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
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
-- 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
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