Virginia, Marquette, West Virginia and UCF all clenched conference championships in their respective leagues while BYU showed they’re not quite ready to give up their WCC crown so easily, upsetting Portland to make the West Coast race a little more interesting. Meanwhile, the Southeast boasted a nationally-televised slugfest between its top two teams to send the SEC race down to the last day.

Virginia (1, 18-0-0, 12-0 ACC) – With a 4-0 victory over Miami on Thursday and a 1-0 triumph over No. 3 Florida State on Sunday, Virginia are the ACC regular season champions for the first time in school history.

The rest of the ACC were hoping Virginia might get caught napping in Thursday’s sandwich game between last weekend’s defeat of No. 5 UNC and Sunday’s match against No. 3 Florida State. It took the Cavalier offense the better part of nine minutes to get warmed up on Thursday, but once they did, Hurricane goalie Emily Lillard faced a constant hail of bullets over the remaining 81. By the time the final whistle blew in Charlottesville, UVa had taken 28 shots on goal, 14 on frame, as four Cavs scored four goals in a comprehensive rout. Morgan Brian didn’t waste much time getting back into the swing of things following last weekend’s cup of coffee with the national team as a pass from defender Emily Sonnett found the junior all by her lonesome in the box. A quick dance between Lillard and Brian left the keeper on the floor as Brian escorted the ball into the net. Outside back Molly Menchel got a whack at the piñata five minutes later and drilled Alexis Shaffer’s cross with a one-time strike for the second. Sixty-nine minutes into the game Miami registered their first shot, but Virginia immediately scolded them, scoring less than a minute later as Makenzy Doniak, again set up by a Sonnett cross, took a quick touch and hammered a low shot across the goal for her 13th of the season.

Sunday’s ACC-heavyweight thriller was the soccer embodiment of the age-old irresistible force versus immovable object proverb as UVa’s top-ranked, dynamic offense went toe-to-toe with Florida State’s impenetrable defense. Before a record crowd at Klockner, Virginia wasted little time in pressing goalkeeper Kelsey Wys into action as Makenzy Doniak broke through the Seminole back line in the ninth minute and fired a missile that caromed off the near post. It proved to be the closest of a handful of chances UVa had in the half as FSU circled the wagons to protect Wys’s goal. Largely unsung in the shadow of the front line fireworks, the Cavalier defense has quietly cemented a reputation virtually the equal of Florida State’s famed wall and the home side showed up the Seminoles in Sunday’s match, limiting the Garnet & Gold to an anemic single shot through the entire match. Virginia picked up the intensity in the second half with eight shots and five corner kicks as they pushed for the game-winner. The two teams were still deadlocked at the end of regulation, setting the stage for the quietest of Cavaliers to shine. Annie Steinlage, a senior transfer from Michigan State where she earned a reputation as a gritty center back, hadn’t scored a goal all year, operating in the critical holding midfielder position where she acts as the first line of defense behind Morgan Brian and the sparkling UVa attack. Less than a minute into overtime, though, Steinlage had pushed forward with the rest of the offense looking for the golden goal. Left back Molly Menchel received a pass coming up the flank and sent it in for Steinlage at the edge of the 18. Trapping it in pressure and with her back to goal, Steinlage spun, and took a no-look shot that whistled past fully-stretched Kelsey Wys to send Klockner into a frenzy. The goal not only continued the Cavaliers’ 18-game unbeaten streak as well as the longest active string of games with a goal scored at 26, it also earned Virginia the program’s first regular season ACC Championship.

The Cavaliers host the Virginia Derby in their final match of the regular season against the Hokies, then host the quarterfinal round of the ACC Tournament on Sunday as the rest of the ACC battles to not have to go to Charlottesville to face them.

UCLA (2, 14-1-2, 6-0-2 Pac-12)Tied away at Utah 1-1 early on Friday and beat Colorado 1-0 on Sunday.

The Bruins played a pair of road games over the weekend as UCLA round the corner into the home stretch of the Pac-12 season. Friday they were in Salt Lake City for a noon showdown with Utah and found themselves down in the first half as Ashton Hall busted through the talented Bruin back line in the 18th minute, scoring to shock the visitors. UCLA didn’t waste time getting back in it when forward Taylor Smith had a similar run straight through the Utes’ defense five minutes later to even it up at one-all. Neither team would score again but it wasn’t due to a lack of effort on the Bruins’ part as the league leaders bombed forward all match, taking 23 shots total including a last-gasp flurry in double-overtime in which they took two shots from close range in the final minute with no luck.

