Recapping NCAA Top 25 Action: UNC Dominates And Akron Frustrates
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Going into week 6 of the 2015 NCAA Men’s Division 1 soccer season there was one thing clearer than all the rest: parity, even among the best teams in the nation, is at an all time high.
As of the last time the official NCAA rankings were last updated on September 15th, 6 of the 25 top ranked teams weren’t in the top 25 a week prior; Stanford had moved all the way up to 4th from 13th; preseason #1 UCLA was just another team that almost made the Top 25. Teams were moving all over the place, and it meant that this past weekend, just like each of the ones to come, would have a huge affect on the national picture. Looking back, rest assured that it did.
While the official Top 25 rankings have yet to be updated, you can be sure that there will be some seriously shuffling, again. As of Monday morning, September the 21st, six teams in the top 25 had lost to unranked opponents, but as shocking as some of those upsets might have been, the hardly compare to the result of the weekend:
#3 North Carolina 4 - #2 Notre Dame 2
No one could have expected such a dominating showing by the Tar Heels over the fighting Irish. Prior to the match on Friday night, the Irish had only let in 1 goal in their past 8 matches, including a shutout against then-ranked-13-now-ranked-10 Maryland. North Carolina, for its part, had been playing well, winning all of it’s matches except one on its way to a +7 goal differential.
It was supposed to be a closely contested match, but 3 unanswered goals by North Carolina saw that it wasn’t. When asked what inspired his team to victory, North Carolina head coach Carlos Somoano was quick to credit the raucous crowd that cam out to support his side.
“Probably the most important thing, I really want to thank the crowd for coming out. They were awesome, I think they’re really inspiring to our players. To have these people behind us, the (Carolina) Fever and the fans, it just pushes you on, and for me that’s the biggest takeaway. I think we won a home game because we had a crowd come in and (they) just pushed us to it.”
It was exactly the kind of showcase game that deserved to represent D1 soccer on ESPNU. It will be interesting to see if the magnitude of this victory can catapult North Carolina ahead of #1 Creighton, who won again over the weekend to remain perfect.
Other Noteworthy Results From The Weekend
#7 Wake Forest 3-1 Syracuse
Syracuse might not have been a Top 25 team prior to this match, but it was still a team worthy of Wake Forest’s respect. Wake Forest treated them as such, and came away with one of the most impressive victories of the weekend.
Wake Forest’s play was described by it’s head coach as “attractive” and it’s not hard to see why. The 3 goals that the Demon Deacons scored were the best victorious offensive showing of the weekend. Some trouble closing out the game at the end might have prevented this from being a statement game, but be sure it sent warning signals to the Deacs future opponents.
#14 Clemson 2-1 #16 Duke
Speaking of statement, both Duke and Clemson had an opportunity to make one when they met on Friday. The game turned out to be entertaining, but not because either team dominated the other.
"I thought it was a game of two halves," said Duke head coach John Kerr after the game. "I thought they clearly dominated the first half and I thought we were the best team in the second half."
The scoring went someone against Kerr’s interpretation of the run of play. Aside from Clemson’s 12th minute opener, both Duke’s equalizer and Clemson’s winner were scored when the other team was on top.
The win will give Clemson a boost in confidence as it looks to make a run in the NCAA tournament. Duke, on the other hand, will be looking for answers as it faces North Carolina in its next game. Duke as now lost two in a row, and with the way North Carolina played against Notre Dame, they could easily be on the outside of the Top 25 looking in by next week.
#11 Akron 3-3 Ohio State
This one had to have been frustrating for Akron. Head Coach Jared Embick said after the game that his team “didn’t play very well;” truer words have never been spoken.
Akron scored the first goal of the game, but from then on was on the comeback trail during a 5 goals second half that saw Ohio State gain the lead twice only to be pegged back by the Zips.
Akron has championship aspirations, and this is the kind of game that at once is demoralizing and a lesson. There is no doubt that this team is talented, coach Embick will be the first to tell you so, but he will also say they need to mature. Akron is one of the most competitive mid majors in the country, yet it routinely draws some of the biggest crowds in D1 soccer; 3,889 fans came out to watch them play Ohio State. Here’s hoping that the team can make the kind of steps it needs to make in order to give its fan base the run that it deserves.
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