Women's College Cup Preview: The battle of Boca

By Paul Kennedy

Last year, in its ninth Women's College Cup appearance, UCLA won its first national title. This year, Florida State, which lost to the Bruins in last year's title game, hopes to finally win its first championship in eight trips to the College Cup. The Seminoles' 1-0 win over Virginia in the ACC final make them slight favorites, but the Cavaliers have been awfully impressive in the NCAA Women's Tournament. We make the case for each of the four semifinalists in Boca Raton, Florida, for this year's College Cup.

FLORIDA STATE-STANFORD (Friday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU, WatchESPN). Both teams are regulars at the Women's College Cup. This is the Seminoles' fourth appearance in a row. Stanford missed out on the final four in 2013 for the first time in six years.

After losses in the semifinals to Stanford in 2011 and Penn State in 2012 and last year in the final to UCLA, Florida State coach Mark Krikorian thinks this year could be different. "We're good enough that we can win," he said at Thursday's pre-game press conference. "In the past, we weren't good enough."

In Florida State's favor:

-- Air-tight defense. Florida State didn't allow a goal in the first four games of the NCAA Tournament. In 12 games against ACC teams, the Seminoles allowed only three goals.

-- Big-time international. In her fourth and final season, Dagny Brynjarsdottir leads the Seminoles with 16 goals despite missing three games while on national team duty with Iceland.

-- Home-state advantage. It's almost 400 miles from Tallahassee to Boca Raton, site of this year's finals at Florida Atlantic University, but the Seminoles are counting on support from lots of FSU fans in South Florida.

In Stanford's favor:

-- Championship experience. Stanford is the only team to have won the women's national championship. Three players who played in the 2011 final are still with the Cardinal: Kendall Romine, Chioma Ubogagu and Alex Doll.

-- Hot goalkeeper. At 17, Jane Campbell was called into the senior national team but later took a backseat to Katelyn Rowland from rival UCLA on the U.S. U-20s. This fall, Campbell has been commanding for the Cardinal. She even scored the winning goal in the quarterfinal shootout win over Florida.

-- Multiple options. Trailing 2-0 in its first-round match against Cal State Fullerton, Stanford got five goals from Taylor Uhl and Ubogagu in the last half hour to run away from the Big West champs. In the next two rounds, fellow senior Lo’eau LaBonta won both games on goals in penalty-kick situations.

VIRGINIA-TEXAS A&M (Friday, 5 p.m. ET, ESPNU, WatchESPN). The Cavaliers return to the College Cup after falling to UCLA in a shootout in last year's semifinals. They got revenge with a 2-1 win over the No. 1 seed Bruins in last week's quarterfinals. This is Texas A&M's 20th consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament but first to the College Cup.

Virginia will be heavily favored, but the Aggies have no fear. "The team is very excited about the opportunity in front of us to take the next step in this tournament," said Texas A&M coach G Guerrieri. "This has been a really special team for us."

In Virginia's favor:

-- Morgan Brian. You'll get an argument out of Westwood about Sam Mewis and a few of the other UCLA stars, but let's close the discussion now. Morgan Brian is the nation's best college player. The 2013 Soccer America Player of the Year has been on a roll the last three weeks with four goals and eight assists in four NCAA Tournament games. She will be on the flight with the USA to next year's Women's World Cup in Canada.

-- Confidence and focus. The win over UCLA gives the Cavs loads of confidence heading to Boca, but Virginia coach Steve Swanson says his players are ready to put that game behind them. "I think we've prepared well for this one as well," he said on Thursday.

-- Excellent supporting cast. UVa, the nation's leader with an average of 3.5 goals a game, isn't a one-player team. Danielle Colaprico beat out Brian for ACC Midfielder of the Year honors and U.S. U-20 forward Makenzy Doniak is the highest scorer in the College Cup with 19 goals and 11 assists.

In Texas A&M's favor:

Deep senior class. Guerrieri started eight seniors against Penn State: Allie Bailey, Bianca Brinson, Jordan Day, Leigh Edwards, Shea Groom, Annie Kunz, Kelley Monogue and Meghan Streight. Over the last four years, they've accounted for almost 78 percent of all A&M goals.

Battle-hardened team. The Aggies beat some good teams -- Notre Dame in the third round and Penn State in the quarterfinals -- to make it all the way to Boca Raton. They justified their No. 1 regional seed with 16 wins over Top 100 teams in the RPI index during the regular season. (No other team had more than 13 wins.)

Shootout success. If it comes down to penalty kicks, Texas A&M will be ready. The Aggies have won their last nine shootouts, including six in the NCAA Tournament. In 2002, they beat UCLA in the round of 16 despite failing to get off a shot in regulation and overtime.
2 comments about "Women's College Cup Preview: The battle of Boca".
  1. Tony Gee, December 5, 2014 at 1:29 a.m.

    You rightly pay homage to FSU's stingy defense but their 14 goals in the first 4 rounds, considerably more than any of the other 3 teams, is testament to their all around quality. They have beaten UV twice already this season. They must be favorites.

  2. Eric Jewett, December 5, 2014 at 9:31 a.m.

    Tony, check your math. UVA scored 20 goals in the first 4 rounds (8-0 vs High Point, 3-0 vs Rutgers, 7-0 vs Kentucky and 2-1 vs UCLA).

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