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The Best of the Best: Alabama Soccer Up Against Elite Competition in College Cup

A look at how the Crimson Tide stacks up against the impressive teams in the NCAA Tournament semifinals.

The NCAA Tournament semifinals are all set in women's soccer, and feature four of the top five teams in the initial bracket.

The field also includes three giants in the sport along with Alabama, which is making its College Cup debut. 

Here's a look at the teams, with Florida State vs. North Carolina and Alabama vs. UCLA in the national semifinals on Friday, and the national championship set to be played Monday in Cary, N.C. 

Alabama Crimson Tide 

Record: 23-2-1

Coach: Wes Hart

How advanced: No. 1 Alabama 3, No. 2 Duke 2 (OT)

First three rounds: 9-0 over Jackson State, 2-1 over Portland, 3-1 over UC Irvine

Scoring offense: 2.92 (2nd nationally)

Goals against average: .648 (19th)

Goals leader: Riley Mattingly Parker 17 (tied for 6th nationally)

Assists leader: Felicia Knox 20 (1st)

Points leader: Riley Mattingly Parker 41 (tied for 6th)

Goaltender: McKinley Crone .674 GAA (31st)

About the Crimson Tide 

• Coming off its first victory in the NCAA Tournament last season, Alabama was picked to finish fifth by league coaches. The Crimson Tide was also not listed in the preseason polls, but made it all the way up to No. 2 and secured top seeding in one of the four regionals. 

• The Crimson Tide has set the season record for points (220), goals (76), assists (68), shots (528), shots on goal (224), wins (23) and shutouts (12). 

• Alabama clinched its first SEC regular season championship, finishing the season undefeated in conference play with a 10-0 SEC record. It was the first team to go undefeated in conference play since South Carolina went 11-0 in 2016, however the Crimson Tide lost in the championship game of the SEC Tournament. It was the team's first defeat since the third game of the season on Aug. 21. 

• Riley Mattingly Parker is tied for the national lead in game-winning goals with seven. She holds the Alabama record for points (41), goals (17) and game-winning goals, while tying as the program leader in career game-winning goals (10). 

• Felicia Knox broke the Tide record for assists with 20 and career assists with 25. Parker was named the SEC Forward of the Year and SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year, while Knox was named the SEC Midfielder of the Year and Reyna Reyes was named the SEC Defender of the Year 

UCLA Bruins

Record: 20-2-1

Coach: Margueritte Aozasa

How advanced: No. 1 UCLA 2, No. 3 Virginia 1 (OT)

First three rounds: 4-1 over Northern Arizona, 1-1 (PK) over UCF, 2-0 over Northwestern

Scoring offense: 2.70 (seventh nationally)

Goals against average: .512 (sixth)

Goals leader: Sunshine Fontes 11 (tied for 36 nationally)

Assists leader: Ally Lemos 8 (tied for 33) 

Points leader: Sunshine Fontes 29 (tied for 25th)

Goaltender: Lauren Brzykcy .519 GAA (seventh)

About the Bruins:

• Sophomore Lilly Reale became just the second UCLA player ever to win the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award, joining World Cup champion Abby Dahlkemper (2014). Reale has started and played in 21 games this year, leading the Bruins to a conference-best 13 shutouts and a 0.49 goals against average.

• The Bruins, who are making their 26th overall and seventh consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament, have a 71-20-7 all-time NCAA Tournament record. UCLA has advanced to the quarterfinals or beyond 17 times and in six of the last 10 seasons, winning the 2013 NCAA title and making three College Cup appearances (2013, 2017 and 2019). UCLA is a No. 1 seed for the sixth time in program history and the first since 2014.

• The Bruins have 16 players who have seen NCAA action prior to this season. The Bruins' most experienced player in the tournament is Maricarmen Reyes, who has a total of 13 NCAA games played. Goalkeeper Lauren Brzykcy has started in six games.

