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PREVIEW: NCAA DII Women’s Final Four set for prime time Thursday at Highmark Stadium

From NCAA reports 

The NCAA DII women’s soccer championship semifinals will get prime time treatment in the Steel City as the games will be played at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. at Highmark Stadium on Thursday as part of the NCAA Fall Championships Festival.

In addition to the soccer action, NCAA Division II championships in Cross Country, Field Hockey and Volleyball will be taking place in and around the Pittsburgh region. The DII Men’s Final Four will be played earlier in the day (we’ll have more on that in a separate post).

On Wednesday night, the schools were treated to an opening ceremony and additional festivities at the new Top Golf facility in Bridgeville…

 

Here are the Women’s semifinal match-ups on Thursday.

  • 5 p.m. – Bridgeport (CT) vs UC San Diego (CA)
  • 8 p.m. – Grand Valley State (MI) vs Lee (TN) – LIVE STREAM

The winners will meet in the final on Saturday at 3 p.m.

We have more on each team below.

MORE: Interactive bracket | Printable bracket Buy 2018 championship tickets

Grand Valley State (24-0-1) 

Location: Allendale Charter Township, Michigan

Nickname: Lakers

A prominent DII women’s program, Grand Valley State returns to the semifinals once again as the team to beat. And the scary part is they’re a young group — with only four seniors.

The Lakers are unbeaten in 25 games in 2018, racking up 24 wins and playing to a draw way back on Sept. 16 against Ashland. This team is clicking offensively, sweeping through the GLIAC tournament by outscoring their opponents 13-1 before pouring on 20 goals through the first four games of the NCAA tournament.

They knocked off the reigning national champion Central Missouri Jennies 6-1 in the quarterfinals, ending the Jennies title defense and avenging their own quarterfinals loss to Central Missouri last year. The Lakers were reseeded as the No. 1 in Pittsburgh and deservedly so.

Also interesting to note… 

No program has won more DII women’s soccer titles than the Lakers, most recently pulling off a three-peat from 2013-15. Also winning titles in 2009 and 2010.  With most of the roster made up of Michigan-born players, there’s little doubt that the Great Lake State is a hotbed for women’s soccer.

“I’m really excited to go,” head coach Jeff Hosler stated. “Not making it last year, it’s been a long 12 months of preparations to make it back. This team has been remarkable, to be in this situation we are, going to Pittsburgh with so much youth. We have four seniors; everyone else on our roster is a first or second year player who will experience this for the first time, so it’s very, very exciting.”

Lee (17-6-1) 

Cleveland, TN

Nickname: Flames

The Lakers will take on the lowest seed to advance to the national semifinals, the Lee Flames. Lee was knocked out of the Gulf South Conference tournament but has since won four straight, emerging from the South Region as the No. 4 seed and making its first-ever appearance in the NCAA DII Final Four.

The Flames stunned the Southeast’s No. 1 seed Columbus State 1-0 in the quarterfinals, becoming the first team to hand the Cougars a loss in 2018. Keeper Taylor Green posted the shutout against the No. 2 scoring offense in DII women’s soccer, the very same Cougars squad that scored seven goals through their first two games of the tournament.

Also interesting to note… 

The Lady Flames won an unprecedented four-straight NAIA National Championships from 2008-2011 and have qualified for the NCAA National Tournament in all four years of postseason eligibility since becoming official member of the NCAA in 2015.

Head coach Chris Hennessey:

“The team is very excited to experience the final four for the first time. I don’t think anyone can doubt that our past four games have been against very tough opponents. The attitude and character to keep going during the NCAA Tournament has given the team a lot of belief.  Grand Valley is probably the most well-known team at this level. The have a rich tradition of winning national championships, but I know the team will give their best effort. I think the girls are now just ready to go out and play. We look forward to the challenge and to be a part of the national championship atmosphere in Pittsburgh.”

 

Bridgeport (18-4-1) 

Bridgeport, CT

Nickname:  Purple Knights

For the second time in the past four seasons, the Bridgeport Purple Knights are heading to the national semifinals. They are a hot team as well, coming to Pittsburgh amid a seven-game winning streak. Bridgeport entered the NCAA tournament the No. 2 seed in the East and took down Stonehill, Saint Rose, and LIU Post in tightly-contested matches. Maegen Doyle, the No. 2 goal scorer in DII women’s soccer, started the second half of the quarterfinals off with her 26th goal of the season, putting the game out of reach and leading the Purple Knights to the upset over No. 1-seeded Bloomsburg. This has been quite the bounce-back season for Bridgeport, after finishing with a disappointing 8-8-1 record last year.

Also interesting to know… 

Bridgeport played Grand Valley St earlier in the year — losing 6-0, so I am sure that they’d love to get a return match in the final to make amends for that loss.  Roster has strong international flavor — with six hailing from Sweden, along with student-athletes from England, Brazil, Norway, South Africa and Netherlands.

 

UC San Diego (19-2-2)  

San Diego, CA

Nickname: Tritons

The Purple Knights will face off against the West’s No. 1 seeded UC San Diego. The Tritons are no strangers to the spotlight, winning the national championship in back-to-back years. But that was back in 2000 and 2001, and UC San Diego is in its best position since then to take home title No. 3.

The Tritons reached No. 1 earlier this season and hit a few speed bumps along the way. They lost their season finale to a very good Chico State team but have righted the ship since. UC San Diego swept its way through the CCAA tournament and now the NCAA tournament thus far. The Tritons played tight matches in their first two games, taking Western Washington to penalty kicks, but left little doubt they were semifinals-bound with a dominant 5-0 Sweet Sixteen victory over West Texas A&M.

Also interesting to know…

Despite a season when the program was tainted by the resignation of long time head coach Brian McManus,who compiled more than 800 wins in his career, most of any coach in NCAA DII women’s soccer history, the Tritons managed to forge through with an impressive run to yet another Final Four under the direction of interim coaches Kristin Jones and Trent Painter.

McManus’ resignation followed an internal investigation conducted by the university that confirmed McManus violated department policy which includes possible violations of NCAA regulations over a several year period.

It appears they’re in the market for a new head coach moving forward.

 

 

John Krysinsky has covered soccer and other sports for many years for various publications and media outlets including Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, DK Pittsburgh Sports, Pittsburgh Sports Report, and more. Krysinsky also served as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at his alma mater, Point Park University, where he led the Pioneers to the first-ever winning seasons and playoff berths (1996-98); head coach of North Catholic boys (2007-08), associate head coach of Shady Side Academy boys (2009-2014).

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