college cup

Lauren Collins/Winston-Salem Journal via AP

Stanford looks for 2nd straight title as College Cup begins

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HOUSTON (AP) Stanford got off to a rough start this year, but rebounded in a season where everyone wanted to take the Cardinal down to make it back to the College Cup.

After winning the first national championship in program history last season, No. 5 Stanford continues its title defense in the second semifinal on Friday night against No. 9 North Carolinas. In the first semifinal, No. 2 Wake Forest faces undefeated No. 6 Denver.

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Stanford had with three ties and a loss in its first six games before winning 13 of its next 16 games to win a third straight Pac-12 championship and return to the College Cup.

“I think it was kind of a wakeup call seeing how hard we were going to get played and I think we adapted to that as the season progressed,” said defender Tomas Hilliard-Arce, who was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year last month.

Stanford hopes to become the first team since Indiana in 2003-04 to win consecutive national championships. Coach Jeremy Gunn’s team is the first to return to the College Cup the season after winning the national championship since Wake Forest returned in 2008 after winning it all in 2007.

Stanford lost some key players from last season, including MLS Rookie of the Year and the reigning Hermann Trophy winner Jordan Morris. But it returns six starters from last season’s team. Five of those players were named to the All-Pac-12 first team last month, and one was on the second team.

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“We had some great players leave after last year and I think some people wanted to write us off this year,” Gunn said.

Stanford is led by Co-Pac-12 player of the year Foster Langsdorf. The junior forward has led the team’s attack this season, scoring 15 goals, including one in each of Stanford’s three tournament games. In their 10 Pac-12 games, Langsdorf scored 12 goals.

North Carolina comes to Houston for its first College Cup appearance since winning a national championship in 2011. The Tar Heels also reached the national semifinals in 2009-10.

Some things to know about the College Cup.

H-TOWN CONNECTION: The Tar Heels come to Houston with many connections to the area. Three Houston Dynamo players, defenders Jalil Anibaba and Sheanon Williams and goalkeeper Tyler Deric, played at North Carolina, while head coach Carlos Somoano is from nearby Seabrook, Texas. The Tar Heels leading scorer, Tucker Hume, said players from the Dynamo have reached out to them and that they’ll be at Friday’s game.

“My formative soccer years and experiences were done right here in Houston,” Somoano said. “So for me it’s very special to be back here.”

YOUTH MOVEMENT: After losing key players from last season, including three who were selected in the top 12 of the MLS SuperDraft, North Carolina has had to rely on its youth in 2016. The Tar Heels have 12 players who have appeared in all 20 games this season, six of whom are either freshmen or sophomores. Sophomore forward Nils Bruening leads the team in goals with eight, while redshirt sophomore goalkeeper James Pyle has allowed just 10 goals this season.

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“They’ve been a bit of a revelation for us,” Somoano said. “It’s just fascinating to see how they evolve through the year. They’re not the same players now than they were in August.”

FAMILIAR FACES: Denver head coach Jamie Franks and Wake Forest’s Bobby Muuss have plenty of history. Muuss was an assistant coach for the Demon Deacons during Franks’ freshman season in Winston-Salem and was the coach at Denver from 2007-14, with Franks serving as his assistant for three seasons. When Muuss took over at Wake Forest before the 2015 season, Franks took his place at Denver.

“I love Wake Forest . but at the end of the day, these are my boys,” Franks said. “These are my kids, and Wake Forest is standing in our way.

WAKE EYES REDEMPTION: Last season, Wake Forest was the No. 1 team in the country with a 17-2-2 record before falling in the quarterfinals to the eventual national champions Stanford in overtime. This season, the Demon Deacons enter the College Cup with an 18-2-3 mark with a pair of shutouts in wins over Coastal Carolina and Virginia Tech.

DOMINANCE REWARDED: Since Franks took over as the Denver head coach, the Pioneers have lost just one game, a defeat to SMU that ended the 2015 season. The team feels its 35-1-6 record under Franks it has not received enough credit, mostly because the Pioneers play in the Summit League. This is Denver’s first appearance in the College Cup and the players are embracing their underdog role.

“It’s more a historical thing than an actual thing because no one in our locker room is surprised to be here, we expected to be here,” sophomore forward Andre Shinyashiki said.

NCAA Tourney: Unseeded Virginia Tech, Providence aiming high

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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?

Full schedule
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

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NCAA men’s soccer tournament announced for Division 1

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The bracket for the NCAA men’s soccer tournament was unveiled Monday, and Maryland is the No. 1 seed.

Thirty-two teams play first round matches for the right to play at a seeded team in the second round.

The NCAA tries to restrict travel for the first few rounds, which leads to a non-scientific bracket. There are outliers, as Colgate has to travel to UCLA and New Mexico to Portland.

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There is no secondary postseason tournament in D1 soccer, with 48 of the 206 men’s D-1 teams off to the tournament.

