NCAA Tournament: What Happened and What to Watch for Next

    The battle for a national title continues in the NCAA tournament. We have seen nothing short of pure chaos. Favorites losing early, underdogs shocking the nation, and familiar faces trying to return to the promised land. One round in, and we have so much to discuss. It’s time to break down what went down last weekend and what to look forward to as the field has split in half.


    The Key Moments

    D’Aquila Did it Again

    Izzy D’Aquila is one of the few players in history that can say her kick directly led to her team winning a national championship. But she’s not stopping there. The junior forward who has made her case for being the best player in the country improved that claim Saturday. She scored a goal with just 27 seconds left in double-overtime to lift her Santa Clara Broncos over the Cal Golden Bears.

    The high-powered Broncos’ offense was held to just five shots on goal in nearly 2 hours of game time, but that was all they needed to secure the victory in an intense defensive clash.


    Alabama’s Annihilation

    If there were doubts about Alabama being a viable one-seed, that noise evaporated at the end of their opening matchup with Jackson State. The Crimson Tide executed a 9-0 route that included 37 (yes, seriously) shots on goal and eight different goal scorers. It was a sensational way for Wes Hart’s side to host their first tournament game in program history and reach the 20-win threshold.


    Trojans Thwarted as Irvine Inspires (Again)

    The Trojans have a top player in the country in Croix Bethune, and many pegged the team as a “darkhorse” in this year’s contest. No one told the experts that lightning can strike twice, enter: UC Irvine.

    The Anteaters put the nation on notice last year when they stunned UCLA, making their win against USC just that impressive. Despite having less possession and trailing in most key box score stats, Irvine put 2 in the back of the net and etched their names in history again.


    BYU’s Blowout

    One of the best upsets of the season was when Utah Valley went to Provo against their crosstown rivals Bringham Young and earned the surprising 4-2 win. It was a monumental win for a program on the rise and helped propel them to the WAC title.

    However, when they tried to do it again, the Cougs had other ideas. BYU showed their class in a physical 3-0 win during a game that never felt close. They’re my new dark horse team to make the College Cup.


    Portland’s Perfection vs. the Pac-12

    The Portland Pilots have built a reputation in the soccer world with their historical success. Yet they still suffer from being in the shadow of the major public universities in Oregon and Oregon State, both members of the Pac-12 conference.

    This year Portland went unbeaten against Conference of Champions foes. They looked to keep their streak alive against the staggering Sun Devils. Portland completely neutralized the face of ASU soccer Nicole Douglas, limiting her to just one shot, a year after she led the NCAA in scoring.

    The avalanche of 3 second-half goals proved a perfect second-half for the Pilots. And it proved they belonged against a fellow west coast heavyweight.


    What to Watch for Next

    Pitt’s Prolific Season Continues vs. Georgetown

    As detailed in the round of 64 preview, the Pitt Panthers have been the story of this collegiate soccer season. They got a tough draw in the first round against a one-loss Buffalo side that took them to the limit. But Leah Pais notched an 84-minute game-winner to keep the magical run alive. They aren’t playing with house money–this is a team that has a chance to make a run.

    Standing in their way now is another one-loss team: the Georgetown Hoyas. The winner of this game will likely have a date with the defending champion Florida State Seminoles and has a serious shot at going into Tallahassee and coming away victorious.


    Can UCF Unseat UCLA?

    UCF and NC State battled in the only game of the first weekend to be decided by PKs, where the Knights ultimately prevailed. There reward? A trip to Los Angeles to play the top-ranked UCLA Bruins.

    UCF will try to match the aforementioned Anteaters of UC Irvine and knock out the heavy favorites early in the bracket. Darya Rajaee is a player to watch if the Knights have any chance of coming away with a victory against one of the most talented teams you will ever see.


    The Tarheels Tough Test

    UNC is the standard bearer of the sport, and last year was a blemish on an otherwise pristine resume. Their 2022 revenge tour kicked off in high gear with a 5-0 clinic against Old Dominion.

    On paper, Georgia doesn’t have the talent up front to hang with a team like UNC. Instead, they will have to win in a defensive battle. This game should prove whether or not the Tarheels have a legit shot at the title or if their time atop the sport is coming to a close.


    Featured image via @uciwsoc on Instagram




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