2018 NCAA Tournament Preview

It’s time for the big one – the NCAA Tournament – and two teams featuring Aussies are among the favourites as Stanford and UCLA look to make return trips to the College Cup.

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The 2018 NCAA Tournament sees six teams featuring seven Aussies in the mix for a national title, as at-large teams Texas Tech and UCLA joined conference champions Stanford, LSU, Hofstra, and Albany in the big dance. The chips have fallen the right way for a potential rematch between Beattie Goad’s Stanford outfit and Teagan Micah’s UCLA side in the championship game after 2017’s barnburner that resulted in a 3-2 Stanford victory, with the teams again on opposite sides of the draw. Both sides will be fully expecting to at least reach the College Cup again, whilst for LSU and Texas Tech a Sweet 16 berth is certainly a realistic goal, and from there anything is possible. Hofstra and Albany face the toughest draws, but neither are without their chance to upset the applecart against some bigger teams. 

Albany (Claire Urquhart)

First Round: @ South Florida – 11am, Sunday November 11 

Live on South Florida YouTube

Claire Urquhart and Albany certainly have the toughest test of any of the six teams featuring Aussies, travelling to Tampa to face a South Florida side hellbent on making amends for a 3-0 defeat to Memphis in their conference championship game. Albany reached the NCAA Tournament courtesy of a 5-1 win in their own conference championship game, albeit in a much smaller league, but nonetheless come in on far more of a high than their opponents. South Florida will come in as heavy favourites, but there are always a few upsets in the NCAA Tournament in any sport, so don’t write the Great Danes off just yet.

Albany Team South Florida
14-6-2 Record (W-L-D) 13-3-0
96 RPI Rank 16
2.18 Goals Per Game 2.31
1.23 Goals Conceded Per Game 0.88

Hofstra (Monique Iannella, Grace Watson-Carr) 

First Round: @ Boston College – 11am, Saturday November 10

Live on ACC Network Extra (US Only)

The only other team here to play on the road first up, Hofstra certainly have a shorter trip than Albany as they travel from Long Island to Chestnut Hill to take on Boston College. The Eagles upset the odds to finish fourth in the ACC after being tabbed to finish tenth in the league in the preseason poll, a remarkable feat considering the level of play in that conference. However, Hofstra have plenty of tournament experience, both in terms of conference and national tournament games, and can hopefully use that to their advantage to come up with the upset. If Hofstra can manage to dictate the pace of the game, expect to see plenty of Monique Iannella getting up and down the flank from her fullback position, whilst her delivery from set-pieces could be another ace up Hofstra’s sleeve.

Hofstra Team Boston College
15-5-1 Record (W-L-D) 14-4-1
63 RPI Rank 25
1.67 Goals Per Game 2.26
0.95 Goals Conceded Per Game 0.63

 

LSU (Caitlin Cantrill) 

First Round: v Boston University – 6am, Monday November 12 

Live on SEC Network+ (US Only)

LSU were teetering on the bubble with four weeks left in the season, but a remarkable run to the end of the season made talk of an at-large bid moot as the Tigers rolled through the SEC Tournament to secure the conference championship on penalties against Arkansas. LSU are a team nobody will want to face in this sort of form, and more than a few title contenders will be hoping that Boston University can pull off the upset and get the Tigers out of the bracket early. It doesn’t look likely though, as although Boston University are certainly a decent team, LSU should have enough in their locker to secure a comfortable victory as they look to turn what was a decent season a month ago into one for the ages.

LSU Team Boston University
13-6-3 Record (W-L-D) 11-7-3
27 RPI Rank 90
1.50 Goals Per Game 1.24
1.05 Goals Conceded Per Game 0.90

Stanford (Beattie Goad) 

First Round: v Seattle – 2pm, Sunday November 11

Live on Stanford Live Stream

As defending champions and riding a 41-match unbeaten streak, facing Seattle in the first round should pose no significant problems for a Stanford side that has been dominant for the past two seasons. The Cardinal won their first-round match in 2017 against Utah Valley 9-1, and whilst a similar result is not exactly expected here against Seattle, a wide margin of victory would not be in the least bit surprising as they look to continue their march to back-to-back championships. Beattie Goad has been in and out of the starting lineup as an occasional member of the matchday eleven, but even off the bench has been providing outstanding play for the entirety of the season, with the junior set to see far more playing time than in the Cardinal’s run to the 2017 title.

