(Photo: Rand Bleimeister/UCLA)
With five teams featuring Aussies still alive in the NCAA Tournament, a quarter of all games on Saturday will feature at least one Australian. Stanford and Hofstra face off, guaranteeing a path through to the Sweet Sixteen for at least one Australian. Meanwhile, UCLA and Texas Tech come into their games as favourites, whilst Washington State have a real chance of springing an upset against top-seeded Virginia.
Hofstra (Monique Iannella, Grace Watson Carr)
Second Round: @ Stanford – 2pm, Saturday November 23
Hofstra only just managed to sneak through their first round fixture against Loyola Chicago in overtime, and things won’t get any easier as they travel to #1 seed Stanford for their second round match. Having manage just one goal on fifteen shots in their tournament opener, the Pride will need to be far more ruthless in taking what few chances the Stanford defence may offer, as it is highly unlikely they will get another fifteen opportunities. At the other end, keeping Loyola Chicago to just four shots on target was an encouraging start. The Hofstra defence will need to pull out a performance at least on that level if they are to slow down the rampant Stanford attack, which is in red-hot form at the moment. If Hofstra did win, it wouldn’t be the first time a top-seeded Stanford side lost in the second round in recent years; Santa Clara knocked the Cardinal out in overtime in 2016 after Andi Sullivan’s ACL injury forced the US national team midfielder out of the game.
Unfortunately, we are unlikely to see backup goalkeeper Grace Watson Carr in this game, whilst Monique Iannella misses out through injury.
Stanford (Beattie Goad)
Second Round: v Hofstra – 2pm, Saturday November 23
If Hofstra are underdogs against Stanford, that must mean that Beattie Goad’s side come into the game as favourites. Having banged home 15 goals in a record-shattering performance against Prairie View A&M, the Cardinal are in ruthless form of late. Stanford came into the tournament on the back of a perfect Pac-12 season, with their only loss to date coming on the road at Pepperdine early in the campaign. Should Stanford not get too far ahead of themselves, they ought to roll to a solid victory by multiple goals onto a matchup against Arizona or Penn State in the Sweet Sixteen.
Beattie Goad earned a start against Prairie View A&M, tallying three shots on target in her time on the pitch. The senior has been in solid form of late, and is proving to be crucial to Stanford’s chances of securing a second national title in three years.
Texas Tech (Demi Koulizakis)
Second Round: v Michigan – 8am, Saturday November 23
Live on ESPN3 (US Only)
Texas Tech eked out a shootout victory over Pepperdine in the first round, and now face a Michigan side that struggled to get out of its own way against Bowling Green in their own tournament opener. The Red Raiders started well against Pepperdine, taking an early 2-0 lead before allowing Pepperdine to tie things up at 2-2 with goals either side of halftime. However, having come through a heart-stopping penalty shootout in which goalkeeper Madison White came up with saves on Pepperdine’s final two shots to secure the win, Texas Tech will be looking to put together a more clinical performance across the 90 minutes.
Michigan may have needed a winner 11 minutes from time to escape with a win against Bowling Green, but don’t be fooled by that performance. The Wolverines have dropped just five games this season, and have wins over Penn State, Washington State, and Rutgers among their 16 victories to this point. They are certainly a top-notch side, and on a neutral field in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, anything could happen. But if Demi Koulizakis and the Texas Tech attack can start the way they did against Pepperdine, don’t expect the Red Raiders to slip up and let their opponents back into the game again.
UCLA (Rachel Lowe, Teagan Micah)
Second Round: v Clemson – 3pm, Saturday November 23
UCLA were barely troubled in their 4-1 first round victory over Lamar, but things won’t be quite so easy against Clemson, who won their way through on penalties against Vanderbilt in the first round. The Tigers kept a clean sheet against the Commodores in the first round, allowing just six shots on target in the 0-0 draw after 110 minutes. However, that was their first clean sheet in 11 games as their attack generally got the job done, scoring multiple goals on five of those occasions.
It will be interesting to see which Clemson side comes out – the one that we’ve seen for most of the season, or the one that produced a goalless game less than a week ago. Not that UCLA will mind either way – their attack can break down even the stingiest of defences, and a defence backed up by Teagan Micah will make life hard for Clemson’s attack. Nonetheless, the Bruins will have to be at or near their best to get past what could be a tricky contest.
Teagan Micah will almost certainly once again start for the Bruins as the senior looks to return to the College Cup for the second time in three seasons. Meanwhile, Rachel Lowe’s performance off the bench against Lamar was highly encouraging, and may just have earned the freshman extended minutes this weekend.
Washington State (Aly Hay)
Second Round: @ Virginia – 11am, Saturday November 23
Live on ACC Network Extra (US Only)
When the opposition has the big #1 next to their name in the bracket, and you don’t have a number next to your name at all, it’s safe to say that you’re coming into the game as outsiders. Somehow, it’s not likely that Virginia’s status as a top seed in their quarter of the bracket will faze Washington State one iota. The Cougars have played a number of ranked teams close this season, defeating California in overtime, and dropping one-goal decisions to Arizona and UCLA in the regular season. A 1-0 win over #14 Memphis in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament brought Washington State to this point, and they have every right to be confident in their ability to spring an upset.
Of course, it won’t be easy by any stretch. Virginia’s only loss this season came to fellow national #1 seed North Carolina, having cut a swathe through the powerful ACC as well as a non-conference schedule that featured three more ranked teams. But the Cougars feature one of the top goalkeepers in the nation in Ella Dederick, and an attack featuring an elite forward in Morgan Weaver. It might take Dederick standing on her head to keep Washington State in the game, but if Weaver gets her chance, you can just about back her in to take it.
As a backup goalkeeper, it is doubtful that we will see Aly Hay take to the field in this game as the freshman gains experience training alongside Dederick this season.