(Photo Credit: Rand Bleimeister/UCLA)
Four Aussies across three teams remain in the hunt for an NCAA Division I Championship as the tournament reaches the semi-final stage. For Beattie Goad, it will be a chance to pick up a second title in four years, whilst Teagan Micah will be looking to go one better than a championship game loss to Goad and Stanford in 2017. Meanwhile, for Micah’s UCLA teammate Rachel Lowe and Washington State backup goalkeeper Aly Hay, this weekend provides an opportunity to round out their freshman seasons in the best way possible.
Washington State (Aly Hay) v North Carolina
11:00am, Saturday December 7
Let’s take a look at the list of boilovers that Washington State have produced in this NCAA Tournament, shall we?
#1 Virginia? Check.
#2 South Carolina? Check.
#1 seed and 21-time College Cup champions North Carolina? Well, why not? When you’ve already knocked off two of the top eight teams in the nation, there is little reason to believe you can’t do it for a third time, and Washington State have the chance to do exactly that against the most storied program in NCAA women’s soccer and one of the most decorated in all of college sports.
The Cougars have hit top form at the perfect time, reaching the College Cup for the first time in program history on the back of a dream run that has seen them knock off a pair of seeds on the road as well as nationally ranked Memphis and an elite West Virginia squad that is just three years removed from playing in the national championship game. Star forward Morgan Weaver is showing the kind of form that made her a US Under-23 national team camp call-up, whilst being ably supported by Makamae Gomera-Stevens and Mackenzie Frimpong-Ellertson, both of whom have scored vital goals in this tournament. Gomera-Stevens scored the only goal against Memphis in the first round, whilst Frimpong-Ellertson tallied the winner in the 3-2 win over Virginia, a game in which Gomera-Stevens also added an assist on the Cougars’ opener. The Cougars also feature an elite level player between the sticks, with program legend Ella Dederick continuing to play a massive role for Washington State in goal. The senior has been pivotal in the Cougars’ rise, and it is fair to say that without Dederick at the back, the team would not be even close to this position.
North Carolina come into this game missing one of their star players after Emily Fox tore her ACL during their Elite Eight win over USC, but the Tar Heels roster is, as per usual, utterly stacked with talent. Alessia Russo and Brianna Pinto stand alongside Fox as MAC Hermann Trophy semi-finalists, whilst players such as Taylor Otto, Lotte Wubben-Moy and Bridgette Andrzejewski can also be considered among the top players in the nation. Add in the coaching of 21-time national champion Anson Dorrance, and the Tar Heels provide a formidable foe for all opponents.
It won’t be easy for Washington State, but neither was defeating South Carolina or Virginia, and they managed to get past both of those teams.
Stanford (Beattie Goad) v UCLA (Rachel Lowe, Teagan Micah)
1:30pm, Saturday December 7
The matchup that has defined this era of College Matildas, Teagan Micah and Beattie Goad face off for the sixth time in four years, whilst Rachel Lowe is set to face Stanford for the first time after missing the regular season contest due to Young Matildas commitments. However, the history of the matchup doesn’t make pretty reading for the Bruins or their Aussies. Zero wins, five losses, six goals scored, eleven conceded.
But despite that dismal record, three of those losses have come in 3-2 results, making the Bruins one of the few teams that have been able to put multiple goals past Stanford in recent seasons. That also means that the other two losses have come in 1-0 games as UCLA have stifled the Stanford attack at times. What they haven’t been able to do in any of these games is score goals and hold Stanford at bay at the same time.
Teagan Micah will be bidding to keep her college career alive with a win in this game, and the senior goalkeeper will likely prove crucial to UCLA’s chances. One of the top custodians in the nation, Micah has been ever-reliable for the Bruins since the opening game of her freshman season, and remains one of the main reasons UCLA find themselves in the position they are in. Meanwhile, Rachel Lowe has been known to provide a spark off the bench, and whilst these games often see coaches run with a short rotation, there may yet come an opportunity for the freshman.
For Stanford, it will be a case of ‘more of the same, please!’ as the Cardinal look to continue their utterly dominant 2019 campaign. Having scored 98 goals and conceded just 11 in 23 games this season, the mere blip that was an early September loss to Pepperdine is now well and truly in the rearview mirror. Stanford went through the Pac-12 season undefeated, demonstrating that even the toughest conference in the nation is no match for their power. That included a 1-0 win over UCLA, the only match in which they did not score multiple goals and one of just two in which the final margin was only a single goal.
However, even in that game, Stanford conceded the princely sum of zero shots on target to UCLA as Maya Doms’ looping header proved sufficient to secure victory. The Cardinal won’t want to rely on completely suffocating the Bruins’ attack again though, and with their attack averaging 4.26 goals per game, they will not only be hoping, but expecting to give Micah a hell of a time between the sticks. Featuring as part of that attacking behemoth will be senior midfielder Beattie Goad. The Victorian has bounced between the starting lineup and making an impact off the bench throughout the season, but has performed admirably the many roles in which she has been deployed in 2019. Already with an assist in the tournament on a wicked corner against BYU, Goad sits at equal fifth in that category for Stanford with six for the season alongside three goals. UCLA may concede just 0.7 goals per game, but that number won’t even register for Stanford as they look to do what they’ve done all season – bang in a multitude of goals for fun.