UMBC, Providence, Virginia and UCLA advance to College Cup

College Cup

umbccelebratesFor the first time since Charlotte did it in 2011, a team playing in the opening round of the NCAA tournament has advanced all the way to the College Cup.

UMBC continued its dream run to college soccer’s final four with a penalty shootout victory over Creighton in Omaha on Friday night to advance to the first College Cup in program and conference history.

As he had been in the Retrievers previous win over Louisville, redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Billy Heavner was heroic in goal, making the all important stop in the penalty shootout on the first Creighton attempt from MAC Hermann Trophy semifinalist Fabian Herbers and his teammates did the rest burying their penalties and snatching a 4-3 PK kick win after 110 minutes of scoreless soccer. Senior Kay Banjo scored the decisive penalty in front of the Creighton faithful (See Highlights).

The Retrievers are the first unseeded team to advance to the College Cup since Charlotte made it all the way to the final in 2011. UMass made the College Cup as an unseeded team in 2007 and UC Santa Barbara won it all as an unseeded team in 2006 so as unlikely as it has seemed the other University of Maryland’s run isn’t completely unprecedented.

UMBC will face 16th seeded Virginia in the 5 p.m. game in Cary, North Carolina, on Friday, Dec. 12.

Virginia was 53 seconds away from exiting the tournament when Todd Wharton buried an equalizer that set up two scoreless overtimes and a dramatic penalty shootout for the Cavaliers, which is the only 2013 College Cup team left in the tournament entering the final weekend.

Austin Martz’s 59th minute strike had given the hosts Georgetown the lead, but the late goal and the only miss of the penalty shootout for either team sent the deflated Shaw Field capacity crowd home shaking their heads (See Highlights).

The crowd in East Lansing was in a similar state of shock after 11th seeded Providence proved their mettle yet again in knockout competition (they won the Big East tournament last month) knocking the Spartans out to advance to the program’s first College Cup with a 3-2 victory. Fabio Machado’s 62nd minute strike gave the Friars the surprising 3-1 lead over one of the stingier back lines in the country and held up as the College Cup-clincher (See Highlights).

Providence will face the only top 10 seed left in the tournament in UCLA, which was also the only home team to advance in Elite Eight games over the weekend. The Bruins needed a penalty shootout to outlast unseeded North Carolina and book passage to the final weekend for the first time since 2011 (See Highlights).

UCLA almost blew it. The Bruins had a 3-1 lead with 16 minutes left in regulation when Abu Dunladi scored off a breakaway but even with North Carolina down to 10 men (North Carolina’s Alex Olofson was sent off with a red card in the 20th minute) for most of the game the Bruins could not seal it in regulation or 20 minutes of overtime. Tyler Engel’s 78th minute goal and Andy Craven’s 15th of the season 24 seconds later set up the dramatic penalty shootout. (Though it was probably far from the fifth year seniors mind after a PK loss, Craven’s equalizer put him in a three-way tie with Robert Morris’s Neco Brett and Princeton’s Cameron Porter for most goals in Division 1.)

UCLA, one of the favorites going into the season once 2013 Hermann Trophy finalist Leo Stolz announced he was returning, should be considered heavy favorites now to pick up their fifth championship in Cary next weekend. They’ll have to get by the Friars first in the 7:30 p.m. game Friday first in what promises to be a thrilling end to an exhilarating and wildly unpredictable season of college soccer.


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