Rematches of two early-season contests will decide whether Duke and North Carolina reach the Womens College Cup, the final four of the NCAA womens soccer tournament, set for Dec. 6-8 at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary.
Unseeded Duke (9-8-6) continues its improbable run when the Blue Devils travel to No. 1 seed Virginia Tech (18-4-3) for a quarterfinal match at 4 p.m. Friday. UNC (20-4), also a No. 1 seed, hosts second-seeded UCLA (20-1-2) at 5 p.m. Saturday.
Duke and Virginia Tech met in Durham on Sept. 29 and tied at 1.
I think for us its an advantage, Duke coach Robbie Church said. The option for us would have been to go to Santa Clara. So we can have Thanksgiving together and go up the night before.
The disadvantage? Theyre really good. Theyre a No. 1 seed for a reason. Theyre very consistent every time out.
UNC coach Anson Dorrance, on the other hand, doesnt care for the rematch. His Tar Heels beat UCLA 1-0 on Sept 6 in a tournament at Duke.
Its never good for us against a team thats already played us, because the advantage we have is the sort of shock value of our defensive pressure, Dorrance said. The teams more comfortable with our pressure are the teams that face it regularly.
Three other ACC teams are also still in the hunt. Virginia (23-1) hosts Michigan (18-3-1) on Friday and is one of four No. 1 seeds from the ACC in the NCAA bracket. The fourth is ACC champion Florida State (21-1-3), which hosts conference rival Boston College (13-9-1) on Friday.
Church said having six teams in the final eight is a source of pride for the ACC.
This year is one of the all-time great years for our league, Church said. The numbers bear it out. The coaches know that. Weve lived it since the beginning of September.
DeCesare conquers: Dukes Kim DeCesare has a head for soccer.
Duke has scored four goals in the NCAA tournament, and DeCesare has figured in each of them, three of them on headers. The 5-foot-10 senior recorded assists against Colorado College and Florida when she headed passes back across the goalmouth to set up Duke scores. She scored both goals in the round of 16 against Arkansas, one of them on a header.
The Blue Devils used penalty kicks to advance past Colorado College and Arkansas. The 1-0 defeat of Florida was their only postseason win because technically matches decided by penalty kick shootouts count as ties.
DeCesare leads Duke in points with 18 on six goals and six assists, although those numbers are down from a year ago, when she totaled 16 goals and six assists.
Her scoring has dropped off because we played her a lot in midfield this year, Church said. We just didnt have any ball-winners in midfield, and that was hurting us.
But once we start to send services on set plays, thats when she needs to go up front, because shes our best header.
Days of Summer: Compounding the uncertainty for the Tar Heels this weekend is the availability of their best player, center midfielder Crystal Dunn. She suffered a high ankle sprain in Sundays 2-0 third-round win over Texas A&M.
Dorrance doesnt know whether Dunn will play. The silver lining is it wasnt her hamstring again, he said of the injury that caused Dunn to miss two recent games.
If Dunn cant go, that will shift more of the scoring load on senior forward Kealia Ohai and sophomore forward Summer Green. Ohai has had a solid year as a first-team All-ACC selection, and Green has responded in the Tar Heels stretch run, scoring five goals and five assists over the last nine games including both goals against Texas A&M. In fact, Green has been on a scoring tear ever since she was dropped from the starting lineup against Boston College 10 games ago.
Green said after the A&M game that she wasnt happy with her play and realized she had to take care of the details on the field. Call it the fall of Summers discontent.
If you look at her body language, shes so hard on herself when she makes a mistake, Dorrance said. If she could blow off any mistake she made, she would be phenomenal.
As a result, Dorrance wants Green to pick her spots more judiciously when she takes on defenders.
She can be absolutely brilliant on the ball, so we want to exploit that in the attacking third, he said. But in the midfield we want her keeping possession, playing the first simple ball she can.
Two-second warning: For the first time in six years, the UNC mens team did not make a long run in the NCAA tournament. From 2008-11 they reached the College Cup, winning the championship in 2011. Last year they got to the quarterfinals before falling to eventual champion Indiana.
But the 2013 campaign ended in the second round of the NCAAs when UC Irvines Christopher Santana put in the rebound of a shot for the games only goal with two seconds remaining in regulation time, giving the 12th-seeded Anteaters a 1-0 victory.
UNC coach Carlos Somoano probably got as much out of this team as he could. With redshirt junior Brendan Moore starting in goal for the first time and playing every minute of the season the Tar Heels (9-6-5) allowed only 13 goals in 20 games, the best mark in the ACC. Center defender Boyd Okwuonu was named the ACC defensive player of the year.
But the Tar Heels lost their top seven scorers from a year ago to graduation, the pro ranks and injuries. As a result, the Tar Heels totaled only 19 goals this season, well off last years 33.