After a roller-coaster regular season, Washington State has not only reached the NCAA Tournament, but the Cougars will host Montana in a first-round match Friday night.
“It’s a big day for Washington State athletics and the soccer program,” coach Todd Shulenberger said Monday afternoon following the NCAA selection show.
“It’s been a crazy year and it’s been wild, it’s been a rollercoaster for sure, but this group did not quit one bit. So our goal now is simple…we’ve got to go out and do better in the tournament and that’s what we’re looking forward to doing.”
After winning their first 10 and reaching a program-high No. 7 ranking on Oct. 1, the Cougars lost several players to injury along with five straight matches.
However, WSU regrouped with a 1-0 win over then-No. 8 UCLA and a 1-1 draw against top-ranked Stanford. The Cougars all but sealed their at-large berth with a 3-1 win over Washington to finish 5-5-1 in the Pac-12 and 12-5-1 overall.
Other Pac-12 teams in the tournament are Stanford, USC, UCLA and Arizona.
Montana is the surprise winner of the Big Sky Conference tournament. Seeded fifth in the six-team tournament, the Griz posted shutout wins over Northern Arizona, Weber State and Northern Colorado to claim an automatic berth in the NCAAs.
Montana is 7-8-6 overall, including a 3-1 loss at WSU on Sept. 14.
In that match, the Cougars’ Mak Gomera-Stevens scored two minutes into the match.
Last year the Cougars made the most of an at-large selection by reaching the Sweet 16. WSU bear eighth-ranked Central Florida in the opening round and No. 20 Tennessee on penalty kicks before falling in overtime at 16th-ranked Florida.
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