No Tar Heels. No Blue Devils. No fans? We’ll see.
The semifinals of the ACC Women’s Soccer Championship are set for Friday at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, but attendance may suffer.
North Carolina and Duke were eliminated Sunday in the quarterfinals, which were played at campus sites. UNC fell 1-0 at home to Virginia, and Duke lost 1-0 in overtime at Wake Forest. N.C. State didn’t qualify for the eight-team field, so the Demon Deacons will carry the “home” banner for the weekend.
The third-seeded Deacs (13-4-3) will play second-seeded Maryland (12-5-2) in Friday’s second semifinal at 7:30 p.m., following the 5 p.m. game between top-seeded Florida State (16-2) and fifth seed UVa (14-4-1). The championship game will be played at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Last year’s Duke-Wake semifinal drew 607 fans, and the Florida State-UVa game had 549. This weekend’s outlook is reminiscent of last season’s NCAA women’s basketball sub-regional in Chapel Hill, when the field of Georgia Tech, Georgetown, Fresno State and Sacred Heart saw literally dozens of fans lounging in Carmichael Arena for the games.
UNC undone: After playing in the ACC championship game for 22 consecutive years, and winning 20 titles, North Carolina fell short of the title game for the third straight season. Two years ago, Wake Forest eliminated the Tar Heels on penalty kicks in the semifinals. Last year, Florida State beat UNC in the quarterfinals, and Virginia duplicated that feat this year. Those were the only two times the Tar Heels have lost in the ACC tournament. (Matches decided by penalty kicks for advancement are officially recorded as ties.)
The Tar Heels’ season can be divided into three parts: the first seven games without U-20 Women’s World Cup participants Kealia Ohai, Crystal Dunn, Katie Bowen and Bryane Heaberlin; the middle five games without U-17 World Cup player Summer Green; and the last six games, with everyone back.
It’s taken more time than many observers expected for the Heels to regroup offensively. In their last three matches, a win over N.C. State and losses to Wake Forest and Virginia, the offense perked up when Dunn moved from defense to midfield, where her speed in open spaces made the Tar Heels more dangerous.
Now that central defender Caitlin Ball is healthy and back in the lineup, Dunn will probably play a larger role in the midfield in the NCAA tournament.
Men’s tournament outlook: The ACC men’s soccer tournament begins Monday, when the eighth and ninth seeds, N.C. State and Virginia Tech, play at College Park, Md., for the dubious right to play No. 1-ranked and top-seeded Maryland the next day.
The other three quarterfinals are also set for campus sites, but only one other team, second-place UNC, knows it will host. Currently, No. 24 Boston College (3-1-3 ACC) and No. 18 Wake Forest (3-1-3) are tied for third place, but Clemson (3-2-3) could make it a three-way tie with a win over Virginia Tech on Thursday and losses by BC (at UNC) and Wake (home against Maryland).
In a three-way tie, BC would get the third seed because of its win over Wake and tie with Clemson. Two-way ties would go to ACC goal differential, and right now they stand Wake (+7), BC (0) and Clemson (-1).
The ACC semifinals and final will be played at Germantown, Md., on Nov. 9 and 11.
Lovejoy honored again: UNC junior forward Rob Lovejoy has been named the ACC player of the week for the second time in three weeks since returning to the lineup after offseason hip surgery.
The Greensboro native had a goal and an assist in the Tar Heels’ 2-0 victory over N.C. State on Friday. He has scored four goals in four games.
Looking ahead: UNC (13-2-1, 5-1-1 ACC), N.C. State (9-8, 1-6) and Duke (7-7-1, 3-4-1) wrap up regular-season men’s play this week. On Thursday night, the third-ranked Tar Heels host No. 24 Boston College, and Virginia visits N.C. State. A BC victory gives the Eagles third place outright in the league, while UVa could wrest fifth or sixth place away from Duke with a victory. State will be either the eighth or ninth seed regardless of its outcome.
Duke has completed ACC play but has two important nonconference games in its bid to remain an at-large candidate for an NCAA tournament berth. The Blue Devils played at No. 23 Elon on Tuesday night and will host Southern Illinois-Edwardsville on Friday.
No. 16 Duke (12-5-2) and No. 11 UNC (10-5-2) will await the announcement of NCAA women’s at-large bids Monday. N.C. State (5-14, 0-10), where four-year coach Steve Spiringthorpe resigned Monday after the Wolfpack finished last in the ACC, has completed its season.