There are probably some Washington State University soccer fans who feel the NCAA selection committee shortchanged their Cougars as far as the bracketing for this year’s Division I championship is concerned.
The third-best team in the powerful Pacific-10 Conference would seem to command a bit more respect than being forced to fly cross-country to face a middling Big East Conference opponent in its backyard.
Yet, that is what WSU (13-5-3, 5-2-2 Pac-10) will have to do to face Villanova (11-5-5, 4-4-3) in Friday’s nightcap of a first-round doubleheader hosted by the University of Maryland.
The Cougars must leave today to get to College Park, Md., late this evening and practice Thursday. Meanwhile, Villanova – which tied for fourth in the National Division of the Big East – can make a much more leisurely trip from its home base in Philadelphia to the UM campus, a mere two-hour drive away.
Still, WSU coach Matt Potter isn’t complaining.
“Is it the best-case scenario? Of course not,” Potter said Tuesday. “We’d like to be sleeping in our own beds and be at home. But that’s not the cards we’ve been dealt, so we’ll just have to make the most of it.”
It should help, Potter said, that his Cougars have traveled far – and well – all fall, having made treks to Florida and Texas as part of an ambitious and taxing non-conference schedule that seems to have prepared them for the considerable challenges of playing in the Pac-10, which produced the tournament’s No. 1 seed in unbeaten and top-ranked Stanford.
“Travel isn’t new to us,” Potter said. “The reality is, we’re just very happy to be part of the tournament. You can be disappointed (about the bracketing), but we knew we weren’t going to host, and if you’re not going to host, who cares where you go?
“That’s the attitude the team has taken: Wherever they send us is OK – let’s just prepare and be ready to go. I think our season has prepared us for that, based on all the travel we’ve already had.”
But that doesn’t mean Potter expects his Cougars to have their way against a Villanova team that was one of seven Big East teams to make the tournament.
“Obviously, they’ve got 11 wins for a reason,” he said. “They’re an attack-minded team, very similar to a lot of teams we’ve faced.
“They’re deserving, and they will obviously be traveling a lot shorter distance than we are, so we’re going to have to be ready.”
CCS opens today
Both the Community Colleges of Spokane men and women will open play in the first round of the NWAACC playoffs this afternoon, with the Sasquatch men (7-8-4, 7-3-3) entertaining Pierce Community College (6-6-3, 6-5-2) in a 3 p.m. match at Spokane Falls Community College.
The CCS women (9-4-4, 9-3-3) will play their first-round match today at 1 p.m. in Oregon City, Ore., against host Clackamas (8-4-3, 8-3-2), the runner-up to Chemeketa in the South Division.
No go for Whit women
Whitworth University’s men’s team made it into the postseason by winning the Northwest Conference title and earning the league’s automatic berth in the NCAA Division III tournament.
But the selection committee passed on giving Whitworth’s women an at-large berth, despite the fact that the Pirates finished 17-3 overall and 14-2 in the Northwest Conference.
The Bucs’ 9-1 road record was the best in school history and their 17 wins were only one behind the school-record 18 posted by the 2007 team that finished 18-3 and received an at-large berth to the tournament.