Here’s how the tournament begins:

Providence/Delaware winner at (1) Maryland
Creighton/Tulsa winner at (16) Kentucky

South Florida/Florida Gulf Coast winner at (9) North Carolina
Dartmouth/St. Francis Brooklyn winner at (8) Syracuse

Cal State Northridge/Pacific winner at (5) Stanford
Vermont/Rider winner at (12) Virginia

Loyola Chicago/Illinois-Chicago winner at (13) Notre Dame
UCLA/Colgate winner at (4) Louisville

South Carolina/Mercer winner at (3) Clemson
Boston College/Fordham winner at (14) Albany

New Mexico/Portland winner at (11) Washington
San Diego State/UNLV winner at (6) Denver

Akron/Villanova winner at (7) Indiana
Virginia Tech/East Tennessee St winner at (10) Charlotte

Michigan State/SIU Edwardsville winner at (15) Butler
Coastal Carolina/Radford winner at (2) Wake Forest

Top U.S. prospects to meet in College Cup final between Stanford, Clemson

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A pair of scoreless semis have given us a marquee matchup of what could be the U.S. men’s national team future standouts in the College Cup final on Sunday.

To be fair, Stanford’s Jordan Morris is already on the full USMNT. Yet he’ll go head-to-head — or boot-to-glove — with U.S. U-23 goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell and Clemson.

They took different paths to the game despite the twin 0-0 score lines. Tarbell was absolutely fantastic for Clemson, who was under constant pressure from Syracuse.

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The Tigers have been among the nation’s best all year, but the Orange dominated early. Syracuse survived a lull caused by the departure of instrumental captain Liam Callahan to restore said dominance into the second half and extra time.

But Tarbell stood tall and got the dang thing to kicks, where Clemson prevailed to advance to its first final since 1987, when it won the second of its two NCAA titles.

On the end was Morris and Stanford, who had the majority of chances against No. 4 Akron. The Zips particularly couldn’t get finish on the chances handed to dangerous speedster Richie Laryea, but the Cardinal looked more likely to score for most of the game.

Unlike the Clemson-Syracuse set of PKs, the team with the better 90 minutes prevailed in this one. Akron missed a couple pivotal kicks, one that could’ve sealed their spot in the final, before goalkeeper Andrew Epstein slammed the door shut with a save on the Zips’ last effort.

This is Stanford’s third appearance in the final, having lost to Indiana and UCLA in 1998 and 2002, respectively.

Other prospects to watch:

  • Brandon Vincent, Senior, Stanford — the Cardinal’s stalwart back has been just as strong — if not stronger — than Morris in recent games.
  • Kyle Fisher, Senior, Clemson — The young back’s game is MLS-ready.
  • T.J. Casner, Senior, Clemson — The Californian leads Clemson in goals (10).
  • Tomas Hilliard-Arce, Sophomore, Stanford — The son of a hockey player, the standout defender has been in U.S. U-23 identification camp and also started 22 games for the Cardinal.

NCAA Tournament field set: Jordan Morris, other U.S. prospects on display

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Wake Forest enters the 2015 NCAA Tournament as the side with the bull’s-eye, with the Demon Deacons the No. 1 overall seed when the dancing starts on Thursday.

And while there’s a USMNT connection to the Deacs — All-ACC midfielder Ian Harkes is a U-23 College ID Camp call-up and is the son of John — plenty of youth internationals, some from the US U-20 World Cup quarterfinalists, will be on display at the tournament.

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Jordan Morris may be with the U.S. men’s national team right now, but come Sunday he’ll be No. 8 seed Stanford when they host the winner of CSU Fullerton and Santa Clara.

UCSB keeper Justin Vom Steeg was with the U.S. U-20s for September’s Stevan Vilotic Tournament, and 22 of 28 players from the U-23 College ID Camp are on teams in the tournament.

It’s honestly a very entertaining tournament with good international flair in places as well. College soccer is now deep enough that opening round matches like Charlotte vs. Radford and Virginia vs. Rider aren’t afterthoughts; The winners are legit threats to the seeded sides they play in the second round.

See the full bracket here, or read below:

1-16
Charlotte vs. Radford – Thursday
Winner vs. No. 1 Wake Forest – Sunday

UConn vs. Boston – Thursday
Winner vs. No. 16 Indiana – Sunday

8-9

Dayton vs. Oakland – Thursday
Winner vs. No. 9 Ohio State – Sunday

CSU Fullerton vs. Santa Clara – Thursday
Winner vs. No. 8 Stanford

5-12

Coastal Carolina vs. North Florida – Thursday
Winner vs. No. 5 North Carolina – Sunday

Kentucky vs. Drake – Thursday
Winner vs. No. 12 Creighton – Sunday

4-13

SMU vs. Utah Valley – Thursday
Winner vs. No. 13 Denver – Sunday

Rutgers vs. LIU Brooklyn – Thursday
Winner vs. No. 4 Akron – Sunday

3-14

Hofstra vs. Lehigh – Thursday
Winner vs. No. 3 Georgetown – Sunday

Boston College vs. Vermont – Thursday
Winner vs. South Florida – Sunday

6-11

UCLA vs. Cal Poly – Thursday
Winner vs. No. 11 Seattle – Sunday

Dartmouth vs. Hartwick – Thursday
Winner vs. No. 6 Syracuse – Sunday

7-10

Tulsa vs. FIU – Thursday
Winner vs. No. 7 Notre Dame – Sunday

Virginia vs. Rider – Thursday
Winner vs. No. 10 Maryland – Sunday

2-15

South Carolina vs. Furman – Thursday
Winner vs. No. 15 UC Santa Barbara – Sunday

Elon vs. Winthrop – Thursday
Winner vs. No. Clemson – Sunday