By JOHN BOSCHINI
It might not have been easy, but the top seeds did enough to dispatch their competition and advance into the quarterfinals of the 2010 NCAA Tournament.
Seven of the top eight seeds advanced to the quarters, with only No. 10 seed Michigan winning a match-up against a higher seed. Tournament favorites Akron and Maryland both registered victories, while No. 1 seed Louisville stayed undefeated.
No. 4 North Carolina needed some late-game heroics and a shootout to overcome Michigan State. After a scoreless opening hour, the visiting Spartans took the lead in the 65th minute with a Cyrus Saydee goal from 12 yards out. The upset looked complete when North Carolina couldn't convert on one of its numerous chances. But with nine seconds left in regulation, Enzo Martinez took advantage when Michigan State failed to clear and blasted an equalizer from 20 yards out.
Both overtime periods were scoreless and UNC was faced with its second consecutive penalty kick shootout and the end result turned out to be exactly the same. Scott Goodwin stoned Saydee while Michigan State goalkeeper Avery Steinlage couldn't stop Martinez's final spot kick and North Carolina advanced to the quarterfinals for the third-straight year with a 5-4 shootout victory.
No. 3 Akron scored two second-half goals within 70 seconds and held off a late charge from No. 14 Indiana, advancing with a 2-1 victory. After a scoreless first half nearly devoid of chances, Michael Nanchoff opened the scoring with a close-range shot. Freshman Darren Mattocks was gifted his 18th goal of the year when Indiana keeper Luis Soffner muffed his clearance barely a minute later. Mattocks intercepted the errant pass and slotted it home to double the Zips lead.
The Hoosiers brought a goal back when Andy Adlard scored with nine minutes left to play but Will Bruin went off injured and Akron was able to run out the clock.
No. 1 Louisville extended its undefeated streak to 21 games with a 2-1 victory over No. 16 Ohio State. Charlie Campbell put the Cardinals ahead in the 24th minute with a close-range header. Six minutes after the intermission, Austin McAnena equalized for Ohio State with his fifth goal of the season. Austin Berry's diving header in the 63rd minute gave Louisville the lead and the Cardinal defense held on for the victory.
No. 10 Michigan continued its torrid run of form with a 3-1 defeat of No. 7 South Carolina. All of the Wolverines' goals came in a 17-minute spurt in second half. Justin Meram broke a scoreless deadlock in the 64th minute with a close-range goal. Freshman Soony Saad added his 19th goal of the season with a long-range effort just seven minutes later before Meram completed his double in the 81st minute.
Sam Arthur brought one back for the Gamecocks with six minutes left on the clock but it served as little more than a consolation. Michigan has won its last eight games by a combined score of 24-8.
No. 6 California successfully saw off 10-man Brown with a 2-0 victory. John Fitzpatrick opened the scoring on the half-hour mark with a headed goal to give the Golden Bears the halftime lead. Seven minutes into the second half, Brown defender Eric Robertson defelcted the ball into his own net to double Cal's lead. Brown's defeat was virtually assured when Robertson was sent off with a red card.
No. 2 Maryland left it late but advanced to the Elite Eight with a 1-0 victory over No. 15 Penn State. After a tightly-contested first half, Maryland dominated play in the second half, outshooting the Nittany Lions 14-2. But the breakthrough didn't come until the very end when Taylor Kemp scored his first career goal in the 88th minute.
No. 8 UCLA overcame Ivy League upstart Dartmouth with a 2-1 victory in double overtime. Eder Arreola put the Bruins up early with a curling shot in the 26th minute. Bryan Giudicelli equalized for Dartmouth with a rebound on the hour mark. The match seemed destined for a penalty kick shootout but Arreola completed his brace just eight seconds before the end of the second overtime to advance UCLA into the quarterfinals.
No. 5 Southern Methodist needed only one goal to see off No. 12 William & Mary. The Mustangs' only goal came early when Josue Soto's scored from the top of the box for his seventh goal of the season. SMU had several chacnes to double its lead but it was the Tribe who almost equalized in dramatic fashion but Nathaniel Brako's goal was ruled offisdes with 24 seconds left.
Seven of the top eight seeds have reached the quarterfinals. The only exception is No. 10 Michigan, who is one of the hottest teams in the nation.
What did you think of today's games? Surprised the top four seeds advance? What matchup are you most excited about next weekend? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.