Stanford Team Seattle
17-0-2 Record (W-L-D) 10-7-3
1 RPI Rank 152
2.68 Goals Per Game 1.75
0.47 Goals Conceded Per Game 1.15

Texas Tech (Demi Koulizakis)

First Round: v Princeton – 11am, Saturday November 10

Live on TexasTech.com

Probably the tightest match on paper of the six involving Australians, Texas Tech host Princeton in a matchup of two teams separated by just ten positions in the RPI rankings, which in a nation of 335 teams is incredibly close. This game is almost a coinflip, with Princeton finishing second in the smaller Ivy League but doing enough throughout the season to earn an at-large bid, and Texas Tech reaching the Big 12 semi-finals to round out a solid season in the high-major Big 12. Both of these teams are the kind of team that could have proven to be banana skins for bigger teams in the opening weekend, particularly Princeton, who knocked off #2 North Carolina in the Sweet 16 last year and will be hungry to make another deep run. Demi Koulizakis has been coming off the bench to provide some spark to the Texas Tech offence on occasion, and it may just come to pass that the junior provides what the Red Raiders need to get over the line in this one.

Texas Tech Team Princeton
13-5-2 Record (W-L-D) 11-3-2
34 RPI Rank 24
1.50 Goals Per Game 1.50
0.60 Goals Conceded Per Game 0.56

UCLA (Teagan Micah)

First Round: v San Jose State – 1pm, Saturday November 10 

Live on UCLA Live Stream

Like Stanford, UCLA are one of the favourites to progress deep into the tournament and as such, will be expected to dominate their game against San Jose State. San Jose State came in as Mountain West Conference champions, having won the tournament despite finishing fourth in the league, so their body of work throughout the season is perhaps not as glittering as most other teams in the tournament. UCLA, on the other hand, finished second in the Pac-12, arguably the toughest league in the country, and did so despite missing Hailie Mace and Jessie Fleming to national team duty for several matches. Teagan Micah is back to her best after a concussion scare earlier in the season, and the Bruins should be primed to make another run towards the College Cup and will be hoping to go one step better than last season’s championship game defeat to Stanford.

UCLA Team San Jose State
14-3-1 Record (W-L-D) 9-6-6
8 RPI Rank 128
2.44 Goals Per Game 0.76
0.83 Goals Conceded Per Game 0.67

2018 Week 12 Preview

15 teams featuring Australians remain standing heading into the final week of the regular season, and all have a shot of reaching the NCAA Tournament. How close each team is varies wildly, but nonetheless it looks set to be a thriller of a week.

(Featured Image Credit: University of Wyoming Media Relations)

It may be conference tournament season, but ironically enough the team with the best shot at a title won’t actually be playing in a tournament at all. That team is Beattie Goad’s Stanford outfit, whose Pac-12 conference champion is decided on league results. Coming into the final week, Stanford are tied atop the standings with USC, but have a rescheduled game against Arizona State in their pocket and as such are the only team to play two games this weekend. First up, the Cardinal take on local rivals California on the road at Berkeley, and with the Golden Bears sitting in 11th spot in the 12-team league, a win to clinch no less than a share of the title looks especially likely for a Stanford team that continues to roll on during an undefeated streak that now stretches the best part of two seasons. Stanford can then secure the title for themselves against Arizona State, where any points would be enough to make the result of USC’s game against third-placed UCLA game moot in terms of Stanford’s position.

Speaking of UCLA, Teagan Micah’s Bruins will play that game against local rivals USC at the StubHub Centre, home of the LA Galaxy, in a game that drew a crowd in excess of 10,000 last season when played on campus at UCLA. A win is the only way that UCLA can mount an unlikely challenge for the Pac-12 title, but even if Stanford’s results don’t go their way, a win against another top team will do wonders for their seeding in the NCAA Tournament.

Rounding out the Pac-12 is Isobel Dalton and Colorado, who need to get a result against Utah in their final match of the regular season to secure their own NCAA Tournament spot. As it stands, the Buffaloes are just about in, but dropping points to a Utah side that sits well below them in the RPI rankings would just about destroy any chance of Colorado holding onto that tournament spot. After a 16-game unbeaten run to start the season, making the tournament is essentially non-negotiable for the Buffaloes at this stage, but they’ll have to put in the work to get there, particularly after Utah were able to snatch a draw against USC last week.

