Soccer Notebook

Big East imports will change ACC soccer scene

CorrespondentNovember 7, 2012 

The ACC Women’s Soccer Championship wrapped up three days ago, and the men’s tournament has completed the quarterfinal round. One thing is certain: Next year’s tournaments will have a different look.

The migration of three schools from the Big East – Syracuse and Pittsburgh next year, and national power Notre Dame, which is on the way – will change the face of ACC soccer.

The women’s lineup, which placed a record nine schools in this weekend’s NCAA tournament for the second time, will grow from 11 to 13 next season and ultimately will reach 14. Every school in the ACC except for Georgia Tech fields a women’s soccer team.

On the men’s side, the count goes from nine to 11 next year, and later will hit 12.

It’s probably unworkable to expect a complete conference round-robin for women’s soccer, and at least one ACC coach doesn’t like the idea.

Florida State’s Mark Krikorian, whose Seminoles were ranked No. 1 in the nation for two months this season, doesn’t think the ACC should expand its schedule to the detriment of losing quality nonconference opponents.

“One reason we have such a high (conference) RPI is we play top nonconference teams,” Krikorian said last week. “In the long run, losing that will hurt us.”

“I think everyone has to study this and take a long look at how to compete for a national championship. We all have to be really open-minded to what the best solution is.”

One solution would follow the football and basketball scheduling practice in the ACC and divide women’s soccer into Atlantic and Coastal divisions, with Notre Dame eventually replacing Georgia Tech in the Coastal.

In that way, teams would play all six division opponents, three from the other division in alternate years, and one permanent opponent from the other division to maintain historic rivalries.

That would leave women’s teams with a 10-game ACC regular season, which is what they play now. If the coaches want to expand the ACC tournament to 12 teams (up from eight), it could run on campus sites on Thursday/Sunday for two rounds, which would mirror regular-season scheduling.

On the men’s side, historically there has been sentiment to play everyone in the league and include everyone in the tournament. Expanding the tournament to 12 teams wouldn’t create too much of a scheduling problem, because there is already a play-in game for the Nos. 8-9 seeds.

The bigger question to answer is whether the coaches want to play an 11-game conference schedule or split into divisions and stay at eight (five in their own division, plus three crossovers alternating every year).

Still standing: It’s been 16 years, but Roy Lassiter’s Major League Soccer scoring record remains in the record books. The former Athens Drive High and N.C. State star scored 27 goals for the old Tampa Bay Mutiny in 1996, the year MLS was formed.

That record has stood ever since, although Chris Wondolowski of the San Jose Earthquakes tied it when he got his 27th in his final regular-season game against the Portland Timbers on Oct. 27.

Lassiter doesn’t mind sharing the record. In a recent radio interview with MLS, he said. “For me, records are always made to be broken. One side of my head I’d like to keep it going, but when a young kid gets that close to it you kind of want to see some history in the making. So I’m kind of split on the emotional part.”

Lassiter is certain of one thing: Goals were harder to score in his day.

“The defenders back then I would say seemed to be more experienced, and they seemed to be a little harder,” Lassiter said. “You had (Alexi) Lalas, Marcelo Balboa. John Doyle … Robin Fraser. Those guys were tough. And Eddie Pope and Jeff Agoos. Nowadays I think they are younger, they may be a tad faster, but back then it was even tougher than I could see how it is today.”

On top – for now: N.C. State junior forward Alex Martinez had a goal and an assist in the Wolfpack’s season-ending 3-2 loss to Virginia Tech in the ACC tournament Monday.

He led the ACC in points (32) and assists (10) and was tied for the goals lead (11) heading into Tuesday night’s quarterfinals, but his closest pursuers had one or two games to play.

Maryland’s Patrick Mullins trailed Martinez by two points and two assists. Mullins and Virginia’s Will Bates shared the goals lead with him.

Looking ahead: At-large picks Duke and North Carolina will join seven other ACC schools in the NCAA women’s tournament that begins Friday. Duke will host Loyola, Md., and UNC will host Radford. Both games are Saturday.

The ACC men’s tournament moves to the Maryland SoccerPlex at Germantown, Md., for Friday’s semifinals, available on ESPN3.

Either second-seeded UNC or seventh-seeded Duke will be there. They played Tuesday night at Chapel Hill in the quarterfinals. The winner will face either third-seeded Wake Forest or sixth-seeded Virginia at 8 p.m. Friday. The final is noon Sunday and will be televised on ESPNU.

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