North Carolina, which faces Santa Clara in one semifinal, got to play 12 games in the fall and four more in the spring, but it didn't have all its players.
In the fall, Alessia Russo (Manchester United), Lotte Wubben-Moy (Arsenal) and Lois Joel (West Ham United) returned to England and turned pro with teams in the Women's Super League.
"They’ve done well," said Carolina coach Anson Dorrance. "[Wubben-Moy] was the Player of the Month for Arsenal. These are great players that we lost."
In January, Emily Fox, who has earned four caps for the USA, was taken by expansion Racing Louisville with the No. 1 pick in the NWSL College Draft. Another starter, Taylor Otto, went to Louisville with the No 11 pick. (A third Carolina player, Brianna Pinto, was picked up Gotham FC with the No. 3 pick, but agreed to stay in Chapel Hill through the spring.)
“Then we lost a player to the lacrosse team who was our starting right back [Julia Dorsey],” Dorrance said. “They are going to win a national championship in lacrosse with her.”
On top of all that, Maycee Bell, the 2019 ACC Freshman of the Year and another player who has spent time with the senior national team, needed ankle surgery and didn't appear in the spring until she played 22 minutes against Texas A&M in the quarterfinals.
“In light of all of the players we’ve lost," Dorrance said, "I’m ecstatic to be in the final four,” Dorrance said. “We’re excited and ready to play. For most of the spring, we’ve had six freshman starting and two sophomores.”
After playing a full conference schedule in the fall, Virginia played four college matches in the spring before the NCAA Tournament began, while Florida State, who had already captured the ACC's automatic bid, didn't play a game.
“You need games," said Virginia coach Steve Swanson. "The games we played were good, but there is nothing like the tournament."
One thing that has helped and will help -- if the Cavaliers get past Florida State on Thursday -- is that the tournament, played entirely in North Carolina, has been spread out with three or four days between matches.
"Instead of the Friday-Sunday format [for the second and third round and semifinals and final]," said Swanson, "we have enough days to recover and prepare for the next one.”
NCAA Tournament Meetings:
Florida State vs. Virginia
2011: Florida State 3 Virginia 0 (quarterfinals)
2014: Florida State 1 Virginia 0 (final)
Florida State didn't suffer the kind of losses that UNC experienced over the course of the fall and spring seasons, but it did have to replace ACC Defensive Player of the Year Malia Berkely, who signed with French club Bordeaux after graduating in December.
The Seminoles played only scrimmages and exhibitions in the spring -- they beat the NWSL's Orlando Pride -- but freshman Rachel Flynn did well enough that she earned a starting job in Berkely's place. She played only 265 minutes in the fall but has played all 290 minutes in three NCAA Tournament games, including the quarterfinal match against Duke that went to a shootout.
It's helped that seven starters from the team the lost to UCLA in the 2019 NCAA Tournament quarterfinals are still with the team, and Jaelin Howell and Gabby Carle played in the offseason for the U.S. and Canadian national teams, respectively.
"I’m thankful we have a mature team,” Florida State coach Mark Krikorian said. “This is an older team for us. They are probably more mature than I am. They’ve taken everything in stride.”