Moving onto conference tournaments, two teams have already secured their spots in championship games in tournaments that started last weekend. Monique Iannella and Grace Watson-Carr’s Hofstra put together a pair of 1-0 wins against Delaware and Northeastern to secure their passage through to the CAA Championship game against James Madison, whilst an Albany side featuring Claire Urquhart has only Massachusetts-Lowell standing between them and a return trip to the NCAA Tournament.

Meanwhile, four other teams have made their way through to conference tournament semi-finals and find themselves two games away from capturing a conference championship and an NCAA Tournament berth. Caitlin Cantrill’s LSU side have probably done enough to secure an at-large bid regardless, but will still want to capture the SEC crown. They’ll face national title contender South Carolina, whilst in the Big 12, Demi Koulizakis and Texas Tech are in the same boat with a solid record to this point and a game against potential national #1 seed Baylor in the semi-finals not threatening to do any damage to their CV even if they were to suffer a loss.

Ashleigh Lefevre and Illinois sit right on the bubble, and facing Penn State in the Big Ten semi-finals not only gives the Illini a chance to reach the conference championship, but also really bolster their CV against a team that sits in the top 25 of the RPI rankings. Like LSU and Texas Tech, they may not need a conference title in order to reach the NCAA Tournament, but they  Isabel Hodgson and East Tennessee State, on the other hand, are in a completely different situation. Completely out of the race for an at-large bid, winning the Southern Conference championship is the only way the Buccaneers are going to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament. They’ll face #2 seed UNC Greensboro in the semi-finals, and whilst the yearly body of work suggests that ETSU come in as underdogs, they do have a win against UNC Greensboro this season under their belts.

Five more teams start their own conference tournaments this week, but we can only see a maximum of four champions from this set as Sam Roff’s Fairleigh Dickinson side and Shelby Milton’s St. Francis outfit both reached the Northeast Conference tournament. The two sides faced off in last year’s championship game, with St. Francis emerging victorious on penalties, and with one team in each of the semi-finals in 2018, there is no reason the same matchup can’t occur again in this year’s tournament.

Lauren Featherstone and North Dakota State will also start in the semi-final round in the Summit League’s four-team tournament, facing Denver in the 2 v 3 matchup. All the numbers point towards a Denver victory in this one, but North Dakota State ran the Pioneers close in their regular season contest, falling 3-2 in a barnburner of a contest.

The Australian quartet at Wyoming earned their way to the semi-finals of the Mountain West Conference tournament through their regular season performance, securing a bye as the 2nd seed in the six-team tournament. The Cowgirls will take on fellow co-champions New Mexico, who defeated Colorado College in the 3 v 6 matchup earlier in the week. With the teams tied atop the table in the regular season, this looks certain to be a tight one, but Wyoming did defeat New Mexico 3-2 in the regular season.

Sandra Hill’s Grand Canyon and Gaby Bentley’s Old Dominion have also reached the WAC and Conference USA tournaments respectively, but if they’re going to secure an unlikely conference title, it’s going to happen the hard way as both will start in the quarter-finals. Grand Canyon will face Utah Valley in their first game of the WAC Tournament, and will start as slight favourites despite playing out a 0-0 draw with the Wolverines just 10 days ago. Meanwhile, Old Dominion will face Louisiana Tech in the 4 v 5 matchup in Conference USA. This is a game in which Old Dominion will start as slight favourites, but Louisiana Tech will be confident after winning their regular season matchup 3-2 in late September.

Full Schedule:

Albany (Claire Urquhart) 

This week: v Massachusetts-Lowell – 5am, Monday November 5 (America East Conference Championship Game) 

Colorado (Isobel Dalton)

This week: v Utah – 8am, Saturday November 3 

East Tennessee State (Isabel Hodgson)

This week: v UNC Greensboro – 9:30am, Saturday November 3 (Southern Conference Tournament Semi-Final)

Fairleigh Dickinson (Sam Roff)

This week: @ Central Connecticut State – 4am, Saturday November 3 (Northeast Conference Tournament Semi-Final)

Grand Canyon (Sandra Hill)

This week: @ Utah Valley – 8am, Thursday November 1 (WAC Tournament Quarter-Final) 

Hofstra (Monique Iannella, Grace Watson-Carr) 

This week: @ James Madison – 4am, Sunday November 4 (Colonial Athletic Association Championship Game) 

Illinois (Ashleigh Lefevre) 

