The field is set for the Women’s College Cup with the semifinals kicking off Friday, December 1st in Orlando City Stadium at 5 PM EST. This year’s final four teams feature two from the Pac-12, one from the SEC, and one from the ACC.
Women’s College Cup: Final Four Preview
The first team representing the Pac-12 is the top-ranked Stanford Cardinal, who are the favorites to win their second NCAA title with their previous coming in 2011. The Cardinal have had one of the most relatively easy roads to Orlando as they have only faced one ranked opponent through their first four games. That one team was the tenth-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions, who Stanford dismantled 4-0 in the quarterfinals. Before that match, Stanford knocked off Florida State 1-0, Auburn 2-0, and Utah Valley 9-1. This means that Stanford has outscored their opponents by a combined score of 16-1 with the one goal coming in a blowout victory over what was undoubtedly the worst team that made the tournament, as Utah Valley came in with a losing record. Stanford still only has one loss this year, which came at the hands of the number 16 Florida Gators early in the season.
South Carolina Gamecocks
Stanford will be matched up with the fifth-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks, who were a one-seed in their respective region and are looking for their first NCAA title in their first tournament appearance. The Gamecocks knocked off the Gators 2-0 in the quarterfinals to lock up their spot in Orlando’s semifinals. Up to this point, South Carolina is outscoring opponents 7—0, with victories over Santa Clara (1-0), Wisconsin (1-0), and Alabama State (3-0). The Gamecocks will have their work cut out for them when they face Stanford in the first semifinal game on Friday. Stanford is probably one of the best teams that the NCAA has seen in a few years. South Carolina will likely keep it close, but in the end, Stanford should be able to outclass them.
The number two ranked North Carolina Tar Heels have won 18 more titles than the team with the second most championships. However, the 21-time champs were eliminated in the quarterfinals by #13 Princeton. Princeton was sent packing in the next round as #4 UCLA beat the Tigers 3-1 to give themselves the chance to win their second Women’s College Cup, with the first coming in 2013. UCLA also beat #12 Virginia 2-1. In the second round, UCLA needed a 93rd-minute golden goal from Anika Rodriguez to get over Northwestern, but the Bruins cruised to a 3-1 victory over San Diego State in the first round. UCLA will be looking to win the tenth national title in program history.
Duke Blue Devils
Standing in the Bruins way is the number three Duke Blue Devils. Duke has never hoisted the cup, but have made tournament appearances in 1992, 2011, and 2015. To make it this far, the Blue Devils had to play a ranked opponent in every round after the first round, when they beat UNC Greensboro 1-0. Following that matchup, they beat number 17 Oklahoma State 7-0, then beat 18th ranked Texas 3-0, and cashed their ticket to Orlando with a 4-0 victory of number 23 Baylor. Duke managed to knock off three ranked Big-12 opponents in a row and just their resume alone is enough to intimidate an opponent. They didn’t even have a close game against a ranked opponent, as they have absolutely caught fire on their way to the semifinals. I don’t believe UCLA can stop this team right now.
I’m expecting a national title game between the top-ranked Stanford Cardinal and the third-ranked Duke Blue Devils. Stanford is in a class by themselves this season, but with the form we’ve been seeing from Duke, this game should be a classic. Duke is, although not as good as Stanford, one of the best teams in the nation and this hot streak has to have Stanford worried. The Blue Devils are the only team remaining that has a really solid chance to beat Stanford, and their form should be enough to help them topple the best team in the nation.