Huskies Earn First Post-Season Berth Since 2004
Nov. 10, 2008
SEATTLE - After a three-year drought, the Washington women's soccer team is headed back to the NCAA postseason, with the Huskies grabbing one of 34 at-large selections into the 64-team tournament as announced Monday by the NCAA Division I Women's Soccer Committee.
UW will begin its ninth trip to the postseason against Louisiana State on Friday at Aggie Soccer Stadium in College Station, Texas, tentatively scheduled for 2 p.m. PT. The No. 3 seed in the North Carolina Region, the Texas A&M Aggies, are the host school for the weekend and will play Texas State on Friday at 5 p.m. PT. The winner of the UW-LSU game will play the winner of the Texas State-Texas A&M game on Sunday, tentatively set for 11:30 a.m. PT.
The tournament berth completes a full-circle comeback for the Huskies, who saw the highest of highs and the lowest of lows over a two-year span in 2004 and 2005. After a program-best NCAA Elite Eight finish and in 2004, UW went 0-17-3 in 2005. The Huskies went through a two-year rebuilding process in 2006 and 2007 when they won seven and five games, respectively, before bouncing back this season to post a 14-5-1 record - the third-most wins in school history - and a 5-3-1 Pac-10 record, tied for third with No. 9 USC.
The Pac-10, one of the most difficult conferences for women's soccer in the country, will be represented by six teams, tied with the Big 12 and Southeastern Conferences for the second-most teams in this year's tournament, trailing the Atlantic Coast Conference, which will send eight teams.
Head Coach Lesle Gallimore, who has been at the helm of the Huskies in 15 of the program's 18 seasons, was as happy about this postseason berth as any of the previous eight.
'It's beyond gratifying. Our team this year has just been phenomenal as a team,' Gallimore said. 'We are young and we have had some adversity, but every team has adversity. You get injuries and you just have to be, as a coaching staff and a team, all on the same page and mature enough to deal with it. I think our team has responded.'
The Huskies have just three active seniors and have largely been carried by a group of freshman and sophomores. The key cog, however, has been junior Veronica Perez (San Mateo, Calif.), who leads the team in goals, shots, game-winning goals and assists. Perez, who had just two career goals coming into the season, ranks second in the conference in game-winning goals (6), third in goals (12) and fourth in points (29).
The Huskies started as many as four freshmen at one time and a total of seven rookies saw playing time. One of those freshmen, Kate Deines, started every game and finished second on the team with six goals. The Issaquah, Wash., product was much heralded coming in as the three-time Washington State Player of the Year and has more than lived up to her billing.
Another freshman, goalkeeper Kari Davidson (Portland, Ore.), was forced into the starting role early in Pac-10 play when starting goalkeeper, junior Alex Phillips, was lost for the season with a torn ACL. After giving up nine goals combined in her first two Pac-10 games against No. 2 UCLA and No. 5 Stanford, Davidson went undefeated over the final six games in conference play, allowing just six goals.
'Ignorance is bliss sometimes and not knowing is half the battle with these guys,' Gallimore said. 'They've kind of blindly gone on their merry way and played games day-in and day-out. We never took a bad loss, which I thought was the key. All the teams we lost to were quality opponents and I think it has helped us be better. I know if we play any of those teams again, we have a better chance of improving on our results. We have seen some outstanding teams this year and we're prepared for the tournament.'
The Huskies faced one of the toughest schedules in the nation, playing eight teams who were selected Monday to compete in the tournament. Five of those teams come from the Pac-10 - California, Stanford, UCLA, USC and Washington State - along with No. 4 Portland, Illinois and Northern Arizona. All five of UW's losses and their lone tie this season came against a team selected for postseason play.
The Huskies started the season winning their first seven games - the second-best start in program history - before falling to Illinois in Champaign, 3-0. After two wins to improve to 9-1, the Huskies faced one of the most brutal stretches of any team in the country, playing No. 4 Portland, No. 9 USC, No. 2 UCLA and No. 5 Stanford all in succession. While the Huskies lost all four matches, they forced both Portland and USC into overtime, proving they could hang with the best.
UW then finished the regular season on a six-game unbeaten streak, defeating then-No. 13 Cal, Oregon and Oregon State, before settling on a 0-0 draw with Washington State. The Huskies closed out the regular-season slate last week with wins at home over the Arizona schools.
Washington will open with one of the six SEC teams to advance, LSU, which went 14-3-2 overall and finished 7-3-1 in the SEC West, tied for first in the division before falling to eventual champion Tennessee in semifinals of the SEC Tournament.
Should the Huskies advance, they would face either Texas State (13-3-4, 7-0-2 Southland Conference) or Texas A&M (15-4-1, 7-2-1 Big 12) on Sunday.
'Texas A&M has hosted - including last year - several College Cups and they do a tremendous job of hosting, That is just a great soccer venue,' Gallimore said. 'LSU, we'll need to do some research on them, but (assistant coach) Miranda Armstrong was at Florida State last year and they played them in the Second Round so we'll get some information on them. We're just excited. All the wondering and guessing of who-got-whom doesn't matter at this point. We told the team we're going to take it like we have all season and that's one game at a time. LSU is next up on the docket and we're psyched.'
The 27th annual NCAA Women's College Cup will be played December 5 and 7 at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina. North Carolina State University will serve as host.