As the NCAA women’s tournament moves into its second and third rounds this weekend, No. 3 seeds UNC and Duke will head south and could end up playing some familiar opponents.
Being seeded third guarantees a team only one home game, because the NCAA groups four teams at the site of the highest seed for the second- and third-round Friday/Sunday games. So if the seeds hold up, that means only the No. 1 or 2 seeds host on the second weekend.
As a result, Duke will travel to Gainesville, Fla., and meet Florida Gulf Coast. Host and No. 2 seed Florida or William & Mary would be Duke’s third-round opponent.
UNC meanwhile, visits Clemson, where it will take on Texas A&M, a 2014 College Cup participant. Second-seeded Clemson and Mississippi are in the bracket opposite UNC, setting up two ACC-SEC pairings.
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Clemson’s role as host is the object of some discontent in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels beat Clemson 1-0 on Oct. 25 in their regular-season meeting. But the Tigers got the higher seed, apparently on the basis of a better RPI (9 vs. UNC’s 15).
“We’ll just have to do the best job we can in the bracket we’re given,” UNC coach Anson Dorrance said.
UNC leads the series with A&M 14-2, including a 4-0 mark in NCAA tournament games. The Tar Heels beat the Aggies 2-0 in a third-round game in the 2013 NCAA tournament in Chapel Hill, with then-sophomore Summer Green scoring both goals. UNC and Ole Miss have never played each other.
This will be the first meeting between Duke and FGCU. Florida leads the series with Duke 6-4-2, although the Blue Devils won 1-0 in the last meeting, a second-round game in the 2013 NCAA tournament at Durham. Duke leads the W&M series 7-5-1, including a 2-0 victory at Durham on Aug. 30 this season.
Looking down the road, this weekend’s survivors would probably travel again to play No. 1 seeds in the quarterfinals. That would mean UNC going to Florida State for a third meeting this season and Duke heading cross country to Stanford. The College Cup, soccer’s final four, is set for WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary on Dec. 4-6.
Injury list: Five of the 10 field players who started for UNC in its ACC semifinal loss to Florida State two weeks ago were not in the starting lineup for the first-round game in the NCAA women’s tournament a week later against Liberty.
Three of those players are considered day-to-day and might see action against Texas A&M: senior forward Summer Green, UNC’s third-leading scorer, and sophomore defenders Maya Worth and Abby Elinsky. Green played two minutes against Liberty before leaving the game when the Tar Heels scored their first goal in a 3-0 win.
Junior midfielders Joanna Boyles and Cameron Castleberry, however, are out for the season with ACL tears. Similar injuries claimed freshman midfielder Dorian Bailey and junior midfielder Darcy McFarlane last month.
Megan Buckingham, last year’s ACC freshman of the year, filled in capably against Liberty. She started at attacking midfielder and contributed a goal and an assist while playing 70 minutes.
Duke meanwhile, welcomed back junior center back Rebecca Quinn, the Canada National teamer who was out with concussion syndrome, to the starting lineup in the 5-0 first-round victory over James Madison. However, redshirt junior midfielder Cassie Pecht remains sidelined with an ankle injury. Pecht has sat out the last five games except for a brief starting cameo on Senior Day against N.C. State.
Home cooking: In last week’s first round of the NCAA women’s tournament, home teams advanced in 29 of the 36 first-round games. Only one seeded team was eliminated, as Loyola Marymount bounced No. 3 California 1-0.
Two of the breakthroughs came in Duke’s bracket. The Blue Devils’ second-round opponent Friday, Florida Gulf Coast, took out South Florida 2-1. And William & Mary, Duke’s possible Sunday opponent, advanced on penalty kicks against Central Florida after a 0-0 tie.
The other home casualties were South Carolina, which lost to UNC Wilmington 2-0; St. John’s, falling in overtime to Boston University 2-1; Washington State, losing in double overtime to Northwestern 1-0; and Georgetown, ousted on penalty kicks by Hofstra after a 2-2 tie.
League ledger: Seven of the eight ACC teams in the women’s field reached the second round. The only casualty was Boston College, a 4-2 loser on the road at Princeton. BC was also the only ACC team that did not play at home.
Meanwhile the Big Ten advanced all five of its teams. The results of the other conferences with multiple entries: SEC 4-2, Pac-12 3-3, Colonial 3-1, American 1-3, Big East 0-3.
Men’s tournament begins: The NCAA men’s tournament begins Thursday with 16 first-round games, two of them involving ACC teams. Boston College (9-7-1) hosts America East champion Vermont (11-6-3) at 6 p.m., and Virginia (9-4-3) plays Metro Atlantic champion Rider (14-5-1) at 7 p.m.
UVa, the reigning champion, is playing in its 35th consecutive NCAA tournament, the longest active streak in the nation, and received its 37th berth all-time.
Five ACC schools, including fifth-seeded UNC, received first-round byes and won’t play until Sunday’s second round.