Even as the No. 5 seed, Idaho women’s soccer team has a lot to like about the way this year’s Western Athletic Conference tournament is shaping up.
The Vandals (7-10-3 overall, 3-3-1 WAC) open postseason play in Fresno, Calif., at noon Thursday against fourth-seeded San Jose State (6-11-1, 4-2-1), a team that beat them 2-1 in San Jose, Calif., during the regular season.
Coach Peter Showler is convinced the memory of that defeat will help motivate his team for Thursday’s rematch.
“I wouldn’t say I’m pleased about playing a team we lost to,” Showler said, “but it certainly gives us an extra edge, because our girls are still smarting a little from that defeat.”
The Vandals’ earlier loss to SJSU came on a Sunday, less than 48 hours after they had suffered a physically draining 1-0 loss at Fresno State.
“That was their only game of the weekend,” Showler said of Spartans. “So they had a lot of fresh legs, and I think those fresh legs paid off in the end.”
In addition, UI scored a goal just before halftime that was disallowed. Showler claims he was never given a definitive reason why.
“We still have a little bit of a chip on our shoulder about that loss,” Showler said. “We feel we need to go prove ourselves, and the nice thing about this game is that both teams are going in with the same amount of rest.”
Idaho made its first WAC tournament appearance in school history last fall, and suffered a 3-0 first-round loss to Fresno State, which came in as the No. 5 seed and went on to win the tournament.
“We went in last year for the first time a little bit like a deer in the headlights,” Showler said. “This year, we’ve got more experience in terms of knowing what the tournament entails, what kind of preparation is required and where our focus needs to be.”
In Thursday’s other first-round game, third-seeded Hawaii (5-11-1, 4-2-1) takes on No. 6 New Mexico State (9-7-3, 2-3-2), with top-seeded Utah State (13-4-2, 5-1-1) and second-seeded Fresno State (10-4-5, 4-1-2) earning byes into Friday’s semifinals.
The championship game will be played at 1 p.m. Sunday, and Showler sees no reason his Vandals – given a couple of breaks – can’t be a part of it.
“Utah State and Fresno certainly deserved to be up and around there,” he said, “but we have not seen anything that makes us think, ‘Oh, wow. They’re way better than us.’ Not at all.
“We know we can compete with anybody on the day.”
NIC opens postseason play
North Idaho College’s men’s and women’s teams open postseason play this week, hoping to advance to their respective NJCAA national tournaments.
The men travel to Tucson, Ariz., and will play the winner of Friday’s match between West District host Pima Community College (16-6-1) and Northwest College (15-4-1) at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, with the winner earning a spot in the national tournament that opens it four-day run in Phoenix on Nov. 17.
The Cardinals (6-6-3) lost their last two regular-season matches, but coach Ken Thompson rested many of his regulars in an effort to get them healthy for the district tournament.
NIC’s women (14-1-1), who are ranked No. 8 nationally, will travel to Hutchinson, Kan., to face Butler CC (17-3-1) in Friday’s semifinals of the District B playoffs. Host Hutchinson (16-2) and Laramie County (14-4-2) square off in the other semifinal, with the winners advancing to Saturday’s district championship to determine one of eight berths in the national NJCAA tournament that will be played Nov. 17-20 in Melbourne, Fla.
CCS women still in title chase
Community Colleges of Spokane’s women have already clinched a spot in the NWAACC playoffs that start next Wednesday, but the Sasquatch still have an outside chance of claiming a share of the East Division title.
CCS (14-3-0 overall, 11-2-0 in the East) travels to Walla Walla to take on the division-leading and unbeaten Warriors (17-0-1, 13-0-0) at 1 p.m. today and needs a victory to remain in the title chase.
The Sasquatch would then need to knock off Columbia Basin (8-5-2, 6-5-2) in Saturday’s regular-season finale that starts at noon at Spokane Falls Community College and hope that visiting Wenatchee Valley (2-13-0, 1-11-0) could score a major upset win over two-time defending NWAACC champion Walla Walla that same day.
Today’s matchup between CCS and WWCC will feature the conference’s top two scorers in the Warriors’ Kaylie Winston, who has a conference-high 24 goals and eight assists, and the Sasquatch’s Alli Floyd, who has 22 goals and nine assists.
Washington State (12-6-2, 6-3-1), after assuring itself of a winning Pacific-12 Conference record for the third time in four years, wraps up regular-season play against Washington (7-8-4, 3-5-2) in Seattle at 7 p.m. Thursday. … Gonzaga’s women (9-7-2, 0-5-2 ) will be looking for their first West Coast Conference win when they close their season at 7 p.m. Friday with a road game against Portland (8-9-1, 3-4-0). … Whitworth’s men (13-3-1, 11-2) close the regular season with 2:30 p.m. Saturday home game against Northwest Conference rival Whitman (9-7-2, 9-4). The Pirates’ only two NWC losses have come against conference-leading Pacific Lutheran (15-2, 12-1). … The Whitworth women (8-5-4, 8-3-4) end their season with an NWC match at Willamette (10-7-1, 9-4-1) that starts at noon Friday.