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1. UCLA will give No. 1 Duke stern test
November 24th, 2006 1:55PM



No. 1 ranked and top seed Duke will be favored when it hosts UCLA Sunday afternoon in the NCAA Division I men's quarterfinals at Koskinen Stadium, but it faces a formidable opponent in the streaking Bruins. Indeed, UCLA put on one of the best performances yet by a team in the 2006 postseason with its 3-0 dismantling of ninth-seed Clemson in the third round.

After struggling through much of the regular season -- it finished Pac-10 play with a four-game winless streak -- UCLA is peaking at the right time. The Bruins have looked great in the postseason with former U-17 star Kyle Nakazawa moved up front with fellow freshman David Estrada (10 goals) and Sal Zizzo and Jason Leopoldo working the wings.

The Bruins' season didn't go as planned. Coach Jorge Salcedo first lost Kamani Hill (who didn't enroll in school and has since signed with German club Wolfsburg) and former U-17 captain Brandon Owens (knee injury in the offseason), and then Maxwell Griffin and Tony Beltran, a transfer from St. John's, who were both injured in the Pac-10 opener against Cal. Griffin is out for the season with a knee injury, but Beltran has returned in midfield. Nakazawa, Zizzo and Beltran were sensational in the third-round victory over Clemson.

Duke earned its No. 1 seed with its second consecutive ACC title and has shut out both its NCAA Tournament opponents. The Blue Devils have one of the most balanced attacks in the country. Mike Grella leads six players in double figures in points with 31 points (13 goals and five assists), followed by Spencer Wadsworth with 27 (seven goals and 13 assists) and Mike Videira with 22 (eight goals and six assists).

VIRGINIA-NOTRE DAME. This season marks Notre Dame's first trip to the quarterfinals, though Coach Bobby Clark also took Dartmouth to the quarters in 1990 and 1992 and then led Stanford there in 1998 and 2000. "Not to sound greedy," says Clark, "we can't be content on just making it this far. We have to take it another step, and this team has that potential." The Irish is led by Joseph Lapira, the nation's leading scorer with 22 goals and 49 points, including the golden goal that knocked off defending champion Maryland in the third round. Irish senior Chris Cahill helped keep the Irish in the game against Maryland with several early saves before being injured late in the first half. Sophomore Andrew Quinn came on in Cahill's place and shut down the Terrapins.

The Cavs counter with multiple weapons: Yannick Revering (11 goals and eight assists), Nico Colaluca (seven goals and eight assists) and Adam Cristman (eight goals and five assists). This is George Gelnovatch's sixth trip to the quarterfinals since taking over as Virginia coach from Bruce Arena in 1996, but Virginia has lost the last four times (1998, 1999, 2000 and 2005). "There will be a lot of pressure on them and possibly more pressure will be on them than on us," says Clark.

WAKE FOREST-SANTA CLARA. It's been quite a year for the Demon Deacons, reaching the final eight for the first time, advancing to the ACC Tournament final for the first time since 1991 and winning a school record 17 games. Senior Steven Curfman is one of the country's most dangerous players on set pieces. He scored the game-winner against Towson in the third round to go with his two assists against Hofstra in the second round. Sophomore Marcus Tracy's pace makes him a weapon, while freshman Zack Schilawski is a threat in the box.

Santa Clara's Broncos have recovered from losing 11 lettermen -- including star Medhi Ballouchy -- to make their sixth appearance in the quarterfinals. Stephen McCarthy, a mainstay throughout the year in the midfield, was the Co-WCC Freshman of the Year. Three of the team's top five scorers are first-year players -- Amaechi Igwe, Brian Martin and Sean Danzeiser -- while sophomore Joseph Buttitta has impressed in his first year as the starting goalkeeper.

UC SANTA BARBARA-NORTHWESTERN. Two year ago in the quarterfinals, UCSB beat VCU before a crowd of 11,214 at Harder Stadium -- an NCAA record for a non-final four tournament game. After beating SMU and Old Dominion on the road, the Gauchos return to Harder Stadium Saturday night for a quarterfinal match against Northwestern -- and another big crowd is expected. Former U-17 resident Eric Avila has been one of the hottest players in the postseason. He had a goal and an assist in the 3-1 victory over No. 3 seed SMU and the winning goal -- on a rebound of his own PK miss -- in the 2-1 victory over ODU.

The Wildcats are the only Big Ten team remaining in the NCAA Tournament after beating UNC Greensboro, 2-1, in the round of 16 behind a penalty kick by Brian Usinger, a rocket goal by Gerardo Alvarez and the outstanding play of Justin Pines in goal. The Wildcats' big threats are senior Brad North and junior David Roth, who lead the team with eight goals apiece.

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