The 2023 NCAA College Cup kicks off on Friday, with Florida State, Clemson, BYU and Stanford battling for a spot in this year’s national championship game. In many ways, these final four teams follow the arc of the regular season. In total, the semifinalists have lost just five games and two of the teams are undefeated.
Outside of reigning champion UCLA’s shocking ouster in the first round of this year’s tournament, the semifinals are full of powerhouse teams featuring numerous players with professional careers in front of them.
Nearly every starter on these four teams has a shot at the pro level, and increasingly in both the NWSL and beyond, those opportunities are not reserved for graduating seniors. Here are a few of the upperclassmen (and one underclassman) worth watching in the semifinals, some more well-known than others but all serious professional prospects.
Stanford briefly lost their way after winning the 2019 national championship, but in 2023, they’ve been rejuvenated by the success of their recent recruiting classes. Sophomore Jasmine Aikey, the only underclassman on this list, has turned heads on her way to being named a MAC Hermann semifinalist. She leads the undefeated Cardinal in goals (11) and assists (10). And in this year’s NCAA Tournament, she’s played facilitator, currently on a four-game streak with at least one assist.
Fifth-year senior Maya Doms is one of the final connectors between the 2023 Stanford team and the squad that won the 2019 NCAA championship in her freshman year. She’s captained the team since 2022, providing both the chance-creating talent and leadership qualities that have led the Cardinal to an undefeated season. She’s scored 10 goals and registered six assists in the Stanford attack, including a dramatic strike in overtime against Nebraska last week that sent her team to the College Cup. She also recently spent time with the USWNT U-23s, teaming up with a number of players already succeeding in the NWSL.
Born and raised in England and already featuring for the Nigeria national team, including at the 2023 World Cup, senior Onyi Echegini should garner heavy interest across the pond after closing out her final year of eligibility. She’s scored 15 goals and contributed four assists for the Seminoles this season. She can make runs in behind the defense and make backlines pay from distance. Echegini’s pure striking ability and poise in front of goal is also among the best in the entire college system.
Junior Taylor Huff, playing in her first season with the Seminoles after transferring from Tennessee, can sometimes fall under the radar, but she has been a consistent midfield engine since her arrival. She leads the team in assists with 13, keeping the Seminoles’ vaunted attack humming with ease. Florida State has executed two big wins so far in the NCAA Tournament, most recently with Huff opening the scoring in a 3-0 defeat of Pitt in the Elite Eight.
Don’t let senior Makenna Morris’s position fool you because she’s a proven goal-scorer. Doing it all for the Tigers, Morris has notched 10 goals this year, the second-most for a defender in NCAA history. And she didn’t reach that tally by taking lucky shots from distance. Morris has keen off-the-ball vision to find good positions in front of goal, and she’s just as capable of collecting and sinking a through-pass as she is defending on the other end. She’s the kind of fearless, multi-talented player who can propel a team to a title game.
Senior Megan Bornkamp will also be crucial to the Tigers’ shot at their first-ever NCAA title game. Another player with USWNT U-23 experience, Bornkamp started her college career as a defender but has since flourished in the Clemson attack, most notably scoring the late equalizer in Clemson’s Round of 16 win over Georgia. She consistently produces high-quality scoring chances, and she has functioned as much as a playmaker as an out-and-out scorer in 2023.
Senior Brecken Mozingo is the complete package of an attacking midfielder, leading BYU’s balanced attack with a whopping 14 goals and 15 assists this season. She’s the Cougars’ primary penalty taker, going 5-for-5 on the season, and she has shown a skill for reading the field with a calm mind. Mozingo notched a goal and an assist in BYU’s furious 4-3 comeback against North Carolina in the Elite Eight, and fans can expect to see her pulling the strings in the College Cup.
Senior Olivia Wade-Katoa works alongside Mozingo in perfect tandem, contributing 12 goals and eight assists of her own in 2023. None were more crucial than her strike in the second-to-last minute of the Elite Eight, giving the Cougars their improbable 4-3 victory over the Tar Heels. Wade-Katoa has the mentality of a college veteran, coming in clutch multiple times this season to provide game-winning goals. Look for her to combine with Mozingo to try to launch BYU into their second title game in the last three years.
Claire Watkins is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @ScoutRipley.