Sunday UCLA got another game-winner from Kodi Lavrusky, her second of the season, to defeat Colorado 1-0 in Boulder. Lavrusky’s goal came 11 minutes into the second half as Samantha Mewis threaded a ball through the center of the box for the forward, who blew past the Buffaloes defender, putting her in on goal for a quick tap-in under the onrushing keeper. Katelyn Rowland handled business on the other end, adding a few more spectacular saves to her highlight reel as she led the Bruins to their 12th shutout of the season.

UCLA finish up the regular season in Westwood beginning with a pair of contests against Oregon State and Oregon in the coming week.

Florida State (3, 14-1-3, 9-1-2 ACC)Defeated No. 4 Virginia Tech 2-1, but lost Sunday’s match against top-ranked Virginia 0-1.

Thursday FSU began a weekend that saw three of the country’s top five teams collide, facing No. 4 Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. Dagny Bryjarsdottir has been clutch for the Seminoles all season and the Icelander netted FSU’s two goals on the night, including her fifth game-winner of the year to secure the win. Brynjarsdottir’s first goal opened the scoring in the 16th minute and the miserly defense settled in, trying to hold off the Hokies’ second-half wave of pressure. Virginia Tech would eventually break through with a goal in the 72nd minute, but Brynjarsdottir came through with three minutes left in regulation, scoring off a cross from midfielder Carson Pickett for her seventh goal of the season.

Sunday it was off to Charlottesville to test the top-ranked offense of No. 1 Virginia. FSU played as if they would be content with a single point off the Cavaliers, something no one else has managed to do this season. Dropped back and playing conservatively through most of the match, the Seminoles fought valiantly to contain a UVa attack that averages 22 shots in a game, holding them to just 13 through 90 minutes. Florida State ultimately lost the game off a superb strike from Annie Steinlage just after a minute of the first overtime, ending the Seminoles unbeaten run at 17.

Florida State’s regular season ends in Tallahassee against Notre Dame on Thursday, then host the first round of the ACC Tournament on Sunday.

Virginia Tech (4, 14-2-2, 9-2-1) Lost at home to No. 3 Florida State, then beat Miami on Sunday 1-0.

Thursday’s loss to Florida State didn’t do too much harm to the Hokies, who proved they could hold their own against the ACC powerhouse. Va Tech had the Seminoles pinned back through much of the second half as they attempted to erase Dagny Bryjnjarsdottir’s first half goal and eventually scored against the Seminoles’ notoriously unforgiving defense. Shannon Mayrose started the attack, capitalizing on a rare defensive miscue to steal the ball away from the Seminoles while playing it on to Ashley Meier, who speared a shot from 20-yards out for the equalizer. The Hokies couldn’t hold out, though, losing a heartbreaker in the 87th minute.

Sunday the Hokies battled a Miami team which has already upset Notre Dame and the home side did well to nip a goal in an evenly-contested match.  Murielle Tiernan struck for a team-high eighth goal of the season in the 14th minute and nearly doubled the lead a minute-and-a-half later as she hit the crossbar on her next attempt. Appropriately on Senior Day, senior goalkeeper Dayle Colpitts made another entry in the Hokie record book, earning her eighth clean sheet of the year to establish a new single-season record as she wraps up a legendary career in Blacksburg.

Virginia Tech travel to Charlottesville to face in-state rivals Virginia on Thursday, then return home to host the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament.

North Carolina (5, 15-3-0, 9-3 ACC)Defeated Clemson 2-0 on Thursday and trumped No. 22 Wake Forest in overtime 2-1.

Crystal Dunn returned to action after missing last week’s match against Virginia and immediately jumped back into the attack, assisting on both of UNC’s goals to lift them to a 2-0 victory at home against Clemson. Dunn started a quick-strike attack in the seventh minute, springing Amber Munerlyn down the right side who crossed into the box, finding Summer Green who easily slotted a low shot inside the near post. The Heels kept Clemson’s Kailen Sheridan occupied all night, forcing the keeper to make eight saves to keep her Tigers close. Still only up by a goal with just over 11 minutes to play, Carolina finally found another way through as Dunn ran through a Clemson defender, driving hard down the right side before dishing off a sharp pass to Kealia Ohai who redirected the ball through Sheridan to seal the win.

