Leading The Way … Again

ACC Fall Sports Resume Familiar Postseason Form

GREENSBORO, N.C. (theACC.com) – The semifinal round of the 2015 NCAA Field Hockey Championships on Friday will see the renewal of one of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s most intense all-sports rivalries.

North Carolina will face Duke – in Ann Arbor, Michigan. 

It should be considered something unusual, except that it is not.  Ann Arbor simply happens to be this year’s host city for the NCAA field hockey final four, so an overloaded ACC presence is all but a given. The UNC-Duke winner could face Syracuse in Sunday’s championship, as the Orange will take Connecticut in Friday’s other semifinal. 

How close did this weekend come to being an All-ACC affair? UConn defeated Boston College in the quarterfinal round – by a score of 1-0.

Impressive but, again, not surprising. The ACC saw all seven of its field hockey teams chosen for this year’s NCAA field. The league claimed six of the eight at-large spots in the tournament and three of four host sites were awarded to ACC programs. An ACC team has won the national championship 17 times, including 10 of the last 13 years.

The field hockey success mirrors that of ACC Fall Olympic Sports in general, which have once again set an impeccable standard.

Of the national-best eight women’s soccer teams that earned NCAA Championship berths, seven remain standing as the tournament heads into the second and third rounds this weekend. The ACC also led all conferences with seven bids to the 48-team NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship, including five of the top eight national seeds.

And the ACC will be well represented at this weekend’s NCAA Cross Country Championships in Louisville, with six men’s teams and four women’s teams participating.

“The consistently strong performance of ACC Olympic Sports teams on the national stage has almost come to be expected, but we don’t take it for granted,” ACC Commissioner John Swofford said. “It is a testament to the commitment and dedication of our schools, our student-athletes and our coaches.”

Both the women’s and men’s soccer brackets find ACC teams defending NCAA titles, and both sports join field hockey with historic postseason accomplishments that span several decades.

Led by defending national champion Florida State, the ACC’s eight-team NCAA Women’s Soccer Championship contingent included two No. 1 seeds and seven total national seeds. This marked the 17th straight year with at least six ACC teams selected to the NCAA field, and the eighth time in the last nine years that at least eight league teams have earned spots.

“You’re talking, without a doubt, the finest women’s soccer conference in the nation,” said Florida State head coach Mark Krikorian, whose team defeated NCAA No. 3 seed North Carolina and fellow No. 1 seed Virginia earlier this month at Cary, N.C., to claim its third straight ACC Championship title. “You look at the field of the (four-team) ACC Tournament, and we had teams that didn’t make it there that are national NCAA seeds.”

Current ACC membership owns 25 NCAA Women’s Soccer titles, led by North Carolina’s 21. Notre Dame has won three titles, and Florida State put its first on the board last season.  Thirty-four number one regional seeds have come from the ACC, including at least one in 14 of the last 15 tournaments. The ACC Champion has gone on to win the NCAA College Cup 15 times, including Florida State last season.

On the men’s side, this year’s seven NCAA bids are the most from any conference in the country, the third-straight year the ACC has placed the most teams in the tournament. It is the 15th consecutive year with at least five ACC teams in the tournament, a total that ties for the second most in league history.

With Virginia claiming the NCAA title in 2014, an ACC team has now won the national championship in men’s soccer 17 times, including in seven of the past 10 years. At least one ACC squad has reached the College Cup in 14 straight seasons, while nine different league programs have reached the sport’s highest stage.

That isn’t by accident, says Notre Dame veteran coach Bobby Clark, considering how battle-tested conference teams are by the time NCAA play begins.

“Every game is just so much fun because you don’t have to get the guys hyped up to play during league games,” Clark said. “I always take that as a plus, and we know it’s going to be competitive … When you play a schedule like that and reach the postseason tournaments, you’re not intimidated at all. 

“That has been one of the reasons why (so many recent) national championships have been won by an ACC team. It’s a phenomenal record of teams that are either winning it or consistently in the final four. I don’t think any other conference comes close.”