Women’s NCAA Tournament Round 3 Recap
It was all a bit tiring on Sunday. There were full-blooded matches, extra innings. There were hard tackles, memorable goals and a few mistakes too. And at the end of it all, seven teams made it to the final eight of the NCAA Tournament. Here’s how most of it happened.
Alabama comes alive in the second half to beat UC Irvine, 3-1
Alabama has never been here before – at least not in recent memory. The Crimson Tide have built something under Wes Hart, creating a sustainable lineup of talent that has made a big impact this year. And Sunday, when its quality was called into question, Alabama delivered. After being blanked in the first half, Alabama scored three in the second, using a corner, penalty and close-range finish to pick apart a resilient UC Irvine team. The Anteaters showed some attacking quality and after Suus De Bakker found the net to bring them within one, a comeback seemed possible. But Alabama continued to attack, refusing to sit in the lead. And it was rewarded with his third goal – both a winning strike and a piece of evidence of how this team could win it all.
Florida State beats Pittsburgh, 3-0, in controlled performance
At this point, Florida State has found many ways to win games. There was the counter-attacking display against Virginia, the controlled win over North Carolina, followed by the chaotic shootout against Florida State. And Sunday afternoon was perhaps the most even Seminoles performance to date. They put three past a resilient Pitt team with relative ease, scoring in the second minute before adding two more early in the second half. Jody Brown was once again among them, scoring and assisting in the win.
Virginia beat Penn State in overtime thriller, 3-2
This game could have been 5-4. Maybe it should have. After Virginia and Penn State went to overtime tied 2-2 — the end of a grueling 90 minutes — a more even overtime seemed likely. But it never came. Instead, it was chaotic, swinging back and forth. Virginia got the only goal, with Haley Hopkins finishing from close range, but should have scored two more. At the other end, Penn State was tantalizingly close to finishing one or two of its own. Fittingly, it all came to a frantic final sequence. Virginia goalkeeper Cayla White popped up to deflect a cross off goal. The ball fell hard for one Penn State player before ricocheting into the path of another. It was then hacked away, far downfield, with two players still chasing it as time expired. What could twice have ended with the ball in the net ended instead with a straight sprint. But it was such a game.
Clinical offense leads Notre Dame past TCU, 2-0
With the quality of Korbin Albert in the final third, it’s easy to think Notre Dame is a one-man team. But there is a lot of talent around her, which was well shown on Sunday night. Olivia Wingate and Madison Mercado grabbed the goals as the Fighting Irish turned in a controlled performance to beat a threatening TCU team. There were a few moments of difficulty, but Mackenzie Wood was calm when asked.
Arkansas beats Memphis on penalties after 3-3 thriller
Memphis enjoyed a solid first round with a 1-0 win over a strong Saint Louis team. But a more physical Arkansas side seemed to be more of a challenge. And the Razorbacks delivered on that assumption. The two teams leveled each other over 110 minutes, tied at 3-3 after extra time. In the shootout, Arkansas had just enough to knock off the Tigers and clinch a spot in the last eight. Grace Barbara was the hero in the end, stretching far to her right for a dramatic save that sent the Razorbacks through.
Duke edges South Carolina, 2-1
Shouldn’t it always end up with Michelle Cooper’s right foot? The Duke forward has expanded his game this season, becoming a more accomplished passer as well as a top player. And on Sunday night, she was inevitably crucial for the Blue Devils, as she donned a brace to send them past South Carolina in a tough game. Duke enjoyed most of the possession and peppered the South Carolina goal. But goalkeeper Heather Hinz was characteristically sharp, making eight saves to keep her team in the game. Payton Patrick pulled one back for the Gamecocks with 90 seconds left, but the damage was mostly done. Cooper reappeared. And it’s easy to wonder how far they can go when she shoots.
Turner, McMahon Lead UCLA Past Northwestern, 2-0
UCLA had a real scare in the first round of NCAA tournament play, pushed to penalties by UCF. On Sunday night, the Bruins looked more like the team that rolled through the regular season. They turned to the quality of Reilyn Turner and Quincy McMahon for the goals, the striker and defender getting a goal each to round off a complete performance. UCLA goalie Lauren Brzykcy was fairly comfortable throughout, forcing just one save as the Bruins held off a solid Northwestern team.
North Carolina 3-2 BYU – The Tar Heels were relatively composed against a long-legged BYU team, with Avery Patterson contributing three assists in a convincing win over one of last year’s finalists.