So, is this the best team ever? North Carolina has won 17 NCAA titles in the 22 years that women's soccer has been an NCAA sport, but this year's edition is right up there with the all-time greats. They've got offense (a record 33 goals in the tournament), they've got defense (no goals in six games, and no shots on goal by UConn in the final), they've got the record (27-0-0, the best in history), and they've got seven players who were on the U.S. National team when it was No. 1 in the world, including World Cup veteran Cat Reddick. With all respect to the 1992 Mia Hamm-Kristine Lilly team, and the 1987 squad that gave up only two goals all year, the 2003 Tarheels may just have been better. It was a thrill watching them absolutely dismantle two very good teams from UCLA and Connecticut.
This weekend it's the men's turn, with the NCAA Final Four in Columbus, Ohio. Indiana ousted top-ranked UCLA last week in a 2-1 thriller; they and No. 2 Maryland will be the favorites. All three games will be on ESPN2, though the second semifinal will be tape-delayed a day. NCAA Final Four on ESPN2, Dec. 12-14. Semifinals: Maryland vs. St. John's, Fri., 4pm; Indiana vs. Santa Clara, Sat., 3:30pm (tape delay); Final: Sun., 1pm.
English move on; Scots go home. That was the gist of the final results as European Champions League group play concluded this week. Arsenal, Manchester United, and Chelsea each won 2-0 to finish atop their groups. They'll advance to the round of 16 after the holidays, along with two northern Italian clubs (AC, Inter Milan, and Juventus); all four Spanish entries (led by Real Madrid); two clubs each from France and Germany; plus Porto from Portugal; and two Eastern European teams: Sparta Prague and Lokomotiv Moscow. Glasgow's two bitter rivals both crashed out in a painful manner -- Rangers losing at home to lowly Panathinaikos of Greece, and Celtic giving up an 86th minute penalty in Lyon to lose 3-2, when a draw would've seen them through. Complete results and final standings are on "Soccer Watch" online at austinchronicle.com.