Sunday, the Tar Heels made the short trip to Winston-Salem to face a Wake Forest team that refuses to go quietly despite facing a mountain of adversity. The Deacs caught UNC off guard early in the match as Riley Ridgik, the de facto spearhead on offense, ran the gauntlet through the Tar Heel defense before hammering a 25-yard blast into the upper-left corner to go up by a goal. Crystal Dunn took control in the second half, scoring six minutes in off a cross from Summer Green for her 12th of the season. The teams stayed tied at one through the end of regulation and, with 98 minutes on the clock, Kealia Ohai finally ended the Deacs’ stubborn holdout, taking Munerlyn’s endline cross and tucking it inside the near post to end the game. The win was enough to guarantee UNC at least a fourth-place finish in the conference, securing a home berth in the conference quarterfinals.

North Carolina closes their ACC season in Chapel Hill amidst the costumed chaos on Franklin Street with a battle against arch-enemy Duke on Halloween. On Sunday, they will host the opening round of the ACC Tournament.

Portland (6, 13-2-1, 5-1 WCC) Claimed a 2-0 victory over San Diego on Thursday, but dropped Saturday’s contest against No. 24 BYU 0-1.

Following their disappointing mini-meltdown against Wake Forest on September 8th, the Pilots went on a ten-game winning streak, including Thursday’s 2-0 shutout of San Diego. Portland dominated the first half and finally capitalized on a scoring opportunity when Ellen Parker cleaned up a deflected shot in the box for the first goal. Sophomore Noelle LaPrevotte scored just over a minute into the second half for the third straight game to extinguish any hopes of a Torero comeback.

Saturday’s match against last year’s WCC champs started as a cagey battle with each team maintaining extended waves of pressure. Backed by a raucous crowd of over 5,000 at Merlo, the Pilots came out in control, but ceded possession to BYU after about ten minutes when former Pilot Cloee Colohan put a testing shot on target. The Pilots closed out the last 15 minutes largely on the front foot, putting together a few scoring opportunities, but with neither team able to gain a decisive advantage. BYU scored in the 78th minute off a scrappy exchange in the box, putting the Pilots’ backs against the wall. Portland fought back for the last ten minutes and had their best chance of the night with 30 seconds left on the clock as a cross into the box bounced around before falling to forward Micaela Capelle. The home fans let out a gasp that nearly sucked the air out of the stadium as the senior took her shot from nearly point-blank range, but skied it over the goal.

Portland’s shot at a WCC title just got a bit longer and they’ll need maximum points in Thursday’s away match against Saint Mary’s before heading into next week’s battle with  conference leaders Santa Clara.

Florida (7, 12-3-1, 5-2 SEC) Defeated the Vols 3-0 on the road in Knoxville and returned home to stump SEC-leaders Texas A&M 2-0 on Sunday.

The Gators hadn’t won at Rocky Top since 1999, but rode to Friday’s match in Knoxville with the momentum of last week’s dominating home sweep of LSU and Kentucky. Without New Zealand forward Hannah Wilkinson, though, the Lady Vols weren’t able to put up much of a fight as Florida dominated possession while the home side laid back and absorbed the pressure. Tennessee would’ve felt they’d made the most of a half in which they were outshot 8-0, but the Gators immediately came out in the second half and corrected matters, as a takedown on Meggie Dougherty-Howard a minute into the half set Havana Solaun up for a PK which the junior curled past keeper Julie Eckel. Solaun struck again for her second unassisted shot of the match as she bent an in-swinging corner kick by everybody and into the back of the net. Savannah Jordan couldn’t be held off the score sheet as right back Taylor Travis made a run towards goal from the flank where she passed in toward Jordan waiting in the box and the freshman coolly redirected for her 16th goal of the season.