This week: v Penn State – 2am, Saturday November 3 (Big Ten Conference Tournament Semi-Final) 

LSU (Caitlin Cantrill) 

This week: v South Carolina – 10am, Friday November 2 (SEC Tournament Semi-Final) 

North Dakota State (Lauren Featherstone)

This week: v Denver – 10am, Friday November 2 (Summit League Tournament Semi-Final) 

Old Dominion (Gaby Bentley) 

This week: v Louisiana Tech – 10am, Thursday November 1 (C-USA Tournament Quarter-Final) 

St. Francis University (Shelby Milton) 

This week: v Mount St. Mary’s – 7am, Saturday November 3 (Northeast Conference Tournament Semi-Final) 

Stanford (Beattie Goad) 

This week: @ California – 9am, Saturday November 3

Texas Tech (Demi Koulizakis)

This week: v Baylor – 8am, Sunday November 4 (Big 12 Conference Tournament Semi-Final) 

UCLA (Teagan Micah)

This week: v USC – 1pm, Saturday November 3 

Wyoming (Indianna Asimus, Annika Clayton, Jessie Gentle, Caitlin Pickett)

This week: v New Mexico – 10am, Friday November 2 (Mountain West Conference Tournament Semi-Final)

2018 Week 11 Preview

21 teams featuring Aussies remain in the mix for the NCAA Tournament, and with six of those teams kicking off conference tournaments this week, it’s certainly crunch time for a number of players. Meanwhile, the thrilling fight for conference tournament spots in the Northeast Conference continues with Fairleigh Dickinson and Saint Francis right in the mix coming into the final matchday.

(Featured Image Credit: Jonathan Heisler, Hofstra University)

Six conference tournaments featuring Aussies kick off this weekend, with those players set to have varying degrees of impact on their teams’ fortunes. Undoubtedly, the two tournaments to watch this week are the Southern Conference and Colonial Athletic Association tournaments, both of which feature multiple teams for whom Aussies have played integral roles in getting them this far.

In the Southern Conference, both Isabel Hodgson’s East Tennessee State side and Kate Swartwout’s Western Carolina outfit have both earned spots in the tournament, with both teams earning byes to the quarter-finals as the 3rd and 4th seeds. Hodgson and the Buccaneers will face 6th seeded Mercer in their first game, whilst Swartwout’s Catamounts side face a Furman side that is usually among the contenders but has slipped to 5th this season. Although both sides come in as the higher seeds, neither of these games will be easy and coming in to the game in top form is an absolute must if both Hodgson and Swartwout are to advance.

Meanwhile, in the Colonial, a Hofstra team featuring Monique Iannella and Grace Watson-Carr will be hoping to go back-to-back, whilst Emma Heckenberg and Drexel are looking to go a couple of steps further than last year’s semi-final defeat to Northeastern. Both Iannella and Heckenberg have played vital roles to this point, and with Hofstra and Drexel on opposite sides of the draw, don’t bet against an Aussie v Aussie final in what has been a tight conference all season.

Ashleigh Lefevre is one more player we may see a bit of this week as Illinois head into the Big Ten tournament, where they will face Wisconsin on the road in the first round. Used occasionally off the bench, how much time Lefevre sees in these crunch games remains to be seen but the freshman certainly has done a job when called upon in past games. Siena Senatore, Claire Urquhart, and Caitlin Cantrill have also reached their respective conference tournaments with Southeast Missouri State, Albany, and LSU, but given the events of the season to this point, unfortunately it is unlikely that the trio will see any playing time this week.

Shelby Milton and Saint Francis may have knocked off Sam Roff and Fairleigh Dickinson last week, but both teams remain right in the mix for spots in next week’s Northeast Conference tournament. In a league with a four-team tournament, the teams form part of a three-way tie for second place on 13 points, with fifth-placed Mount St. Mary’s two points back. Both teams have a real chance to pick up a win in this last week of league play to cement their spots in the tournament, with Fairleigh Dickinson taking on Sacred Heart and Saint Francis facing Wagner. Saint Francis are also the only team in the league to play two games this week, but that additional game comes against league leaders Central Connecticut State, who have been all but untouchable in conference play to this point.

Amazingly, the Mountain West Conference league title could be shared between four teams this season, and Aussie-laden Wyoming are one of those teams. One of three teams sitting three points behind league leaders Boise State, a win against arch-rivals Colorado State on their home patch combined with other results could see the Cowgirls snag an unexpected share of the regular season title.

