2:30 PM – (4) Wisconsin vs UCF
UCF may be closer to home, but the Knights also enter this one as clear underdogs against a surging Big Ten Tournament champion Wisconsin side. The Badgers were dealt a very tough hand by the selection committee, being matched up with a peeved DePaul side that felt a whole lot of disrespect following being shipped to a seed after doing the Big East double and not losing a match going into the NCAA Tournament. The Badgers would jump on their opponent early in the snow, with Cara Walls netting a brace in the first twenty-one minutes to give UW a 2-0 lead they wouldn’t relinquish. The defense did the rest, sending the Badgers out as confident winners.
Their AAC opponents on Friday looked to have made a similar hot start against a flat Georgia side in their first round match. Kayla Darden gave the Knights a 1-0 lead, but they’d be pegged back right after the half by a revitalized Georgia side. UCF would take the lead for good through central midfielder-turned-striker Ashley Spivey in the seventieth minute though, ensuring the Knights wouldn’t suffer a second straight first-round NCAA Tournament elimination. Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak’s predecessor, Amanda Cromwell, made her bones by coaxing big performances out of her club in matches just like Friday’s second round clash. Rekindling that fighting spirit could have UCF in with a chance of a shock in the day’s opening fixture.
LB – Laufenberg (WIS) vs RF – Coleman (UCF)
A bit player until this season, the junior left-back for the Badgers has her hands full in this matchup against UCF’s thoroughbred winger. Tatiana Coleman may be playing out on the wing, but she’s still been the club’s #1 option offensively, leading the team in goals, assists, and shots. She’s got a second gear that makes her a handful to contain, and if the Badgers’ D can’t shackle her, the odds of an untimely upset grow exponentially. Laufenberg has done well in 2014, but this figures to be one of her toughest matchups by far.
AMC – Lavelle (WIS) vs CMs – Piercy/Wilkin (UCF)
You could really put this matchup as “Lavelle vs Anyone In A UCF Shirt” and get the gist of it, but UCF’s two central midfielders in the 4-2-3-1 will likely be tasked with ensuring the Badgers’ playmaker stays as silent as possible in this matchup. As important as it is to shut down Lavelle’s path to goal, it’s equally important to cut off the supply line to Wisconsin’s center forward pairing. Amanda Wilkin’s just recently cemented her starting spot, and her late season surge in form is going to be key in keeping Wisconsin’s offensive impresario quiet on the day.
CBs – Howard/Williams (UCF) vs CFs – Williams/Walls (WIS)
How the above matchup goes is probably going to dictate much of how this one goes as well. Cara Walls showed in large part just why she’s been so dangerous when healthy for the Badgers in scoring a pair of goals in the win against DePaul, Walls and Kodee Williams have been lethal up front for much of the year, and if they’re getting consistent service from the midfield, look out. They’ll be facing a very talented center-back duo in the form of Carleigh Williams and Sophie Howard. Williams made The Leap this year in turning into the AAC’s best defender, while German youth international Howard has made a fine center-back partner, though both are in for a tough test on Friday.
5:00 PM – (1) Florida State vs Northeastern
The steepest odds in the second round may belong to Northeastern, whose prize for beating Boston University in the first round of the NCAA Tournament is a date with Florida State. The Huskies didn’t exactly set the world on fire, putting just three shots on goal, against BU, with one of those being on the own goal that was eventually the winner. But the defense was as effective as it has been for much of the year, and the visitors will need an even better effort to stymie what’s looked like an unstoppable FSU attack as of late. A win by the CAA side would be among the biggest upsets in NCAA Tournament history, but given NU’s patchy offense, it looks unlikely.
Florida State weren’t particularly troubled by South Alabama after they made the breakthrough following a little bit of frustration in getting that first goal. Full-backs Emma Koivisto and Megan Campbell each racked up three assists on the evening, while the club’s top three scoring threats all netted in the 5-0 rout over the Sun Belt champs. Many will likely have an eye towards a potential Sunday showdown with Wisconsin, but there aren’t any easy games at this stage, meaning FSU can’t come out cold lest they risk one of the all-time shocks in the NCAA Tournament.
AMC – Brynjarsdottir (FSU) vs CMs – Koemans/Deandreis (NU)
Dagny Brynjarsdottir doesn’t really need an introduction. The Icelandic midfielder is one of the frontrunners for the Hermann Trophy and netted a goal and an assist in the club’s win over South Alabama. The task of stopping her is going to come down to sophomore duo Carina Deandreis and Breeana Koemans. Koemans set up the winner in the CAA Tournament final, and Deandreis already is a key leader in this club, but neither stands taller than 5’6″, a big problem against FSU’s tower of power. They’ll need the collective game of their lives if they’re going to shut down the Noles’ top midfield threat.
CF – Williams (FSU) vs CBs – Calderone/Walker (NU)
If Northeastern does manage to stop Brynjarsdottir, they still have to worry about FSU’s lightning bolt at center forward, Cheyna Williams. After gelling with her new teammates, Williams has become a big weapon for the Noles in stretching opposing defenses with her blistering pace. In a sense, NU may be better equipped to stifle Williams than Brynjarsdottir. Bianca Calderone is the CAA Defensive Player of the Year, while Awnalisa Walker is just as experienced and nearly as talented. The problem? Both are wildly undersized for center-backs at this level, which could make dealing with Williams hard and dealing with Brynjarsodttir in the air almost impossible.
AMC – Lopiccolo (NU) vs CMs – Hahn/Schmid (FSU)
While most of the focus is, rightfully, going to be on Florida State’s offense and Northeastern’s efforts to stop that machine. But Northeastern’s going to need offense too if they’re going to shock the world. The best hope for that is the new offensive hope in Brookline, Hannah Lopiccolo. The CAA Rookie of the Year will be trying to run the show from the midfield but figures to be watched over closely by the criminally underrated Michaela Hahn and Isabella Schmid, the central midfielders in FSU’s 4-2-3-1. Neither is flashy, but both have grown into their roles as the metronomes in the Noles’ play. If they can silence Lopiccolo, it’s going to be a rough day for NU.
Who Chris Would Like to See In The Sweet Sixteen:
All chalk. Seeing how Wisconsin’s defense would cope with the thunder and lightning combo of Brynjarsodttir and Williams would be a treat, while Rose Lavelle would have a huge chance to further her reputation against the traditionally stingy Florida State defense.