NCAA tournament on deck for six Pac-12 women's soccer teams

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The 2013 season came to a close on Friday, wraping up with rivarly games over three days last week. The season finales were much like the regular season with some predictable finishes but a whole lot of last minute heroics as teams were stating their case for NCAA tournament bids until the final whistle. Utah and California used golden goals to kock off Colorado and Stanford, respectively, which would prove huge heading into selection Monday. ARIZONA STATE, WASHINGTON, OREGON STATE, USC and OREGON all saw their seasons come to an end last week, finishing tied for tied for sixth through 12th, respectively, in the final Confeerence standings. UCLA clinched their spot in the Big Show by winning their 11th overall Pac-12 title and first since 2008. The other teams’ fates were left to the selection committee, and five more Pac-12 teams saw their postseason  hopes come true when they heard their name called on Monday afternoon. WASHINGTON STATE, STANFORD, UTAH, CALIFORNIA and COLORADO earned at-large berths in the 64-team field. UCLA was the only Pac-12 team to be seeded in a bracket, garnering one of the four number two seeds. The first round takes place on campus sites on Friday and Saturday this weekend. UCLA, Washington State and Stanford are all hosting games, while Utah, Colorado and California will travel for a chance to advance to the second round. The second and third rounds will be played the following weekend on Friday & Sunday at a determined host site. Pac-12 teams could meet as early as the third round as UCLA and Stanford are on a path to meet in the round of 16 in their respective bracket. A quarterfinal matchup is possible between Washington State and Colorado and/or Utah and UCLA/Stanford. California is the lone Pac-12 team in its bracket. Read further for full bracket and for live streaming information, check with ncaa.com and the schools’ athletic departments.

AROUND THE LEAGUE

Six is the Magic Number: For the third-straight year half of Pac-12 women’s soccer earned NCAA Tournament bids. Last year, two teams advanced to the round of eight, with UCLA and Stanford facing-off for a trip to the College Cup Final Four. Stanford came out on top, winning 2-1. Those two teams are in line to face eachother in the same round if both are to make it that far. 

NCAA Tournament Legacy: The Pac-12 has placed at least one team in the College Cup each of the last ten seasons (since 2003) and has produced two semifinalists on four occasions. The Conference has been represented in four of the last six National Championship games, with USC and Stanford taking home titles in 2007 and 2011 respectively. When it comes to tournament time, Stanford as been the Conference darlings, making five straight College Cup appearances, finishing as the NCAA runner-up in 2009 and 2010 before winning their championship in 2011. UCLA and Stanford will be making their Conference-best 16th straight postseason tournament appearances, while Stanford has the Conference lead as it will make its 22nd overall appearance this weekend.

Postseason Return: Colorado and Utah were the biggest surprises of the 2013 season, and were rewarded with their first postseason bids in quite some time. Picked to finish ninth and 10th, respectively, the Buffs and Utes used solid defense and strong keeper play to make its way towards the top of the Conference stadings. The Utes finished third behind UCLA and Washington State, while Colorado willed its way to a sixth-place finish. Utah is returning the tournament for the first time since making five consecutive trips from 2002-2006 while Colorado made its way back in after a four-year absence. The Buffs had a seven year run from 2003-08 and are looking to start another postseason streak under second-year coach Danny Sanchez.

All-Conference honors: Washington State senior midfielder Micaela Castain earned Pac-12 Player of the Year honors, the first Cougar to win the honor in the award’s history. The first team All-Pac-12 performer led the Conference in points (33) and assists (11) and co-led in goals (11). Castain’s second-year coach Keidane McAlpine was named Pac-12 Coach of the Year after leading the Cougars to their highest Conference finish ever and their third-straight NCAA tournment berth. Pac-12 champion UCLA’s freshman forward sensation Darian Jenkins earned Freshman of the Year honors while also being named a first team All-Pac-12 and All-Freshman performer. Jenkins didn’t play like a first-year collegiate soccer player and was instrumental in helping the Bruins knock Stanford off the Conference pedastal for the first time since 2008. 

Getting Hot at the Right Time (Or Staying Hot): UCLA, Washington State and California all have winning streaks heading into the postseason. Since the Bruins lost to defending national champions and then-No. 1 North Carolina, they have gone unbeaten through 15 games, winning 13 of them. Washington State meanwhile, began the season unbeaten through August and September and after a few tough losses in Conference play, rebounded to win five straight to take sole possesion of second-place. California arguably saved their postseason chances in the last week of the regular season, beating Washington a week ago Sunday then stealing a 1-0 win at Stanford in overtime. The Bears had their best start through 13 games since 1993, going unbeaten in their first 13 games, but stumbled in Conference play and needed the end of the season recovery to secure a postseason berth. These teams are no stranger to streaking, which bodes well for a tournament run. 

NCAA TOURNAMENT FIRST ROUND INFO:

-UCLA (17-1-2) is one of four No. 2 seeds after finishing the regular season unbeaten in Conference play to win its 11th Pac-12 title and first since 2008. This is the program’s 16th straight and 18th all-time appearance in the tournament. UCLA hosts San Diego State in the first round at Drake Stadium on Friday, Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. PT. The Bruins beat San Diego State, 2-0, on Friday, Sept. 13 after returning home from a road trip in which they faced four-straight ranked opponents, winning three of the four. 

-WASHINGTON STATE (14-3-3) won their last five Conference games to finish second in the Pac-12, their highest Conference finish ever, and earn an at-large bid. This marks the third-straight and eighth all-time NCAA Tournament berth for the Cougars, who have appeared in four of the last five. They will host Illinois for a first round game in Pullman on Saturday, Nov. 16 at 1 p.m. PT. It is the Cougars’ first time hosting an NCAA tournament game since 2000.

-UTAH (10-4-6) used a dominating defense en route to a third-place finish in the Pac-12, its highest finish since joining the Conference prior to the 2011 season. They will travel to take on Texas A&M in College Station, the SEC Champions and No. 4 seed in the region, on Friday, Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. CT.

-STANFORD (13-5-1) earned an at-large bid after an up-and-down Conference slate and a fourth place Pac-12 finish. This is the program’s 16th-straight and 22nd overall appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The Cardinal hosts Cal State Fullerton on Friday, Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. at Laird Q. Cagan Stadium. 

-CALIFORNIA (11-4-5) nabbed another at-large bid after finishing fifth in the Pac-12 and occupying a spot in or just outside the NSCAA top-25 all season. Cal will travel a short distance to Santa Clara for the second time this season to take on the Broncos in a first round game in Santa Clara, Calif. on Saturday, Nov. 16 at 1 p.m. PT. In the previous meeting on Sept. 19, the Bears and Broncos battled to a 1-1 double overtime draw.

-COLORADO (12-6-2) received the last at-large bid for the Pac-12 after finishing tied for sixth in the final regular season standings. They will head to Denver on Saturday to take on the Summit League Champions at 4:30 p.m. MT. The Buffs and Pioneers met earlier in the season in Boulder, ending in a 3-0 win for Denver.

UPCOMING SCHEDULE (Times local to site)
Friday, November 15
Utah at (4)Texas A&M, 7 p.m. CT
San Diego State at (2)UCLA, 7 p.m. PT
Cal State Fullerton at Stanford, 7 p.m. PT
 
Saturday, November 16
Illinois at Washington State, 1 p.m. PT
California at Santa Clara (4), 1 p.m. PT
Colorado at Denver (4), 4:30 p.m. MT 
 
 
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