The NC State women’s soccer team will be facing the only undefeated team left in the country on Saturday in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Championship as it faces BYU on its home field. The match is set to kick off at 8 p.m. on Saturday and will be in Provo, Utah at BYU’s home field.
The Cougars have been undoubtedly impressive this season, but the undefeated moniker comes with an asterisk, as their schedule was relatively easy compared to the Wolfpack. Including NCAA Championship play, the Cougars played just four teams that finished the year in the top-25 (No. 11 Kansas, No. 20 Santa Clara, No. 22 Texas A&M and No. 23 Louisville) and went 3-0-1 in those games.
By comparison, the Pack played seven such opponents, two of which it faced twice, (No. 2 UNC-Chapel Hill, No. 3 Virginia, No. 5 South Carolina, No. 8 Arkansas, No. 12 Duke, No. 23 Louisville and No. 25 Georgetown). Across those nine games, the Pack ended with a record of 4-3-2, beating Arkansas (2-1 in NCAA second round), Louisville twice, and Georgetown while losing to UNC twice and South Carolina. The Pack’s draws came against then-No. 1 ranked Virginia and Duke.
BYU’s high-flying offense is led by a pair of formidable upperclassmen in senior forward Elise Flake and junior midfielder Mikayla Colohan. Flake has racked up an impressive 20 goals this season, good enough for fifth in the nation. Colohan, after grabbing two goals against Louisville, also ranks within the top-10 scorers in the nation with 16. Behind Flake and Colohan’s goals, the Cougars are the second-highest scoring team in the nation behind just Stanford.
Playing against a dominant offense will be nothing new for the Wolfpack’s defenders. In four games against offenses ranking in the top six in the country, Virginia, Arkansas and UNC, the Wolfpack has conceded just five total goals and three of those came in the ACC Championship semifinal loss to UNC.
The Wolfpack’s back line had been a consistent group for a majority of the season with only minor injuries keeper center back Lulu Guttenberger sidelined for short stints, often less than a full game. But following an injury to sophomore Jenna Butler, sophomore midfielder Toni Starova has been partnering Guttenberger at the heart of the defense.
Starova had played center back for short spells earlier in the season, such as in the first match against UNC after Guttenberger’s injury, but the first few games after Butler’s injury, the back line did not look as cohesive as it had been all season. But as the games have progressed, Starova has gotten more confident and is forming a solid partnership with Guttenberger.
BYU will be a tough match, but with confidence soaring after the team’s 2-1 win over Arkansas, anything can happen is a knock-out game.
The match is set to kick off on Saturday at 8 p.m. in Provo, Utah and can be viewed on BYU TV.