7:30 PM – (4) Washington vs Missouri
Given an odd matchup in the first round, Washington avoided any untimely slip-ups, winning 1-0 against MAAC Tournament champs Rider. Their opponents were quite limited when all was said and done, but the Huskies got the job done, making an early McKenzie Karas goal stand up. UW might be a little perturbed at not putting more offense on the board with the chances they stacked up, but it was a solid start to their NCAA Tournament campaign. Against a fast and physical Missouri side though, improvement will have to be in the cards if UW are to avoid an upset.
Missouri got a victory of the sweetest kind in the first round, going on the road and knocking off their hated border rivals, Kansas. Taylor Grant had a game to go down in Mizzou lore, scoring twice and assisting on the team’s third goal in the 3-1 win. That third goal came from Reagan Russell, who also assisted on Grant’s first, showing the Tigers aren’t just a team running on the magic of Kaysie Clark. The defense wasn’t exactly airtight though, and heading to the West Coast to take on Washington, the Tigers will have to tighten up their rearguard if they want to crash the Sweet Sixteen.
CF – Softli (WAS) vs CB – C. Johnson (MIZ)
It’ll be like too giant rams colliding with one another as Washington’s spearhead in attack meets up with Missouri’s tower of power in defense. Softli was mostly muted in attack against Rider, with the center forward putting up just a single shot on goal, while Chelsea Archer did most of the damage with four of the club’s nine shots on goal. Don’t look for it to be a trend though, as Softli has been at the heart of much of UW’s offense this year. Candace Johnson is simply one of the SEC’s best defenders and a towering presence at 5’10″. UW can do damage out wide, but limiting their opportunities front and center will be key to a win.
AMC – Bennett (WAS) vs CM – Donaldson (MIZ)
Just as important for UW’s revitalization offensively this year has been the presence of Kate Bennett leading the midfield. Bennett had shown flashes of true talent last season with the Huskies but only really started to consistently show them this year as a fifth-year senior. Given some of the inconsistency of the younger players in the attack, Bennett’s going to need to be both a driving force in the midfield as well as a calming voice for her teammates. If Missouri switches back to 4-4-2, the responsibility in stopping her likely falls upon Melanie Donaldson. Donaldson’s not afraid of roaming forward, but staying tight defensively may be high on her priority list here.
AMC – Kaysie Clark (MIZ) vs CMs – Perez/Archer (WAS)
Kaysie Clark figures to get a lot of attention on Friday night. That’s what happens when you have twelve assists on the season and are generally regarded as one of the nation’s top central midfielders. While Mizzou showed they’re more than Clark last week, they really need their offensive talisman working to hit their potential. The central midfield duo of Christina Archer and Amanda Perez aren’t flashy and will be counted upon to try and mark Clark out of the game. Perez is more liberal with forays forward, but expect some double teams from both as they try to shut Clark down on Friday night.
10:00 PM – (1) Stanford vs Arkansas
Stanford likely expected a walkover in their NCAA Tournament opener last week but were instead on the receiving end of what could have been one of the biggest upsets in NCAA Tournament history. For an hour, the Card had to be fearful of their tournament lives against a Cal State Fullerton team that pounced on mistakes to take a 2-0 lead. An offensive surge over the last half-hour spared Stanford embarrassment, but the scoreline was ultimately a lot kinder on the Pac-12 side than it could have been. Truthfully though, more performances like that could spell doom for the side’s College Cup hopes.
CF – Ashleigh Ellenwood (ARK) vs CBs – Kendall Romine & Maddie Bauer (STAN)
Deciphering a gameplan from Colby Hale is like translating a dead language, in that it’s an insanely frustrating proposition for anyone. But without question, the key for the club offensively is Ashleigh Ellenwood, from her hold up play at the top of the formation, to her long throws, to her ability to, yes, score goals. Neutralizing her won’t guarantee victory for Stanford, but it’ll sure help. Maddie Bauer seems most likely to draw tight marking duties given her size. It figures to be an engrossing clash between two talented leaders of their line.
GK – Jane Campbell (STAN) vs GK – Cameron Carter (ARK)
Put simply, Cameron Carter needs to come up huge in goal for Arkansas to stand a chance here. The Lady Razorbacks’ keeper seems to have regressed this season after some promising displays last year and will need to put forth a consistently positive performance on Friday for the SEC side to pull the upset. Campbell is one of the few goalkeepers in the country that can steal a win on her own. She probably won’t have to stand on her head, but her safe hands could be the difference in this one if the offense isn’t consistent.
Coach Colby Hale (ARK) vs Coach Paul Ratcliffe (STAN)
Colby Hale has gotten Arkansas up the ladder in the SEC with a bottomless bag of tricks featuring junk defenses, a ridiculous amount of lineup shifts, mass substitutions, and no shortage of chaos. It’s not particularly endearing to some, but it’s been effective. He’ll need every ounce of ingenuity he can muster if his side are to pull another rabbit out of its hat on Friday. Drawing up a gameplan to topple Arkansas isn’t an easy feat, but Ratcliffe will like his chances if his side play as they did in the final thirty minutes of their first round match.
Who Chris Would Like to See in the Sweet Sixteen:
Stanford and Missouri. I may love the Huskies, but they’ve had their shot at Stanford this season and lost badly. It’s not exactly the most compelling regional, but I figure Missouri would have as good a shot as UW considering the Card’s unfamiliarity with them.