Thursday night, 32 teams had dreams of a national title. Those dreams are now held by 8 teams. Which team has it within them to win the national title?
In the men’s championship division, only Ohio State has seen their dream fulfilled. In 2014, seniors and juniors of the squad, remember winning Ohio State’s only national title. Do they have what it takes to lead their team to glory again?
Ohio State will face a team familiar to them in the semifinal. San Diego State had those same dreams in 2014. Those seniors and juniors remember 2014. They met Ohio State in the final and lost in extra time. Their dreams as sophomores and freshmen were dashed by a 92nd minute golden goal. Now undefeated, San Diego State stands in Ohio State’s path again. Will they be able to learn from that experience 2 years ago to overcome and lay their own path to a national title?
Cincinnati and Virginia are waiting on the other side of the bracket. They dream of the opportunity to win a national championship. Only one will prevail. Cincinnati has appeared strong in the tournament. They have not given up a goal yet. Their defense is the backbone of their drive to a championship. Will Virginia have enough to mount a challenge?
In the women’s championship division, the championship pedigree of 3 of the semifinalists are very apparent. Since 2007, no other team has won the women’s national championship other than UCSB, Ohio State and defending national champions Michigan State. Only North Carolina is without a club championship among the semifinalists.
Michigan State is again on the path to a title. Last year, they won the championship game over Colorado State with a 4th minute extra time goal to win 1-0. This year, they won their quarterfinal game over Colorado State, in a rematch, with a 4th minute extra time goal to win 1-0. They will face UCSB who has a strong championship pedigree. But they have not won a title since 2011. In 2012 their streak of 5 straight titles ended with a loss to…Michigan State in extra time. Will it take that long to determine a winner?
On the other side of the bracket, Ohio State seniors and juniors won a title in 2014. Will they be able to capture glory again as leaders of their team? They will face a North Carolina team that has appeared as strong throughout the entire tournament. North Carolina as won their matches by a combined 11 goals with 1 goal given up. Ohio State had a tough quarterfinal win with Penn State going to kicks from the mark. Will we see a new national champion and one with no club championship pedigree?
Dreams still reside with 8 teams in the open divisions.
In the men’s open division, Oregon is alive and trying to repeat as open champion. They finished 2nd in their pool this year. James Madison, who finished 1st in Oregon’s pool, is out, courtesy of 2015 national finalist Penn State. Will Penn State be able to use that experience to power them to the open title in 2016 instead of Oregon? Or will Purdue or UCLA claim the open crown instead?
In the women’s open division, UCLA is still alive as well and trying to repeat as open champion. They had a rematch of last year’s open final with James Madison in the quarterfinal which ended in a 0-0 draw with UCLA advancing 2-1 after kicks from the mark. Did the match take a lot out of them in their quest for a repeat? They will face a strong challenge in Virginia Tech. On the other side of the bracket is Oregon and USC. Oregon has been a playing well but will they be ready for a strong USC squad? USC is a +15 in goal differential in the tournament. Is USC the strongest remaining to win the women’s open title?
Three teams still have dreams of a repeat. 13 have dreams of their own glory. Currently the dreams are still, just dreams. Tomorrow, for only four, those dreams will become reality.
We hope you will join us for a great Championship Saturday!
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