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Saturday, May 25, 2024
The Observer

Women’s soccer prepares to host South Bend regional

Friday afternoon, a weekend of soccer will kick off at Alumni Stadium to decide who will be among the final eight teams in the NCAA tournament.

Notre Dame will host both their own game with Santa Clara, as well as an earlier contest between Michigan State and TCU to determine who will play the winner of the Irish/Broncos matchup.

Here’s everything you need to know about the three teams Notre Dame will play or might play this weekend in South Bend.

Santa Clara is the Irish’s Round of 32 opponent, and they present an immediate tough task for a Notre Dame squad that glided by Omaha in the Round of 64 without much difficulty. The Broncos have NCAA Tournament experience that few others in the nation can boast. Last year’s squad made the College Cup, and in 2020 they took home the national title. Neither of those Broncos teams were highly seeded, and both took down No. 1 seeds in their tournament runs. 

Izzy D’Aquila leads the charge for Santa Clara. The nation’s top goalscorer, D’Aquila outjumped three defenders and the Cal goaltender to deliver the winning header in the first round of the tournament. She is one of the most dangerous players on the field if she’s able to get the ball at her feet. But for that to happen, Santa Clara needs big games from wingbacks Alyssa Bourgeois and Colby Barnett. That pairing leads the team in just about every chance creation stat possible. They need to break through a stout Notre Dame defense Friday night.

Michigan State, TCU round out quartet

Headlining the earlier game is the No. 4 seed Michigan State. The Spartans have enjoyed a dream season in Jeff Hosler’s second year as head coach. The Spartans won the Big Ten regular season title, continuing a stunning curve of improvement from a 2020 team that finished 1-10-1 and ended the season on a 10-game losing streak. Goalkeeper Lauren Kozal anchors the Michigan State backline and has enjoyed a career year in her final season that has placed her among the nation's best goalies. Senior forward Lauren DeBeau leads the charge on offense for the Spartans, with a team-high 11 goals as well as four assists.

Looking to end Michigan State’s stellar run is TCU, whose up-and-down results throughout the season make them likely the biggest wild card of the regional. Early on in the season, the Horned Frogs notched perhaps the biggest statement win of the year in college soccer, dismantling then-No. 16 Santa Clara 7-0 in Fort Worth. But from that point on, TCU went just 1-1-2 against ranked teams. That included a 3-0 defeat at the hands of USC. The Horned Frogs have offensive weapons, most notably graduate student forward Messiah Bright, who seems destined for the NWSL once her collegiate career ends. But will they show up against a disciplined Michigan State team that has had a week of rest from a grueling extra-time win in round one?

The South Bend regional kicks off Friday at 2 p.m. at Alumni Stadium when Michigan State takes on TCU. Notre Dame will play the second match of the afternoon, taking on Santa Clara at 6 p.m. Both matches will be broadcast on ESPN+.