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TCU Soccer Preview: Virginia

The Horned Frogs will battle it out with the Cavaliers tonight for a spot in the Final Four.

Photo courtesy of @TCUSoccer on Twitter

TCU Soccer is set to compete for a spot in the Final Four tonight as they take on the Virginia Cavaliers in the program’s first ever Elite 8 appearance.

With only eight teams remaining out of the original 48 that started this thing, the Horned Frogs are in elite company alongside perennial powerhouses like Florida State and North Carolina.

Of the eight teams remaining, FIVE, yes five, are ACC teams while TCU sits as the lone Big 12 squad standing after a familiar foe, Texas A&M, eliminated Oklahoma State on penalty kicks in the third round.

The Frogs are coming off an emotional late-game victory over No. 13 Georgetown in penalty kicks while the Cavaliers are fresh off a dominant 3-0 Sweet 16 performance against a solid Rice team.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but it seems like this Horned Frog team has a niche for late game dramatics. Including the regular season, TCU has now rallied from a deficit four times, and three of the four equalizing goals came within the last 14 minutes of the game (vs Ok. State, Kansas State and now Georgetown).

“We have this ability to pull things out when we need to at the last moment,” said head coach Eric Bell. “We have the wherewithal and fortitude to dig deep when we have to and that’s a sign of a really resilient team.”

Last time out was TCU’s first ever penalty shootout in the tournament, and let’s hope it stays that way cause boy was I on the edge of my seat for the entire lightning delay leading up to the PKs.

“They [opponents] should never count us out, we are always a threat no matter what minute it is,” said sophomore forward Grace Collins.

Now for this Elite 8 matchup, don’t let the fact that Virginia doesn’t have a fancy shmancy national seed number next to their name in the bracket fool you — this is a very, very good soccer team with extensive history in the NCAA Tournament.

Despite not having a national seed in the tournament, the Cavaliers earned the No. 12 ranking in the United Soccer Coaches Poll this season and are 26th in Soccer RPI. The Navy and Orange hold an absurd streak of 27 consecutive postseason appearances to coincide with their 33 all-time appearances.

Through 33 appearances (sheesh), Virginia has posted an all-time tournament record of 47-28-7. This will be their first Elite 8 appearance since 2015 and seventh under head coach Steve Swanson.

Comparing that to the Horned Frogs singular Elite 8 appearance and 2-4-1 all-time record in the tournament can be a little daunting, but that doesn’t seem to matter to Eric Bell and his team. This squad made it this far for a reason.

“Now it’s about not just getting here, but making a splash,” said Bell. “The expectation will be every year we make a run in this thing, which is hard, but that will be the expectation as we have to continue moving forward.”

Coach Bell said he expects tonight’s matchup vs the Cavaliers to be a soccer match full of passing. One key to victory this evening will be patience, patience, and more patience. Bell expressed that both Virginia and TCU have the ability to maintain possession in the long stretch, and without patience either side could get caught lacking and concede a goal.

Reading through their 2020/2021 stat lines, it’s easy to determine that Virginia has had loads of success offensively, but has also given up over twice as many goals as the Frogs have in the process.

Including the postseason, Virginia has conceded 21 goals compared to TCU’s eight (three of which came in the tournament). Offensively, though, Virginia has posted an absurd 145 shots on goal to go along with their 39 goals this season.

All in all the Cavaliers have posted a 13-4-2 record this season with all four losses coming against top-10 teams (West Virginia, Clemson, Florida State and North Carolina).

Other than Yazmeen Ryan, Emily Alvarado, Grace Collins or any TCU star for that matter, a player to watch in this contest will be Virginia’s Diana Ordoñez.

The sophomore forward has posted two hat tricks this season, including one on Wednesday to lock up the W vs Rice. Individually, Ordoñez ranks sixth in the country for total goals this season with 12.

One star player is cool and all, but the Horned Frogs enter the quarterfinals of this tournament with all-around fire power in EVERY position on the field.

The greatest TCU Soccer team in program history isn’t done yet. The Frogs’ historic tournament run continues today at 4 p.m. CST on Wakemed Field #2 in Cary, North Carolina.

Unfortunately, the games aren’t broadcasted on any TV network, so be sure to keep up with @TCUSoccer on Twitter as they will send out a link to the livestream minutes before kickoff.