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ACC Women’s Soccer Championship an ACC/Big Ten challenge

The NCAA Women’s Soccer Championship will come down to a showdown between the ACC and the Big Ten this weekend in Cary’s WakeMed Soccer Park.

The ACC bracket has reigning NCAA champion Florida State and hometown favorite Duke, while the Big Ten bracket offers Penn State and Rutgers.

Not surprising for conference rivals, these two games offer rematches of regular-season meetings. Duke and Florida State played to a 0-0 tie, while Rutgers and Penn State split decisions. Florida State (18-2-4) and Penn State (20-3-2) are No. 1 seeds, having won their respective conference championships. Rutgers (19-3-3) is a No. 2 seed, and Duke (13-5-5) is a No. 3 seed.

Duke and FSU tied on Sept. 20 in their ACC opener at Durham. The Seminoles were without five of their international players, who were away on national team duty. Duke dominated statistically, outshooting the Seminoles 25-8, but FSU goalkeeper Cassie Miller kept it scoreless with six saves.

“Last year they ended our season, which I think makes everyone more excited to play them again,” Duke goalkeeper EJ Proctor said. “When we played earlier this season, they didn’t have a few of their starters, so that made a difference in how they played. We’re definitely excited to play them again now that they have everyone.”

Rutgers won at home over Penn State 1-0 on Oct. 18 on a goal by Colby Ciarrocca. But the host Nittany Lions avenged the loss with a 2-0 triumph in the Big Ten tournament championship game Nov. 8, with Elizabeth Ball and Emily Ogle scoring first-half goals.

Seminoles’ streak: Florida State enters its fifth consecutive College Cup, and ninth all-time, riding an NCAA record scoreless streak. The Seminoles have not allowed a goal in NCAA tournament play for 10 full games, 900 minutes.

The last goal Florida State gave up in the NCAA tournament came in the 2013 championship game at WakeMed, when UCLA’s Kodi Lavrusky scored at 96:41 in overtime for a 1-0 victory.

WakeMed was also the site when FSU last gave up a goal this season. Florida State and Virginia tied 2-2 in the ACC tournament championship game before the Seminoles claimed the title on penalty kicks, 7-6.

Last year they ended our season, which I think makes everyone more excited to play them again.

Duke goalkeeper EJ Proctor

College Cup fixtures: With Duke and Florida State advancing to this year’s College Cup, the ACC extended an impressive record. The conference has had at least one representative in soccer’s final four in 33 of the 34 NCAA tournaments, missing only in 2004. That College Cup was held at WakeMed also.

Nine times now the ACC has had two teams in the final four. Twice there were three, which nearly occurred again this year but for Rutgers’ 7-6 triumph in penalty kicks over No. 1 seed Virginia last Friday.

This will be Penn State’s fifth time in the College Cup. Duke is making its third trip, while Rutgers is here for the first time. None of those three schools has ever won the NCAA title. FSU got its first last year.

Men’s tournament update: The ACC is assured of having at least one team in the men’s College Cup because Syracuse will host Boston College in the quarterfinals Saturday. In last weekend’s round of 16, No. 6 Syracuse downed No. 11 Seattle 3-1, while unseeded BC eliminated No. 3 Georgetown 5-4 on penalty kicks after playing to a 1-1 tie. The Eagles, who finished seventh in the ACC regular-season standings, are the only unseeded team left in the field.

Including this year, the ACC has sent at least one team to the College Cup 38 times in the 57-year history of the NCAA tournament. Seven times there were two ACC teams, and three times there were three. Over the last decade, the ACC’s dominance has been even more pronounced. There have been 21 ACC teams in the College Cup in the previous 11 years, and an ACC team has won the championship seven of the last 10 years.

Two other ACC teams will play in the quarterfinals this weekend and could join the Syracuse/BC winner in the College Cup on Dec. 11-13 at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan.

No. 1 Wake Forest advanced to the round of eight with a 1-0 win over No. 16 Indiana. On Saturday the Deacons will host No. 8 Stanford and U.S. National Team forward Jordan Morris, who had two goals in a 3-1 win over No. 9 Ohio State. No. 2 Clemson defeated No. 15 UC Santa Barbara, which got a goal from Duke transfer Seo-In Kim in a 3-2 loss, and faces Maryland on Friday.

The ACC’s casualties in the round of 16 were No. 5 UNC falling to No. 12 Creighton and former UNC coach Elmar Bolowich 1-0, and No. 7 Notre Dame losing to No. 10 Maryland 2-1.