The strength of the Pac-12 Conference – and a 1-0 win over Washington on Friday – assured the Washington State Cougars a trip the NCAA women’s soccer tournament.
“Playing in one of the top conferences in the country can only prepare you for NCAA play,” first-year coach Keidane McAlpine said on Monday after the NCAA announced that the Cougars would travel to Portland for a first-round game Friday night.
“We had to prepare week in and week out to face some of the top teams in the country,” McAlpine said.
The Cougars (12-6-1 and 6-4-1 in the Pac-12) will face a perennial playoff team in the unranked but fourth-seeded Portland Pilots (11-4-4), who finished second in the rugged West Coast Conference.
“Portland is one of the toughest places to play in the country,” McAlpine said. “They have a couple of fantastic forwards and a really strong defensive team.
“I do think we match up well against them, though. It will be a very exciting NCAA game.”
The winner will face either Michigan or Central Michigan the following weekend.
Washington to host Auburn: The Huskies will entertain McAlpine’s old team, Auburn, Friday night in Seattle.
The Huskies (10-7-3 overall) finished only seventh in the Pac-12 at 3-6-2, but a difficult non-conference schedule helped put them in the 64-team field.
“Our team has worked really hard and they deserve this,” said coach Lesle Gallimore. “The Pac-12 is one of the toughest conferences in the country and if you can manage to just get in that top half, you certainly give yourself a chance to get to the tournament.”
Six teams from the Pac-12 were selected.
Overall, five of the nine teams Washington played in its non-conference schedule made the NCAA tournament with the Huskies going 3-1-1 in those games. Included in those five are BYU and Utah State, who face each other in a first-round game. That winner would face either UW or Auburn in the second round.
Whitworth men in
Despite replacing most of its starting lineup this season, Whitworth is back in the NCAA Division III men’s tournament.
“It was awesome to witness their growth as a team and as individuals,” Whitworth coach Sean Bushéy said Monday after the Pirates were paired against Mississippi College on Saturday in San Antonio.
“This is my 17th season, so this was a unique way of the players coming together so quickly.”
Trinity University will host the first- and second-round matches. The Tigers will play Claremont-Mudd-Scripps in the other first-round matchup.
“The NCAA tournament is always a great place to be; there is just an added excitement that comes with it and memories that will last a lifetime,” Bushey said.
Whitworth is 13-2-3 after winning its seventh Northwest Conference title in the last nine years with a 10-2-2 record.
Senior goalkeeper Kyle Novak has a 0.29 goals-against average, which ranks fourth in the nation. Sophomore forward Robby Ubben has seven goals this season, including four match-winners.
Mississippi College comes into the tournament 12-5-2 with the automatic berth from the American Southwest Conference.
The time of Saturday’s first-round match is to be determined.
The Pirates have qualified for six of the last 11 tournaments, and reached the Elite 8 in their last appearance, in 2009.