Once More in Tuscaloosa: No. 1 Alabama faces No. 2 Duke with Final Four at stake

Will Miller, Staff Reporter

The Alabama women’s soccer team is on the verge of a trip to Cary, North Carolina, for a chance at capping off its historic 2022 season with a national championship. The national quarterfinals are here, and the last team standing between the Crimson Tide and Cary is the Duke University Blue Devils. 

It will be the final match played in Tuscaloosa, where Alabama earned home field advantage as a No. 1 seed. The Blue Devils (15-4-3) are the No. 2 seed. 

“Duke’s an awesome team,” Alabama head coach Wes Hart said. “Incredibly talented team, at every position. They’re a team that is going to come out and play. They like a lot of the ball. They’re going to have more territory than teams we’ve been playing recently. It’ll be a different kind of a challenge.” 

Alabama (22-2-1) got here with wins over Jackson State University, the University of Portland and the University of California, Irvine. An undefeated conference regular season helped propel the team to the top seed in its portion of the bracket, and a victory over Duke would send the Crimson Tide to the national semifinals as the winners of that portion of the bracket. 

Alabama has beaten every ranked opponent it has played this season, including the ACC’s Clemson. A strong unit offensively and defensively, the Crimson Tide has continued to present a daunting test to its opponents. Tournament opponents have fallen to Alabama by a combined score of 14-2. 

The Duke Blue Devils (15-4-3) knocked the Crimson Tide’s newfound rival South Carolina out of the tournament to advance to Tuscaloosa. Duke is 3-1, including exhibition play, against SEC teams in 2022. The Blue Devils collected seven wins against ranked foes this fall and have beaten tournament opponents by a combined margin of 7-1. 

Duke also has something Alabama hasn’t dealt with all season — a player with the scoring numbers of the Crimson Tide’s Riley Mattingly Parker. 

Mattingly Parker, the 2022 SEC Forward of the Year and newly established single-season goals record holder, has put 17 scores into the back of the net. The Blue Devils’ Michelle Cooper will enter the quarterfinal with that exact same number of goals. 

“We know that Michelle Cooper is going to be a handful,” Alabama defender Gessica Skorka said. “I trust our defense, and I know that Sasha [Pickard], Brooke [Steere], Reyna [Reyes], Macy [Clem], myself, [and] [McKinley Crone], we are going to give her a run for her money.” 

“It’s all about being ourselves, and making sure that we are doing our job,” Crone said. “They’re going to give us a fight. At this point in the season, every team is good.” 

“[It] should be a back-and-forth game, with both teams being able to create a lot of opportunities,” Hart said. “We earned the right to host, and I’m certainly glad we did, because I think it’s going to come [up] huge for this game.” 

The matchup is set for 6 p.m. CT on Friday, Nov. 25. For the final time, Alabama will do battle in Tuscaloosa. It is one last chance for the Crimson Tide to add to its list of statements made at home. 

The stakes are massive. 

Questions or comments? Email Austin Hannon (Sports Editor) at [email protected]