The NCAA Women’s Soccer Tournament kicked off Tuesday, setting up several second-round matchups before first-round play wraps up Wednesday.
Here are the top three games to watch for when the second round begins Friday.
No. 2 North Carolina vs. Denver: 3 p.m. ET
Two of the winningest programs in the country this season will meet in a second-round showdown Friday. Denver was dominant in its 3-1 win over Loyola Chicago, overcoming an early 1-0 deficit. The Pioneers are also coming off of their third-straight Summit League regular season title and fifth in school history.
Meanwhile, the undefeated Tar Heels are one of the top teams in the NCAA. UNC boasts the most national women’s soccer titles of all time, with its last coming in 2012, and it’ll be looking to avenge its loss to Stanford in the 2019 finals. Junior midfielder Brianna Pinto decided to stay with UNC despite going third overall in the NWSL Draft to Gotham FC, making her one of many threats to Denver’s chances of advancing to the Sweet 16.
No. 3 UCLA vs. Iowa: 3 p.m. ET
UCLA might have its hands full with Iowa, who’s coming into this matchup fresh off its first-ever NCAA Tournament win against Campbell (1-0). The Hawkeyes have had an impressive postseason, coming out of nowhere to win their first-ever Big Ten championship.
They now face a huge test in No. 3 UCLA, who lost just one game en route to the Pac-12 regular season title. The Bruins also racked up Pac-12 end-of-season awards, with five players earning first-team honors.
UCLA also had 6️⃣ players earn All-@pac12 honors, including a conference-best 5️⃣ on the first team. Congrats @miafishel10, @DelanieSheehan, @kaarrriiinnaa, @laurenbrzykcy11, @reilynturner, @marley_canales! https://t.co/Wk1cgjDXMD pic.twitter.com/0dicNZMeWi— UCLA Women's Soccer (@UCLAWSoccer) April 21, 2021
UCLA also had 6️⃣ players earn All-@pac12 honors, including a conference-best 5️⃣ on the first team. Congrats @miafishel10, @DelanieSheehan, @kaarrriiinnaa, @laurenbrzykcy11, @reilynturner, @marley_canales! https://t.co/Wk1cgjDXMD pic.twitter.com/0dicNZMeWi
No. 4 TCU vs. New Mexico: 7 p.m. ET
Tied 1-1 after overtime Tuesday, New Mexico needed penalty kicks to defeat Navy in the first round. Senior midfielder Madi Hirschman was the hero, drilling her penalty kick to send the Lobos onto the second round in a thrilling finish.
.@madihirschman with the finisher! Lobos head to the next round and face @TCUSoccer on Friday.#GoLobos pic.twitter.com/SgjCf5QRa7— Lobo Women's Soccer (@UNMLoboWSoccer) April 28, 2021
.@madihirschman with the finisher! Lobos head to the next round and face @TCUSoccer on Friday.#GoLobos pic.twitter.com/SgjCf5QRa7
While New Mexico will be carrying the momentum from its win into Friday, the Lobos face a tough challenge in No. 4 TCU. As one of 16 programs to appear in the last five NCAA Tournaments, the Horned Frogs enter the postseason 11-1-1 and winners of the Big 12 regular season title. They’re also battle-tested, with their lone loss coming against a Texas A&M team that earned the No. 7 seed.
The best of the rest (all times ET)