(Photo: Bill Dally/ISIPhotos.com)
And then there were three. Every Pac-12 team featuring on Aussie on its roster has advanced to the Sweet Sixteen, and there is no reason to think all three won’t make it to the Elite Eight. However, there are some tantalising matchups on the board, including two rematches of regular season contests.
Stanford (Beattie Goad)
Sweet Sixteen: v Penn State – 8am, Monday November 25
Stanford have been utterly dominant throughout the first two rounds, scoring 19 goals and conceding a grand total of zero. However, this game against Penn State shapes as a tasty encounter for the neutrals and a potential heartstopper for fans of the Cardinal and Nittany Lions. Stanford do have the wood on Penn State so far this season, with the teams meeting in the season opener. The Cardinal won that game 2-1, outshooting the home side 17-9 in the process. With this game being played on Stanford’s home patch, one would be forgiven for expecting Stanford to just keep marching on as they have done for most of this season. However, Penn State didn’t earn a #4 seed being mediocre, winning the Big Ten tournament before knocking off Arizona 4-3 in overtime in the NCAA Tournament second round.
UCLA (Rachel Lowe, Teagan Micah)
Sweet Sixteen: v Wisconsin – 11am, Monday November 25
UCLA haven’t quite been as dominant as Stanford, but with 4-1 and 5-0 wins under their belt to this point, the Bruins are in outstanding form heading into their contest with Wisconsin. This game also represents a rematch of a regular season fixture, with the Bruins and Badgers facing off on UCLA’s home patch in September. UCLA won that game 1-0 in a remarkably tight game, with Teagan Micah forced to make five saves in a match-saving performance. With UCLA a #2 seed for the tournament and Wisconsin a #3 seed, this shapes as potentially one of the tightest of the eight games in the Sweet Sixteen.
Teagan Micah has been largely untested in the opening two rounds, but plenty shapes to change in this fixture. The senior has already proven crucial to one UCLA victory in a game between these teams, and it would not be a surprise to anyone if the Matildas World Cup squad member reprises that role in this contest. Rachel Lowe also enjoyed an extended stint on the pitch in the demolition of Clemson in the second round, but the freshman’s minutes against Wisconsin may depend on the scoreline at any particular time.
Washington State (Aly Hay)
Sweet Sixteen: v West Virginia – 9am, Monday November 25
Live on ACC Network Extra (US Only)
Washington State produced one of the upsets of the tournament to get to this point, defeating #1 seed Virginia, giving the Cougars every reason to be confident heading into this fixture against West Virginia. However, that won’t make the contest against the Mountaineers an easy one, with West Virginia comfortably handling Georgetown 2-0 in the first round before edging to a 1-0 overtime win against Central Connecticut State in the second round. Just three years removed from a national championship game appearance, West Virginia may not be the same team they were then, but they are still in the nation’s top echelon. However, Washington State are probably a better side than their lack of seeding suggests, with a number of elite players on the roster. The draw has partially opened up for them with their defeat of Virginia, but they now have to take advantage.
Once again, it is highly unlikely that we see Aly Hay take to the pitch as the Cougars’ third-string goalkeeper, but as a freshman, that is hardly cause for concern at this stage.