Sunday the Gators hosted SEC leaders Texas A&M in a match that could go a long way to deciding the regular season champion. Last year, Florida went into College Station and came away with a narrow 1-0 victory on their way to their 12th SEC title. The 2013 edition of this fresh rivalry was another tightly-contested battle with neither team really able to settle into a rhythm through a scoreless first half. The second half would be a different matter entirely as each team came out firing. Florida had a chance just two minutes in when a nice back-and-forth build-up put Savannah Jordan in on goal, but Aggie goalie Jordan Day dived to her left to deflect it out before being cleared out by the defense. TAMU had an equally-dangerous chance less than a minute later when a long cross from the right flank dropped in the box for Annie Kunz who turned and hit a quick strike straight at Florida keeper Taylor Burke. Florida would finally put a chance away just over five minutes into the half when a midfield steal from Meggie Dougherty-Howard sparked a fast attack and her pass sent freshman sensation Jordan in on goal for a shot. As Jordan broke through the back line, her shot that was again parried away by Day, but the Gator forward hit the rebounding ball back at Day, deflecting it off the diving keeper and into the top of the net. With 29 minutes left in the game, a Florida counter-attack spurred by Christen Westphal’s steal of the ball deep in their defensive half sent the Gator center back down the left flank where she made a long, leading pass for Jordan. The forward took a low shot from distance as the ball came around the outside of her body, hitting the far side of the net to put the home side up by two. A&M provided several scares for the home side with a number of strong opportunities throughout the second half, but the ball never quite fell their way and Florida, coming away with the 2-0 victory, have drawn level with their opponents at the top of the SEC table creating a must-win final day for both sides. The win continues Florida’s winning streak with their sixth-straight and the Gators have yet to concede a goal since their loss to South Carolina nearly a month ago.

Florida close out their regular season on Halloween at soccer’s version of the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, playing Georgia in Athens.

Stanford (8, 12-3-1, 5-3 Pac-12)Had a pair of road victories in the Beaver State, winning 2-1 over Oregon on Friday and 4-1 over Oregon State on Sunday.

Courtney Verloo scored twice for the Cardinal on Friday, first with a PK in the 36th minute to put the Cardinal up in the first half, and again with eight minutes left in the game after Oregon had drawn level earlier in the second half. Verloo’s brace gives her nine for the season, one behind Taylor Uhl for the team lead. Sunday, Stanford put four up on Oregon State with goals from Lo’eau LaBonta, Sydney Payne, Alex Doll and Chioma Ubogagu. Three of the four goals were scored within the first 23 minutes for a quick start, but the defense again were unable to shut out an opponent as Stanford have kept a clean sheet only twice in Pac-12 play. Another tough road test is on the horizon in the coming week as the Cardinal travel north to play Washington and Washington State.

West Virginia (9, 13-2-2, 7-0 Big 12)Went into double-overtime against Oklahoma on Friday, winning 2-1, but fell 0-2 on the road to Texas Tech

West Virginia’s robust attack were held scoreless through the first half in Norman, thanks largely to stubborn Sooner keeper Kassidie Stade who made five saves on WVU’s seven shots. Oklahoma made them regret it when Daisy Cardona tapped a shot in from close range with 25 minutes left. Frances Silva pulled the visitors back with ten minutes left as Amanda Hill’s pass through the middle found Silva lurking in space between the back line. Silva corralled the ball, turned and ran at goal, shooting to the far post just off the fingertips of the Sooner goalie. Silva took advantage of a notoriously shaky OU defense as the teams entered the second overtime period still knotted at one. Building up from behind the center line, the forward sent a beautiful through-ball beyond the Oklahoma defense, releasing a streaking Kate Schwindel on a 20-yard dash. Schwindel zeroed in on Stade and the Oklahoma goal mouth and hit a side-footed shot in stride to the opposite corner, scoring a golden goal in the 101st minute to clinch another Big 12 title for the Mountaineers.

Friday’s match may have taken a lot out of the Mountaineers as nine of the starting 11 played the full 102 minutes against Oklahoma and, with No. 18 Texas Tech up on Sunday, West Virginia were going to need to dig deep in a game that, although meaningless in the Big 12 race, would have major implications in their bid for a high seed in the NCAA Tournament. Although WVU started strong, they couldn’t break down one of the top-rated defenses in the country. Despite a first half in which the Mountaineers would outshoot the home side, it would be the Red Raiders who would go into halftime up a goal off Hayley Haagsma’s header with five minutes left. TTU struck again early in the second period when Janine Beckie hit her eighth goal of the season. The loss breaks a nine-game winning streak and marks only the second Big 12 loss for the Mountaineers since entering the conference in 2012.

