CARY — One thing’s for sure. By Sunday night, a new NCAA champion will be crowned in women’s soccer.
That’s because none of the four teams gathered for the College Cup this weekend at WakeMed Soccer Park has won a title. Florida State and Virginia Tech will meet in the first semifinal at 5 p.m. Friday, followed by Virginia and UCLA at 7:30 p.m.
The winners meet at 3 p.m. Sunday in the title game.
Virginia Tech is the only team making its debut in the College Cup. UCLA, with nine, has the most semifinal appearances of the four teams. Florida State has been seven times, including the past three.
Virginia is making its second trip to the College Cup, the first coming back in 1991. UCLA coach Amanda Cromwell should remember that one. She scored the Cavaliers’ goal in a 5-1 loss to North Carolina.
“I have a Virginia scarf for her that I brought as souvenir,” Virginia coach Steve Swanson said. “I think our (soccer) family is pretty tight. Amanda is a big part of our family. She’s one that paved the road for others, a great role for our players.
“It’s kind of a unique circumstance to have her first College Cup to be ours. And the last time we were here she was a player.”
Cromwell is in her first year at UCLA after 14 successful seasons at Central Florida. This is the first time she’ll have to coach against her alma mater, however.
“I’m definitely proud of them making the final four,” Cromwell said of the Cavaliers. “They’ve had some excellent teams since my years and now. But from our stake, we want to move on.”
Their semifinal shapes up as a clash between the nation’s No. 1 offense in Virginia (3.0 goals per game, 77 goals) against the No 1 defense in UCLA (.041 goals per game, seven goals).
“On paper you’re getting, in my opinion, a great matchup and I think a great advertisement for college women’s soccer,” Swanson said. “Even as a general fan I’m excited about it because I think it’s got everything you would hope for in a game of this magnitude.”
Said Cromwell, “Between our defense and their attack mentality, everyone has wanted to see this game I feel throughout the season. But I think it comes down to our attack and their defense, how they adjust to our dynamic. There’s also the midfield duel, with a player like (Virginia’s) Morgan Brian in there. She’s so dynamic and makes such great runs out of the midfield.”
UCLA’s midfielders are well aware of Brian. The Bruins’ Sarah Killion and Sam Mewis were teammates with her on the gold medal-winning U.S. Under-20 team last year that Swanson coached.
There’s certainly no lack of familiarity between the teams in the other semifinal, as ACC rivals Florida State and Virginia Tech will meet for the third time this season. The Seminoles won both meetings, 2-1 at Blacksburg and 1-0 here in the final of the ACC tournament. In fact, FSU leads the all-time series 13-0-1, with the only blemish a 0-0 tie in the 2008 ACC quarterfinals here. Virginia Tech would advance on penalty kicks 4-2.
“I feel like we’ve had a couple very good games with them,” Virginia Tech coach Chugger Adair said. “We had a game in Blacksburg in the regular season that was probably better than the ACC final, but both games could have gone either way. They were tightly contested.
“I think it’s difficult to beat somebody three times. I think we have a good shot.”
Florida State will face an ACC opponent for the second game in a row. The Seminoles beat Boston College 4-0 in the quarterfinals.
“As we sit here and look at it, we know it’s not common to play someone three times in one season,” FSU coach Mark Krikorian said, “but I guess at this stage with the quality in our conference those situations might happen more often.”
It has happened to the Seminoles twice in the past three seasons. In 2011 FSU lost to Virginia in the regular season but beat the Cavaliers in the ACC tournament and again in the NCAA quarterfinals.
“I think there are a lot of good teams throughout the country,” Krikorian said,. “I certainly don’t want to make it seem in any way that there’s not quality elsewhere. We’re playing against one another week after week (in the ACC), and we have a chance to see the quality athletes that are on all of these different teams, the level of organization on these teams and how quickly everyone gets prepared for each of these games.”