SOCCER TO FACE BYU IN NCAA FIRST ROUND ACTION
BOULDER-The University of Colorado soccer team has received its first ever at-large bid to the 64-team NCAA Division I Soccer Championships, and as the tournament's 10th seed, the 11th-ranked Buffs (15-3-1) will play Brigham Young (14-6-2) in the very first game of the tournament Thursday, Nov. 13 while 14th ranked Utah (16-2-1) will host Idaho State (9-8-1). The winners will meet Saturday, Nov. 15 for the right to advance out of the early bracket. All games will be decided at the University of Utah's Ute Soccer Field in Salt Lake City the NCAA announced Monday.
Colorado and BYU will play the 11:00 a.m. match on Thursday, followed by Utah and Idaho State at 1:30 p.m. The winners will meet in the second round, Saturday, Nov. 15at 11:00 a.m. The winner of the second round game will advance to the tournament's third round (Nov. 21-23) on a campus site to be determined.
"I felt a little nervous for a while. You never know you're in until you see your name up there," said head coach Bill Hempen. "I'm glad we're not playing someone we've already played this year. It gives us a different motivation, as we won't be looking ahead and we won't be complacent. Now we're intrigued."
"Being the last Big 12 team to be announced made me a little nervous. But this is a real big deal. I'm just so excited. I have a huge smile on my face," said co-captain Jen Thais who is just one of two players remaining from the 2001 3-11-2 season.
The Buffs are one of an NCAA Tournament leading eight Big 12 teams advancing to the championships as Oklahoma State claimed the automatic bid with the Big 12 Tournament title and Texas, Kansas, Nebraska Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Missouri and CU all receiving at-large selections. The Big 12 best the ACC (7) and the Big East and Big Ten, which are each sending six schools apiece.
"I'm pleased that someone recognized that this is a pretty strong conference right now. I couldn't be happier."
Colorado is also one of 10 programs making their first ever appearance and are joined by DePaul, High Point, Illinois State, Loyola (Ill.), Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Stephen F. Austin, Navy and Western Michigan.
Colorado enters its first NCAA Championship as the regular season Big 12 champions with a 15-3-1 overall record. They came away from the regular season with the Big 12 Coach of the Year in Bill Hempen, Player of the Year Fran Munnelly (6 goals, 7 assists, 19 points) and Rookie of the Year Katie Griffin (school record 10 goals, 3 assists, school record 23 points). The Buffs have tied or bettered 20 school single season, career and class records. They have been ranked as high as fifth nationally and went unbeaten in 15 games and 2-1-1 against ranked opponents. In goal, Jessica Keller owns a school record 9 shutouts, 14 wins and a 0.59 goals against average while the CU defense has allowed just 12 goals all season.
Colorado had high hopes of being a first and second round host site, but is not weary of playing on the road where they are an impressive 6-1-1 away from Boulder, "I know that our people did all they could. I'm not complaining one bit," said Hempen.
Hempen doesn't see starting eight freshmen and sophomores and having a roster where all but three players have never been to an NCAA Tournament before as a disadvantage in taking on the NCAA veteran Cougars, "Being na?ve is not necessarily a bad thing. There's no reason not to look at this as an opportunity."
At 14-6-2, BYU is an at-large pick out of the Mountain West Conference, and will be making its seventh straight NCAA appearance and are 5-6 all-time in NCAA action since the 1997 tournament. Lakewood, Colo. native and Green Mountain H.S. product and former National Team member Aleisha (Cramer) Rose leads the Cougars in scoring with 6 goals, 11 assists and 23 points. She is one of six players in double figure points. Goalkeeper Ashley Smith has allowed just 14 games, has 28 saves and a 0.99 goals against average.
Utah is the Mountain West Conference regular season and tournament champion while Idaho State has the Big Sky's automatic bid.
"This is where it counts," said Munnelly.
NCAA DIVISION I WOMEN'S SOCCER CHAMPIONSHIP
First Round (Ute Soccer Field, Salt Lake City)
11:00 a.m. COLORADO (15-3-1) vs. BYU (14-6-2)
1:30 p.m. Utah (16-2-1) vs. Idaho State (9-8-1)
Second Round (Ute Soccer Field, Salt Lake City)
Saturday, November 15
11:00 a.m. First Round Winners