How tough a league is the Atlantic Coast Conference in women’s soccer? Consider this:
Virginia Tech, which is ranked 22nd in the nation and owns an 11-4-1 overall record, might not qualify for the eight-team conference tournament, which begins Oct. 28.
Eleven ACC schools play women’s soccer – Georgia Tech is the holdout – but only the top eight go to the league tournament. Two teams are still winless in the ACC this season: Clemson (5-9-2, 0-8 ACC) has already been eliminated, and one more loss will also sideline N.C. State (5-11, 0-7. But three schools – Boston College (9-5-2, 3-4), Miami (7-6-2, 2-4-1) and Virginia Tech (2-4-1 ACC) – are jockeying for the seventh and eighth seeds. Of that trio, Miami has the toughest schedule remaining, having to play the top two teams in the league – Florida State (14-0, 7-0) and Maryland (11-3-2, 6-1-1) – plus at B.C.
Meanwhile, three teams are scrambling to stay among the top four seeds and get a quarterfinal home game in the ACC tournament. North Carolina (8-3-2, 4-2-1), Wake Forest (10-3-3, 4-2-1) and Virginia (11-4-1, 4-3-1) are tied with 13 points for fourth place, although UNC and Wake have three games left and UVa has only two. UNC will play at third-place Duke (11-3-2, 5-2-2) on Thursday and host Wake on Sunday, so the postseason picture will be more focused by this time next week.
And if you think the ACC is a tough league now, just wait until Notre Dame joins the party. The Fighting Irish, a perennial national power, won NCAA titles in 2004 and 2010.
Looking back: Former Duke coach John Rennie’s appearance as a color commentator for last week’s Maryland-Duke men’s game gave Fox Sports South a chance to show the biggest goal in Blue Devils history again. On Dec. 13, 1986, Duke defeated Akron 1-0 in Tacoma, Wash., to win its only NCAA soccer championship. The winning goal came off a free kick taken at midfield by Joey Valenti. Carl Williamson chest-trapped the ball and laid it off at the feet of Tommy Stone, whose one-touch blast from 7 yards proved the difference.
That goal has been credited with altering the future of college soccer. Duke’s victory proved that a team could win a national championship with U.S.-born players. Previously, college soccer powers depended heavily on foreign players, such as Clemson’s Nigerian connection. By the way, the big star of that 1986 Duke team? Current Blue Devils coach John Kerr, who won the Hermann Trophy that year as college soccer’s player of the year.
Coaching tree: Despite his retirement from coaching five years ago, Rennie reports that he is staying busy. He is a frequent commentator on college soccer broadcasts, and he has also been able to watch his son T.J. on the sidelines. T.J., a former UNC Wilmington player, is the head coach of the boys and girls teams at New Hanover High School in Wilmington. His boys team (10-5-2, 4-1-1) is currently in second place in the Mideastern 4-A Conference.
Looking ahead: The 10th-ranked UNC women’s team has a big week with games at No. 8 Duke on Thursday and at home against No. 13 Wake Forest on Sunday. N.C. State will travel to Wake Forest and Clemson, and Duke wraps up its regular-season schedule with a nonconference home game Sunday against Francis Marion.
Three key ACC games highlight the men’s schedule Friday: No. 2 UNC (11-1-1, 4-0-1) has a showdown at No. 1 Maryland (11-0-1, 5-0-0), Duke (4-6-1, 2-3-1) hosts Boston College (7-3-3, 2-1-2), and N.C. State (8-6, 1-4) visits No. 17 Wake Forest (8-2-4, 2-1-3).