• Aozasa is in her first season coaching UCLA. The former assistant coach was hired in December 2021 as the sixth head coach in UCLA women's soccer history. During her time with the Cardinal, it won NCAA championships in 2017 and 2019, and Pac-12 titles from 2015-19. The 2018 team also reached the College Cup.

• UCLA has already had two narrow escapes in the tournament, edging UCF in a shootout, and beating Virginia last week in overtime. The Bruins played Alabama's last opponent, Duke, during the regular season, edging the Blue Devils on their own field, 2-1, back on Sept. 1.

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Florida State Seminoles 

Record: 17-2-3

Coach: Brian Pensky 

How advanced: No. 1 Florida State 1, No. 3 Arkansas 0 

First three rounds: 3-0 over FGCU, 4-1 over LSU, 3-0 over Pitt

Scoring offense: 2.82 (4th nationally)

Goals against average: .765 (tied for 39th)

Goals leader: Onyi Echegini 10 (not in top 50 nationally) 

Assists leader: Jenna Nighswonger 16 (2nd)

Points leader: Jenna Nighswonger 28 (tied for 29th)

Goaltender: Cristina Roque .740 GAA (41st)

About the Seminoles: 

• FSU is in the College Cup for the 13th time and third time in the last four seasons. It won the 2014, 2018 and 2021 national titles. The Seminoles are the tournament's top-seeded team. 

• FSU vs. UNC is a rematch of the championship game of the ACC tournament at the College Cup site, Cary, N.C. Jody Brown scored the game-winning goal at 48:05. The most interesting stat from the game may be the possession total, which was 5 percent for each team. 

• Pensky is in his first year leading the Seminoles after 10 seasons at Tennessee. The Vols won the 2021 SEC Championship.

• Since September 3, 2010 the Seminoles have not lost a game they have lead at halftime.

• Seventh-year graduate student Clara Robbins is playing her seventh season after having a redshirt, a medical redshirt and a COVID year. The team co-captain played in 109 career games with 87 starts, and won two national championships. 

North Carolina Tar Heels

Record: 19-4-1 

Coach: Anson Dorrance

How advanced: No. 2 North Carolina 2, No. 1 Notre Dame 0 

First three rounds: 5-0 over Old Dominion, 3-1 over Georgia, 3-2 over BYU

Scoring offense: 2.42 (15th nationally)

Goals against average: .619 (tied for 13th)

Goals leader: Avery Patterson 11 (tied for 36th nationally)

Assists leader: Isabel Cox 8 (tied for 33rd) 

Points leader: Avery Patterson 30 (ties for 21st)

Goaltender: Emmie Allen .591 GAA (14th) 

About the Tar Heels:

• This will be the third time UNC and FSU will play this season. They split the first two with identical 2-1 sores, but the Seminoles won in the ACC Tournament championship game. 

• North Carolina has won 21 NCAA women's soccer national championships, but the last one was 10 years ago in 2012. Overall, the Tar Heels have appeared in 30 NCAA Women's College Cups, 18 more than the second closest team. UNC  is the only team in the country to appear in all 41 NCAA Women's Soccer Tournaments since the first one 41 was held in 1982.

• Dorrance, in his 46th year as a head coach at North Carolina, is the only head coach in program history. The 1974 UNC graduate has won a combined 1,092 games at his alma mater (919 women and 172 men). He was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2008, in his first year of eligibility, and us the all-time leader in Division I NCAA championships in any sport with 21.

• UNC had six players selected to the various All-ACC teams for 2022, including three first-team selections. Senior Tori Hansen, junior Sam Meza and redshirt freshman Ally Sentnor received first-team accolades, while junior Avery Patterson earned second-team honors and freshman Tessa Dellarose was tabbed third-team.

• The Tar Heels did something unusual for them in reaching the College Cup, play a quarterfinal on the road. It was their first quarterfinal road game since 2012 when they defeated No. 1 seed BYU in Provo, 2-1 in double overtime. 

See also:

How To Watch Alabama Soccer vs UCLA at the College Cup

Gianna Paul Could Be An X-Factor For Alabama Soccer

For Wes Hart and Alabama Soccer, Experience Pays

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