College Soccer

UCLA joins ACC field in Cary for women’s soccer College Cup

December 4, 2013 

UCLA may have crashed the ACC’s College Cup party in Cary this weekend, when three ACC women’s soccer teams – Florida State, Virginia and Virginia Tech – will be part of the sport’s final four and play for an NCAA championship at WakeMed Soccer Park. But the Bruins, who averted an all-ACC field by virtue of their 1-0 victory in double overtime over North Carolina on Saturday, have a strong tie to the conference, too.

UCLA coach Angela Cromwell was one of the greatest players of all time at Virginia, where she was a four-time All-ACC selection (1988-91) and two-time All-American. She would later earn 55 caps playing for the U.S. women’s national team. In 1991 she led the Cavaliers to their only other College Cup appearance. And she will be coaching against her alma mater in Friday’s second semifinal, after Florida State and Virginia Tech reprise their ACC tournament championship meeting of Nov. 10, won by FSU 1-0.

This is Cromwell’s first season at UCLA. She spent 14 years as coach at Central Florida, earning 11 NCAA tournament bids. Two years ago Cromwell’s UCF team eliminated UNC in the NCAA third round on penalty kicks after a 1-1 tie.

In her postgame news conference at Chapel Hill, Cromwell delicately took issue with the NCAA tournament bracket. At the time the pairings were announced, UCLA was ranked No. 2 in the major polls, behind Virginia and ahead of Florida State, Virginia Tech and UNC. However, the tournament committee gave a lot of weight to UCLA’s 1-0 loss to UNC on Sept. 6 in a tournament at Duke, UCLA’s only loss all season. What did Cromwell think when UCLA ended up a No. 2 seed behind those teams and potentially faced rematches with Pac-12 rival Stanford and UNC?

“I don’t know if I can say all the words that came into my mind,” Cromwell said Saturday. “Not having the No. 1 seed came to mind first because we thought we deserved that with our body of work through the season. And then not only getting a No. 2 seed, but being put into this bracket with UNC. When I looked at it, we had to beat the last two national champions (Stanford and UNC) just to get to the final four.”

She added, “So again it makes me even more proud that we’ve overcome that a little bit, the committee’s decision of where to put us, and that’s all I’ll say about that.”

Homecoming for Shaffer: Although the two Triangle teams bidding for the College Cup were tripped up one round short, it will be a home game for at least one player. Virginia freshman forward Alexis Shaffer is from Cary and played for 2013 N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 4A champion Green Hope.

Shaffer has been a key player for the Cavaliers. Although she doesn’t start, she averages 42 minutes a game and is Virginia’s sixth-leading scorer with three goals and nine assists for 15 points. She had both assists in the Cavaliers’ 2-0 win over Georgetown in the second round.

She has been especially effective as a flank player, getting wide in the attack and sending in crosses for the Cavaliers’ top goal scorers, Morgan Brian and Makenzy Doniak.

Three’s a crowd: Three ACC teams have advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA men’s tournament and will play for College Cup berths this weekend. On Friday night, eighth-seeded Virginia, which topped ninth seed Marquette 3-1 in the third round, will host unseeded Connecticut. The Huskies took out No. 1 seed UCLA on penalty kicks after rallying for a 3-3 tie through double overtime. The other two ACC teams go Saturday. Third-seeded Notre Dame, which dispatched ACC rival Wake Forest 4-2, will host 11th seed Michigan State, and fifth-seeded Maryland, which shut out UC Irvine 1-0, visits fourth-seeded California.

Virginia’s victory over Marquette was notable because the Cavaliers had to play one man down for 89 minutes after defender Matt Brown received a red card 57 seconds into the match for a tackle from behind on a breakaway 35 yards from goal.

“I have never been a part of a game like that,” Virginia coach George Gelnovatch said in his postgame remarks. “I have never coached, at any level, down a man for 89 minutes. We have had a game plan for a week – a pretty detailed one. In 57 seconds, that went out the window. You just crumple up the piece of paper and readjust on the fly.”

The Cavaliers adjusted well, scoring first on Scott Thomsen’s bending free kick and never trailing in the match despite their numerical disadvantage.

Bowen update: North Carolina sophomore midfielder Katie Bowen, who was injured in the Tar Heels’ loss to UCLA on Saturday, was diagnosed with a concussion and released from the hospital later that night, according to a UNC spokesman. With 49 seconds remaining in the first overtime, Bowen collided with a UCLA player. Bowen was attended to on the field and eventually was taken away by ambulance as a precaution after a 20-minute delay in play.

Any long-term effects are unknown regarding Bowen, a sophomore from New Zealand who is a member of her country’s national team pool. UNC had lost defender Caitlin Ball late in the season to a series of concussions, and her career prospects are much more doubtful.

Coons: 919-829-4635

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