Whilst the Pac-12 does not feature a conference tournament, that doesn’t mean the premier conference in the nation isn’t building to a thrilling conclusion. Isobel Dalton and Colorado may have had their slender hopes of a conference title crushed by Beattie Goad’s Stanford side with a 7-0 loss last week, but the Buffaloes remain a decent chance of picking up an NCAA Tournament berth, but they’ll have to navigate a tough path to do so. Dalton’s side face national heavyweights UCLA and USC this week, and will almost certainly have to pick up at least one result to retain their at-large hopes before facing Utah in their final game of the regular season next weekend. Meanwhile, Beattie Goad and Stanford are sitting pretty tied atop the standings with USC with a game in hand and a favourable run home. The Cardinal travel north this week to face mid-table Washington as well as Washington State, who have lost five games on the trot to all but destroy any hopes the Cougars had of reaching the NCAA Tournament after winning their first ten games. Finally, Teagan Micah and UCLA may be out of league title contention, but can still nab a national seed for the NCAA Tournament with a good finish to the season. Their game against aforementioned Colorado will be a chance to put another decent win on the board, and with Micah back to her best after her recent concussion scare and Hailie Mace and Jessie Fleming back from US and Canadian national team duties respectively, the Bruins will be heavily favoured, although Dalton and Colorado will be desperate to bounce back from last week’s loss to Stanford in what will be a crucial game for both sides for different reasons.

Full Schedule: 

Akron (Freyja Murray)

This week: @ Buffalo – 6am, Friday October 26 

Albany (Claire Urquhart) 

This week: v New Hampshire – 10am, Friday October 26 (America East Tournament 1st Round)

Chicago State (Sarah Clark)

This week: @ UMKC – 5am, Sunday October 28 

Colorado (Isobel Dalton) 

This week: v USC – 8am, Friday October 26; v UCLA – 7am, Monday October 29

Drexel (Emma Heckenberg)

This week: v Charleston – 4am, Saturday October 27 (CAA Tournament First Round)

East Tennessee State (Isabel Hodgson) 

This week: v Mercer – 4am, Monday October 29 (Southern Conference Tournament First Round) 

Fairleigh Dickinson (Sam Roff)

This week: v Sacred Heart – 4am, Monday October 29

Grand Canyon (Sandra Hill)

This week: @ Cal State Bakersfield – 11am, Saturday October 27

Hawaii (Kiri Dale)

This week: v UC Riverside – 4pm, Friday October 26; v Cal State Fullerton – 11am, Monday October 29 

Hofstra (Monique Iannella, Grace Watson-Carr)

This week: v Delaware – 4am, Saturday October 27 (CAA Tournament First Round)

Illinois (Ashleigh Lefevre) 

This week: @ Wisconsin – 4am, Monday October 29 (Big Ten Tournament First Round)

LSU (Caitlin Cantrill)

This week: @ Mississippi State – 11am, Friday October 26; TBD (SEC Tournament) 

Marshall (Laura Farrelly)

This week: @ Western Kentucky – 11am, Saturday October 27

Nicholls State (Tessa Calabria, Tenille Harberger, Kristy Helmers) 

This week: @ Southeastern Louisiana – 11am, Saturday October 27 

North Dakota State (Lauren Featherstone)

This week: @ South Dakota – 7am, Saturday October 27

Old Dominion (Gaby Bentley) 

This week: v Charlotte – 10am, Saturday October 27

Southeast Missouri State (Siena Senatore) 

This week: v Belmont – 4am, Saturday October 27 (Ohio Valley Conference Tournament First Round) 

St. Francis University (Shelby Milton)

This week: v Central Connecticut State – 6am, Saturday October 27; v Wagner – 3am, Monday October 29 

Stanford (Beattie Goad)

This week: @ Washington – 11am, Friday October 26; @ Washington State – 7am, Monday October 29

Texas Tech (Demi Koulizakis)

This week: v Texas – 11:15am, Friday October 26

UCLA (Teagan Micah) 

This week: v Colorado – 7am, Monday October 29

Western Carolina (Kate Swartwout)

This week: v Furman – 10am, Sunday October 28 (Southern Conference Tournament First Round)

Wyoming (Indianna Asimus, Annika Clayton, Jessie Gentle, Caitlin Pickett)

This week: v Colorado State – 8am, Saturday October 27