One year after Jordan Morris helped Stanford steamroll Clemson in the College Cup Final, the Cardinal are three wins away from becoming the first repeat winner since Indiana in 2004.
The quarterfinals are set in the NCAA men’s soccer tournament, with four weekend matches deciding who heads to Houston and who goes home.
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With respect to Stanford and Clemson, who is also still alive, we’re looking at the two unseeded teams hoping to engineer a surprising run to glory.
Providence — With longtime star Mac Steeves limited to two matches this year, senior midfielder Julian Gressel has picked up the slack. The German has 15 goals and 6 assists in 21 games, and has the Friars on the brink of a second semifinal berth in three seasons.
The Friars (15-6) get ninth-seeded UNC next, and have not blushed in the face of big names this season. Aside from the memorable frenzied comeback over Maryland in the tourney, Providence has won at Creighton and home to Xavier in addition to one-goal losses against Clemson, Georgetown, and Villanova.
Virginia Tech — After winning just one of its last six matches leading up to the tournament, the Hokies have reeled off wins over East Tennessee State, Charlotte, and Indiana. Their reward? Mighty Wake Forest.
Va Tech managed just a single member on the ACC awards, second team junior attacker Marcelo Acuna of Costa Rica. Admittedly it’s a bit surprising that its Top 15 defense, led by goalkeeper Ben Lundgaard and his .810 save percentage, didn’t get a nod. Then again, the Hokies were under .500 in conference play.
The Hokies snapped a 17-year winless streak against Wake Forest in 2014, but hasn’t won at Wake since 1982. Could Saturday be the day?
Providence at No. 9 North Carolina — 7 p.m. Friday
No. 5 Stanford at No. 4 Louisville — 7 p.m. Saturday
No. 6 Denver at No. 3 Clemson — 7 p.m. Friday
Virginia Tech at No. 2 Wake Forest — 5 p.m. Saturday