The end of Week 10 marks the end of West Virginia’s regular season with the coming match week being the Mountaineers’ bye-week. While the rest of the conference finishes out their schedule, WVU will have a week-and-a-half to prepare for the Big 12 Tournament beginning November 6th as they look to do the double in the conference.

Michigan (10, 14-2-1, 8-1-1 Big 10)Beat Illinois 2-0 on Friday and Northwestern 3-0 on Sunday.

Madi Lewis and Holly Hein scored goals in the first half to give Michigan its sixth straight win in the Big 10 over Illinois. The Wolverines and keeper Taylor Bucklin held off NCAA top-scorer Janelle Flaws who had seven shots in the match. Sunday, Michigan traveled to Evanston to take on Northwestern with three Wolverines scoring to set a program record with their seventh-consecutive victory. Michigan sit in second place in the Big 10, two points behind leaders Nebraska, and close out their season on Saturday, facing bitter rivals Ohio State.

Santa Clara (11, 11-3-1, 5-0 WCC) – With Portland’s stumble and BYU’s gain the previous night, Santa Clara needed a positive result on Sunday to stay with the WCC league leaders and they got it with a 9-0 demolition of San Francisco. A number of Broncos boosted their offensive totals at the expense of the Dons with Morgan Marlborough’s hat-trick leading the charge. Sarah Jackson had a brace while Sofia Huerta, Julie Johnston, Jordan Jesolva and Ellie Rice all got their names in the paper as  Santa Clara stay undefeated in conference play, moving into a three-way tie with Portland and BYU. Santa Clara have a game in hand on their co-leaders and play two in the next match week with home fixtures against Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine.

Cal (12, 9-2-5, 2-2-3 Pac-12) – A promising season in Berkeley has gone all wrong and the Bears now sit ninth in the conference after an 0-1 loss away at Oregon State left them winless in their last four. Things won’t get any easier for California, either, as the game in Corvallis was only the first of a five-game road stretch to close out their Pac-12 season.

South Carolina (13, 14-2-2, 7-2-1 SEC) – Coming off a one-point weekend, the Gamecocks drew the league’s tamest competition at the best time and they took full advantage of it, beating Vanderbilt 4-1 and barely eking one out in Starkville with a 1-0 victory over Mississippi State. South Carolina still have an incredibly remote chance of sharing the SEC title if several results go their way on Thursday, but the Gamecocks will need to handle their own business at home as they host Kentucky in a battle between the SEC’s No. 3 and No. 4 teams.

Denver (14, 16-1-1, 7-0 Summit) – Hosting the last two games of the season, Denver beat South Dakota State 4-0 on Friday and North Dakota State 2-1 on Sunday. The wins complete the Pioneers’ dominating sweep of the Summit League having outscored all opponents 25-1. Denver will have a week off to contemplate the upcoming conference tournament on November 8th and 10th in Fort Wayne.

Georgetown (15, 14-1-2, 6-1-1 Big East) – The Hoyas were victorious 3-1 over Villanova on Sunday, but a big win for Marquette against Providence means the Big East title will elude Georgetown after a red-hot start to the season. The pressure is still on from behind, though, and the Hoyas need a win in the coming week against Seton Hall to guarantee a second-place finish in the conference ahead of surging DePaul.

Penn State (16, 12-4-1, 6-3 Big 10) – Iowa got up by a goal on PSU twice in the first half of Friday’s match, but PSU’s Tani Costa responded each time with goals of her own to send the teams into halftime level with two goals apiece. Cloe Lacasse reclaimed the lead for the Hawkeyes in the 74th minute and they wouldn’t relinquish it as the Nittany Lions only took one shot in the remaining 16 minutes for their third loss in Big 10 play. Coming off the 2-3 loss in Iowa City, PSU needed a win over Big Ten front-runners Nebraska to get back in the winning groove, but the upstart Huskers weren’t having any part of it, dealing the Lions another 2-3 defeat as the Lions again lost a back-and-forth matchup. Following a scoreless first half in which PSU had the more dangerous chances, the Lions came out just over a minute into the second half and took the lead as Whitney Church scored from the edge of the box. Nebraska answered with two of their own in the 75th and 83rd minutes to take the lead. Maya Hayes’ 17th goal of the season with two minutes left on the clock sent the game to overtime, but the joy was short-lived as Nebraska scored a golden goal in the 103rd minute to extinguish Penn State’s hopes for a 16th-consecutive Big Ten title.

