Elite Eight Preview: BYU vs. UNC
The BYU women’s soccer team returns to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2003 and faces traditional powerhouse North Carolina. The Cougars host the Tar Heels this Friday at 6:00 p.m. at South Field.
The 2nd-ranked and No. 1-seeded Cougars advanced to the fourth round by defeating Utah State 2-1 in their opening round, Auburn 1-0 in the second round and No. 12 Marquette in a penalty kick shootout in the Sweet 16.
The Tar Heels, ranked 13 nationally and the second seed in BYU’s bracket, defeated Radford 2-0 in their opening round, Illinois 9-2 in the second round and No. 11 Baylor in a penalty kick shootout after a 1-1 tie in the Sweet 16.
The Cougars are 20-1-2 on the season, while UNC is 12-5-3. However, the Heels’ record is a bit deceiving because they were without two of their best players for part of the season, as Crystal Dunn and Kealia Ohai, a native of Draper, Utah, have spent time this year playing on the U20 U.S. National Team. Over the years, North Carolina has produced a number of U.S. Olympic team players, including the great Mia Hamm.
BYU is certainly deserving of its No. 2 national ranking, but at full strength, the Tar Heels are better than No. 13, and a win over UNC would be the biggest in BYU history. There is no doubt that the Cougars will have their hands full with a program that won back-to-back national championships in 2008 and 2009, and has won a total of 21 national titles.
When asked about Friday’s match-up, head coach Jennifer Rockwood said, “You know, I just think it’s exciting and actually when we looked at the bracket, the only thing I said was I wonder what it would be like to play North Carolina on our home field and that’s the only thing we really said about them. . . . But I can’t say enough about their program. . . . We are excited to play them on our home field and I think the girls will be ready.”
Here’s how the two teams compare statistically and how this game breaks down:
|Coach Rockwood||Coach Dorrance|
|Overall Record||295 – 83 – 30||742 – 49 – 28|
|NCAA Highest Finish||5th||1st|
|Record-to-Date||20 – 1 – 2||12 – 5 – 3|
|Goals-Shot Attempts||50 – 429||48 – 341|
|Opponents Goals – Attempts||11 – 182||15 – 146|
|Goals Per Game||2.17||2.4|
|Opponents Shots Percentage||0.060||0.103|
|Shots on Goal – Attempts||202 – 429||150 – 341|
|Opp Shots on Goal – Attempts||81 – 182||56 – 146|
|Shots on Goal Percentage||0.471||0.440|
|Opponents Shoots on Goal %||0.445||0.384|
|Shots Per Game||18.7||17.0|
|Opponents Shots Per Game||7.9||7.3|
|Opponents Corner Kicks||85||44|
|Penalty Kicks||3 – 4||3 – 4|
|Opponents Penalty Kicks||1 – 2||0 – 0|
|Attendance Per Game||3,183||1,399|
|At Portland||2 – 1||0 – 1|
|Marquette||0 – 0||4 – 0|
|San Diego (BYU there NC Home||4 – 1||5 – 0|
|VS RANKED OPPONENTS|
|#11 Long Beach State||1 – 0|
|#6 Penn State||3 – 1|
|#23 Washington||3 – 1|
|#21 Santa Clara||0 – 0|
|at #22 Pepperdine||2 – 0|
|#12 Marquette||0 – 0||4 – 0|
|#20 Florida||0 – 0|
|at #5 Virginia||2 – 2|
|#6 Virginia Tech||3 – 1|
|#1 Florida State||0 – 1|
|#23 Boston College||1 – 0|
|at #6 Duke||2 – 0|
|#10 Virginia||0 – 1|
|#9 Baylor||1 – 1|
|Home Record||12 – 0 – 2||5 – 3 – 2|
|Away Record||8 – 1||4 – 2 – 1|
|Neutral Record||0 – 0||3 – 0|
BYU’s Offense vs. UNC’s Defense
BYU has scored two more goals than UNC this season, but the Tar Heels have slightly better goals-per-game, 2.40 to 2.17. The Tar Heels play a 3-5-2, meaning three defensive players, five mid-fielders and two forwards. It’s a formation that Marquette turned to in the second half of last Saturday’s game after being outshot by the Cougars 12-5 in the first half. The move helped the Golden Eagles to tie BYU in shots, 8-8 in the second half.
Defensive mastermind and assistant coach Bill Palladino sees his back unit as a group of equals operating as one. But, everyone who faces Carolina knows that Crystal Dunn is in charge.
Dunn plays the pivotal center back role, and her coaches rely on her all-world talent. Dunn spent part of the fall leading the U.S. Women’s U20 team to a World Cup title. Although she tallied nine goals her freshman year and is still listed as a forward in the team’s media guide, the junior from Rockville Center, New York has become arguably the best defender in ACC history. Last week, Dunn was named the ACC’s Defensive Player of the Year, becoming the first woman to win the award twice. It will be interesting to see if they can match BYU’s four outstanding forwards, Jaiden Thornock, Jessica Ringwood, Carlee Holmoe and Michele Murphy. EVEN
BYU’s Defense vs. UNC’s Offense
The Tar Heels have incredible speed up front, especially with Courtney Jones and Ohai, who have scored eight goals each this season. Defender Megan Brigman has scored five. They will be matched up against BYU’s four defenders who are also fast, especially Hermann Trophy candidate and WCC MVP Lindsi Lisonbee Cutshall. EVEN
Have to give the edge to UNC because of coach Dorrance’s 34 seasons, winning percentage and 21 national titles. Plus, Palladino is in his 33rd year as an assistant in Chapel Hill and is a brilliant defensive strategist. Edge to UNC
The UNC squad is full of US national team players, and regional ODP (Olympic Development Program) squads. They are the Alabama Crimson Tide of women’s soccer. Edge to UNC
South Field is fast becoming one of the best home-field advantages in the country. Attendance is one of the best–if not the best–in the country and BYU fans make it very intimidating for opposing teams. Edge to BYU
The key to the game will be who controls the ball in the middle of the field. BYU’s two center mids are juniors Rachel Manning and Cloee Colohan who have been very steady all year. The Tar Heels play with five mid-fielders, and are anchored by senior Amber Brooks. Brooks has been a captain for the last two years, was a member of the Vancouver Whitecaps in the Women’s League (with teammate Ranee Premji), and has been a member of various U.S. national teams. Edge to UNC
This is a real tough call. Is it possible not to pick the Tar Heels who have such a intimidating roster? Only if you have seen the Cougars play at South Field with a huge home field advantage. This will be a case of The Little Engine That Could, which will climb over the mountain to bring toys and a victory to the fans at South Field. BYU 2 North Carolina 2, with BYU winning in a penalty kick shootout.