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May 25, 2023 — Inside the NCAA Division I Final Four

Tomorrow, the real business of choosing an NCAA Division I champion begins. Four very good sides, each with generational athletes and coaches willing to employ them to their fullest extent, will be facing off at Wake Med Soccer Park in Cary, N.C.

Here’s our worm’s eye view of the championships:


The obvious: A classic matchup of offense vs. defense. Northwestern has scored more than 10 goals in every game but one this season. Denver choked the very life out of the North Carolina offense last Thursday in the national quarterfinal round in the Pioneers’ 5-4 win

The not-so-obvious: There is a lot to be said for experience; Northwestern has made the Final Four 14 times under head coach Kelly Amonte-Hiller. This is Denver’s inaugural trip to the Final Four.

Key players: NU: Izzy Scane (gr., a), Erin Coykendall, (sr., a), Hailey Rhatigan (gr., a), Madison Taylor (fr., a), Samantha Smith (so, c), Samantha White (so., d), Molly Laliberty (gr., g). DU: Julia Gilbert (sr., a), Ryan Dineen (fr., a), Lauren Black (so., a), Trinity McPherson (gr., d), Abby Jenkins (jr., c), Emilia Bohl (so., g)

NU wins this game if: they score more than 15 goals. No way can Denver keep up in a track meet.

DU wins this game if: they can hold Northwestern under 10. I am certain the Denver coaching staff has gotten hold of the tape of the two games Northwestern played against Michigan on May 4 and May 14. In the first game, Northwestern won 18-11. In the second, Michgan improved on the defensive end, but fell 8-7.

The unanswered questions: What kind of game are we going to see? If it’s a track meet, like the 1996 semifinal between Temple and Maryland, Northwestern wins with ease. If it’s a lock-down match like the 1997 FIL Women’s World Cup, Denver’s more likely to win it.


The obvious: Two conference rivals who didn’t meet in the ACC final because the Orange were eliminated by UNC on April 28. Their lone meeting was the final game of the regular season, with Syracuse losing 17-16.

The not-so-obvious: Let’s refocus you on Syracuse: the Orange, the No. 2 seed, had two defeats in an eight-day period late in April. That can’t happen at this stage if you’re a supporter of the Onondagans. Boston College is looking to see whether the post-Charlotte North boomlet of star players at The Heights can compete at the highest level.

Key players: SU: Meaghan Tyrrell (gr., a), Emma Tyrrell (sr., m), Emma Ward (jr., a), Megan Carney (gr., a), Olivia Adamson (so., c), Katie Goodale (jr., d), Delaney Sweitzer (sr., g). BC: Jenn Medjid (gr., a), Shea Dolce (fr., g), Kayla Martello (jr., a), Cassidy Weeks (gr., m), Belle Smith (jr., m)

SU wins this game if: the midfield draw team is able to start possessions and if Katie Goodale is able to make a mark on defense. Which of the Emmas/Tyrrells will be the unstoppable force?

BC wins this game if: if Shea Dolce has the game of her young life. She stole the starting job from Rachel Hall and has been magnificent throughout the latter portion of the season.

The unanswered questions: Which unit will break first — the B.C. defense or the S.U. defense? And, which goalie is going to have the first real 10-bell save? Will Dolce and/or Sweitzer be required to make several of that caliber of stop?

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