Marquette (17, 15-3-0, 8-0 Big East) – Marquette’s emphatic 6-0 win over Providence on Sunday continued their dominance of the Big East, marking the fifth-straight regular season title for the Golden Eagles. Maegan Kelly scored twice in the win, giving her a team-best eight for the season and the team will have a chance to conclude its season undefeated in conference play with a home fixture against Butler on Saturday.

Texas Tech (18, 15-1-2, 5-0-2 Big 12) – The Red Raiders shut out their 13th opponent of the season in a 1-0 victory Friday over Kansas. Scoring star Janine Beckie netted her seventh goal to put Texas Tech up in the fifteenth minute. Sunday, the Red Raiders faced a weary West Virginia team fresh off an overtime road win in Oklahoma, Despite WVU’s edge in offensive production, the home side were able to blank the Mountaineers while putting two on the board through Hayley Haagsma and Janine Beckie. TTU moved into second place in the conference with the win, one point ahead of Texas, and the two in-state rivals will battle for the metaphorical Chancellor’s Spurs on Friday in the Big 12 season finale.

UCF (19, 15-2-2, 8-0-1 AAC) – The Knights became the first American Athletic Conference champions this weekend with a pair of shutout victories over Houston and SMU. Houston weren’t much of a challenge for the Knights in a battle between two teams on opposite ends of the AAC spectrum and UCF cruised to an easy 4-0 victory. Sunday’s contest against SMU was much tighter, but Knights’ freshman Kayla Adamek hit the game-winner, her third of the season, two minutes into overtime to end the conference campaign undefeated. UCF enter the AAC tournament with a first-round bye and will play again on November 3rd in the quarterfinal round.

Notre Dame (20, 11-5-1, 7-4-1 ACC) – Thursday’s match against Boston College got the Irish train on track, mostly controlling the run of play in a 3-1 home win. Morgan Andrews had a banner night, scoring the second goal and providing assists on the other two. Karin Simonian spared the Irish a nervous halftime talk, scoring with one minute left in the half to give ND the lead. Rilka Noel started the play with a sharp backheel pass to Andrews overlapping on the flank. The freshman crossed the ball to the far side of the box to connect with Simonian who fired a rocket back across goal to the far post. Andrews scored the second of the match off a header just three minutes into the second half, and then notched her second assist of the night on Mandy Laddish’s 85th minute goal. Sunday, the Irish began their final road trip of the regular season with a match at Clemson, defeating the Tigers 2-0. Notre Dame pushed for a goal from the outset and it was freshman Kaleigh Olmstead heading in Mandy Laddish’s cross at the far post who scored to break the ice. Hardly an ACC pushover these days, the Tigers eventually gained more of the run of play as the half went on, never making the one-goal lead feel secure. The Irish were thankful when another early second half goal from Crystal Thomas put them up by two. Thomas, camped in front of goal on the play, collected Lauren Bohaboy’s errant shot and finished the job to secure the 2-0 victory. Notre Dame will head back out for a Halloween showdown with No. 3 Florida State in a rematch of last year’s NCAA Tournament semi-final match which saw the Irish eliminated in a tight 0-1 loss in Tallahassee.

Nebraska (21, 14-3-1, 9-1 Big 10) – A 24th-minute goal from Mayme Conroy was all the Huskers needed to get past Ohio State on Friday. The Buckeyes launched a major offensive against the Nebraska goal, sending 18 shots at keeper Emma Stevens. Accuracy and finishing were an issue as OSU were only able to put four on frame while Nebraska took eleven shots less and had the same number on target, including Conroy’s header for the game’s only score. The 1-0 win set the table for a nervy late-season matchup with defending champ Penn State in Lincoln and the result was a dramatic showdown worthy of the prize at stake. The Huskers spotted Penn State the lead early in the second half, but goals from Jordan Jackson and Jaycie Johnson within eight minutes of each other brought the home side roaring back. Nebraska were unable to see the game off as Maya Hayes’s header with two minutes to go sent the contest to overtime, but Johnson put the final nail in the PSU coffin when the forward ran the length of the field to score the game-winner. With Penn State out of the title race and only Michigan to hold off, Nebraska have one final match left to complete a remarkable run for the Big Ten title, facing Indiana at home on Friday.

