Duke coach Robbie Church has an explanation for why his team can be ranked ninth in the nation, yet be seeded sixth in the ACC women’s soccer championship.
“It’s called the ACC.” said Church. “We came within two points of being the second seed in the tournament. Two points can separate from (No.) 2 to 6 in a heartbeat.”
The conference tournament will get underway with 1 p.m. quarterfinal matches Sunday at campus sites. Seven nationally ranked teams are in the field, led by Florida State, which is No. 1 in Soccer America’s poll.
Duke (12-4-2, 5-3-2) will play at third-seeded Wake Forest (12-4-3, 6-3-1), fourth-seeded North Carolina (10-4-2, 6-3-1) will host fifth-seeded Virginia (13-4-1, 6-3-1), top-seeded Florida State (15-2, 8-2) will entertain eighth seed Boston College (10-6-3, 4-5-1), and seventh-seeded Miami (9-6-3, 4-4-2) will visit second-seeded Maryland (11-5-2, 6-3-1).
The winners will regroup for the semifinals Friday at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary. The final will be next Sunday at WakeMed.
Maryland, Wake Forest, North Carolina and Virginia tied for second, necessitating two sets of tiebreakers to sort things out. Maryland got second by virtue of victories over the other three teams. Wake Forest beat North Carolina and Virginia, and the Tar Heels edged the Cavaliers for the fourth seed on goal differential.
Getting to host a tournament game “is a privilege in this conference,” Tar Heels coach Anson Dorrance said.
Picking a winner will be tough. Ten days ago, Boston College beat Florida State and Miami topped Maryland. Duke and Wake Forest tied in their regular-season match, as did North Carolina and Virginia.
Duke will be the most rested team, having not played since last Sunday’s shutout of Francis Marion.
“I’ve been around long enough to know it can help you, but I also know it can throw you off your rhythm,” Church said. “For us, (the break) came at the right time because we had played so many Thursday-Sunday games.”
Dorrance, who plays probably the conference’s deepest lineup, also cautioned about fatigue after beating N.C. State 4-1 Thursday.
“I think our game with Virginia will be decided on whether we have our legs,” he said. “For example, we expended a lot of energy against Duke (a win Oct. 18) and didn’t have much left for Wake,” a loss three days later.
The Tar Heels might be facing the league’s hottest team. The Cavaliers topped Virginia Tech 5-0 last Sunday and then beat Boston College 5-1 Thursday night.