As his team celebrated its Big Sky Conference championship on Sunday afternoon, Eastern Washington soccer coach Chad Bodnar was asked about the NCAA tournament and who the Eagles might play.
“I guarantee you, we’ll play somebody really good,” Bodnar said.
Sure enough, Eastern will open at fifth-ranked Southern California, the Pac-12 runner-up and the No. 4 team in the nation according to the NCAA’s Ratings Percentage Index, or RPI.
Kickoff is 1 p.m. Saturday on the USC campus in Los Angeles.
“We’re going to look at some film, but we know they’re extremely athletic,” Bodnar said Monday afternoon following the unveiling of the 64-team bracket.
“They have some high-caliber players and they’re a program that has improved quickly over the last couple of years,” Bodnar said.
USC is 14-4-1 overall and finished 8-2-1 in the Pac-12. USC’s No. 2 regional seeding is the program’s highest since 2007, when the Trojans last won the Pac-12 title.
Southern Cal averages 2.11 goals per game and 1.74 assists, ranking second and third in the Pac-12. Junior forward Alex Anthony leads the team in scoring with 23 points on nine goals and five assists.
“We know it’s going to be a tough matchup, but our kids are excited,” Bodnar said.
The Eagles (14-4-3) earned the berth after a 2-1 win over Northern Arizona after a penalty-kick shootout at the EWU soccer field.
The Eagles are led by junior forward Chloe Williams, who led the Big Sky with 15 goals, 36 points and 93 shots. She was also second on the team with six assists.
“I know the kids are excited to play whoever,” Bodnar said. “I think athletically, we can do a couple of things to give USC some fits.”
The programs last met in September 2010 in Cheney, as the Trojans completed a nonconference road trip with a 5-1 victory.
The USC-EWU winner will face Texas A&M or Texas Christian in a second-round match next week.
Whitworth men return to Texas
The Whitworth men’s soccer team is headed back to San Antonio for the opening rounds of the NCAA Division III soccer tournament.
The Pirates (12-3-3 overall and 10-1-3 in the Northwest Conference) will open play Saturday at host Trinity University, where Whitworth lost in overtime to Redlands in the first round last year. Kickoff is at 2 p.m. PST.
Trinity is 20-1 after defeating Colorado College 2-1 in overtime of the Southern Collegiate Athletics Conference championship match. The Tigers will be making their 20th appearance in the NCAA Division III tournament.
The other half of the Trinity regional will pit Texas-Dallas (13-4-2) against Chapman (Calif.) (14-5-2). The winner of the Trinity University regional will advance to play in the sectional rounds on November 19-20 at a site still to be determined.
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