Wake Forest (22, 10-5-2, 5-5-2 ACC) – There’s still life left in the Wake offense as the Deacs broke a late, one-goal deadlock with Pitt to win 3-1 for their second straight positive result. Coach Tony Da Luz is looking for anybody to step up in the attack at this point and it was sophomore Taylor Waters on Thursday, putting Wake on the board in the 59th minute and then assisting both Ally Berry and Riley Ridgik for their two goals in the last ten minutes to defeat the hapless Panthers. In Sunday’s match against North Carolina, Ridgik scored her ninth of the year in the 28th minute to go up on the defending champs in the first half. With a one-goal lead, the Deacs’ defense held out against the visitors through the end of the half, but the irresistible force of Crystal Dunn proved too much for the immovable wall of Aubrey Bledsoe and the Tar Heels finally put the game to bed in overtime off Kealia Ohai’s game-winner. With one game left in the regular season, the Demon Deacons sit perilously close to the drop-off for tournament qualification, teetering in seventh place on 17 points while only a single point separates each position from six down to ten. If Wake don’t make the tournament, they’ll have no one to blame but themselves as they face NC State, a team with only one win in ACC play, in their last regular season match.

Ole Miss (23, 13-4-2, 6-3-1 SEC) – In Friday’s match against Texas A&M, the Rebels took the lead in College Station with just under 15 minutes left in the first half off Mandy McCalla’s cross in to Olivia Harrison. Ole Miss were unable to contain the league leaders, though, and the Aggies equalized off a dominating second-half performance then took the lead on a late PK, downing the Rebels 2-1. In a rainy Sunday match at home against Alabama, Rafaelle Souza scored less than eight minutes into the match, coming in wide from the left and shooting to the opposite corner to beat the keeper, but Dutch international Pia Rijsdijk leveled with 40 seconds left in the half on a quick break-away to erase the Rebels’ early lead again. Unable to put away a number of dangerous second-half chances, largely thanks to some spectacular saves by ‘Bama keeper Emily Rusk, the game went to overtime and it was Souza again who scored to put the Crimson Tide away. With three minutes left in the first overtime period, the Brazilian nailed a header off Erin Emerson’s corner kick straight into the ground, taking a high bounce in front of the net that looped into the far corner past Rusk’s outstretched hand. The pair of goals were Souza’s 15th and 16th of the season, tying her for second-best in the conference with Vanderbilt’s Cheyna Williams.

BYU (24, 11-4-1, 5-1 WCC) – A pair of 1-0 road results over Gonzaga and No. 6 Portland boosted the Cougars into a three-way tie for first in the WCC. Sophomore Marissa Nimmer scored the only goal on Thursday in Spokane despite the team posting 19 shots in the match. Saturday, BYU headed on to Portland for a match-up with the WCC-leading Pilots. The game was as evenly-contested as you would expect among two of the conference’s best, with only a handful of legitimate scoring chances on both sides. With 12 minutes on the clock, Brigham Young finally finished off an opportunity as defender Paige Hunt blazed down the left flank, crossing the ball into the box where it deflected off the foot of Niki Fernandez. The ball fell fortuitously to freshman Ashley Hatch who shuffled it to her left foot and toe-poked it in to goal to seal the Cougars’ fourth straight victory and shutout.

Kentucky (25, 13-4-1, 7-3 SEC) – The Wildcats split a pair of home contests against Missouri and LSU. Missouri, a team that has done its fair share of SEC giant-killing despite being fairly lackluster overall, knocked off their third ranked conference opponent on Friday, taking UK down with two minutes left in double-overtime. The Tigers had already taken the lead in the first half, but Caitlin Landis’s goal in the 18th minute put the Wildcats back in it. Deadlocked for the next 90 minutes, Mizzou’s golden goal ended Kentucky’s hopes of a shot at the title. On Sunday, UK got back on the horse and toppled the former SEC leaders LSU, again coming from a goal down. Arin Gilliland got the ball rolling with her eleventh goal of the season off a long pass from Landis to nullify LSU’s early second half score. Zoe Swift added to her impressive freshman totals with her sixth of the year to net the game-winner in the 72nd minute and Alex Carter’s volley off a Kailtin Miller free kick two minutes later padded the lead. The Wildcats currently sit in fourth place in the SEC and play their last game of the regular season on Thursday against third-place South Carolina.


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