Ohio State’s epic PK win highlights opening round action
When the field of 48 for the NCAA tournament was released on Monday, one of the first-round match-ups that stood out immediately was Akron taking on Ohio State in Columbus. The game did not disappoint as Andy Najem’s 31st minute goal was erased by Kyle Culbertson’s 67th minute equalizer and a stalemate the rest of the way set up an epic penalty kick showdown.
It took 15 rounds to finally decide which team would advance to take on No. 1 seed Notre Dame, Buckeye goalkeeper Alex Ivanov’s 15th round save setting up Zach Mason’s clinching goal.
The game was one of three decided on penalty kicks in first round action on Thursday night. Furman outlasted UAB and UMB set up an enticing second round match with in-state rival Maryland after bettering Wake Forest on penalties in Winston-Salem.
North Carolina put an end to James Madison’s three-game shutout streak with an emphatic 6-0 victory that saw Andy Craven collect his second hat trick of the season for the biggest blowout of the night. Old Dominion and UC Irvine also cruised to easy 3-0 victories.
Paul Scheipeter’s first career goal in the 81st minute was enough to give Southern Illinois Edwardsville the upset over their northern rivals Northwestern in what was perhaps the biggest upset of the opening round.
The 6-9-4 Hartwick Hawks briefly held claims to biggest upset of the round when they took a lead over Penn State, but a sending off was their demise as the Nittany Lions scored twice to set up a second round match with Syracuse.
Alex Ridsdale’s 103rd minute golden goal – the only overtime goal of the round – set off a party in Cincinnati that left a fence in front of the supporters section in bad shape as Xavier won their first ever home tournament game with a 2-1 victory over Monmouth.
UNC Wilmington, St. Louis, Oregon State and Oakland all advanced on their respective sides of the bracket with 2-0 victories while Oregon State and Coastal Carolina booked spots in the second round with 1-0 wins.
Dartmouth put an end to Fordham’s dream week with a 2-1 win in the first game of the day while San Diego had an identical scoreline in the late game with a win over CSU Fullerton.
Second round action is this Sunday as the 16 seeded teams enter the fray.
Notre Dame drawing Ohio State hardly seems like a reward for being seeded No. 1 (Michigan State appears to be in better shape as a No. 3 seed with Oakland) and Louisville’s rematch against St. Louis promises to be an intriguing game while North Carolina looks to keep their momentum moving against Charlotte. The UMBC and Maryland rematch from earlier this season should be a defensive struggle and I look forward to seeing how Xavier fairs against Indiana.
Either Providence or Dartmouth will be representing New England in the Round of 16 this year as they face each other on Sunday and will be playing the winner of a promising west coast match-up between Stanford and UC Irvine. Furman and Washington, UNC Wilmington and Virginia, Calilfornia and SIUE, Georgetown and Old Dominion and Oregon State and Creighton round out the second round action in a tournament that feels especially wide open this year.