Indiana earns way into tournament the hard way, Maryland goes out winner in ACC
Not much has gone right for the Hoosiers this year defending their College Cup title from a year ago, particularly overtime where Indiana went 0-5-1 in the regular season.
But all of that changed as the regular season gave way to the postseason in week 12 and the Hoosiers took down Michigan in overtime, beat Penn State on penalty kicks and finished their improbable tournament run with a 1-0 regulation victory over Michigan State on Sunday.
Their feat of winning three times in five days was their only path to the NCAA tournament and since they pulled it off the field of 48 can boast a team with an 8-11-2 record and a No. 62 ranking in the RPI among its ranks. Just like that Indiana’s season has gone from nightmare to possibility as they prep for an opening round match with Akron on Thursday.
The ACC final saw Notre Dame killer Virginia, which beat the Irish for the second time this season despite trailing by two goals with 10 minutes remaining, lose on an own goal created by defending player of the year Patrick Mullins. The win for the Terps was their second straight in the ACC and their last as they leave for the Big Ten next season.
An exciting Big East final at PPL Park saw a feisty Providence squad almost pull off an improbable comeback on Marquette, but the Golden Eagles showed why they are one of the favorites to be playing in Chester again for the College Cup in December. The five goals in regulation on the pleasant and sunny Sunday afternoon came two days after Providence ended a 0-0 deadlock with Georgetown to advance with a penalty shootout and Marquette scored late in the second overtime to knock off Butler 1-0. Hopefully, there is more of the weather and style of play from Sundays game in store for the College Cup than the frustrating and chippy display in the cold Friday night. A crowd would be nice too as I was one of only 506 in attendance for the final.
The Pac-12 doesn’t have a conference tournament, but ended their season with Washington in the top spot as they defeated Oregon State 1-0 behind freshman forward Mason Robertson’s third straight game-winning goal. Winning the Pac-12 wasn’t enough to convince the tournament selection committee to rank them higher than UCLA, which earned the No. 1 overall seed one spot ahead of the Dawgs. California picked up the fourth seed to give the Pac-12 three of the top five seeded teams and the ACC the other two with third-seeded Notre Dame and fifth-seeded Maryland.
Charlotte booked their place in the tourney with a Tyler Gibson penalty kick three minutes from the end of regulation to beat Tulsa in the Conference USA tournament final. Charlotte will be joined in the tournament by regular season champ New Mexico (seeded No. 7) and Old Dominion while Tulsa and UAB were left out.
Penn won the Ivy League title with a 2-0 victory over Harvard in their last regular season game in Cambridge on Saturday. Their league title gave them an automatic bid with an 8-8-1 record. Akron finished off the MAC title with a 4-1 victory over Western Michigan in the tournament final while George Mason essentially knocked St. Louis out of the NCAA tourney with an Alex Herrera penalty kick in the 80th minute to win the Atlantic 10 title. Coastal Carolina punched their automatic bid with two second half goals to beat Liberty and win the Big South tournament.
The final score (0-0), the attendance (175) and the torn-up gridiron-lined field at Toyota Stadium were anything but pretty but South Florida’s win on penalty kicks over UConn in the first ever American Athletic tournament championship was still good enough for an automatic tourney bid. UC Irvine outlasted Cal State Northridge 1-0 to take home the Big West tournament championship but both teams will join UC Santa Barbara as seeded teams out of the Big West for the first time in conference history.
Other automatic bids were awarded to America East champs and 16 seed UMBC, Navy out of the Patriot League, Elon out of the Southern Conference, Drexel out of the Colonial Athletic, Horizon League winner Milwaukee, Summit League champ Denver, St. Francis from the Northeast Conference, Quinnipiac out of the Metro Atlantic Athletic, WAC tournament winners Seattle, Missouri Valley tournament winners Bradley, Atlantic Sun tourney winners East Tennessee State and West Coast champions Loyola Marymount.
Pete Caringi III scored a goal for the first time in more than a month, scoring twice and adding an assist in UMBC’s 4-0 victory over Hartford in the American East championship. His week leading the Retrievers was overshadowed by the performance of St. Francis Brooklyn junior forward Kevin Correa, who delivered four goals in the conference semifinal and final to lead his team to the automatic tournament bid. Marquette forward Adam Lysak was outstanding in the Big East tournament, delivering the first and only goal of the two semifinals late in the second overtime on Friday night and scoring the eventual game-winner in his team’s 3-2 victory over Providence to capture the auto bid.
Looking ahead to this week, the NCAA tournament opens Thursday with some intriguing match-ups, like the battle of Wisconsin between Wisconsin and Milwaukee (the two teams tied on Oct. 23), Akron having to deal with the red hot Indiana, North Carolina taking on South Florida and more.