Buffs Advance To NCAA Soccer Tournament, Host First And Second Round Games
BOULDER, Colo. - The University of Colorado women's soccer team earned its fourth-straight appearance, and a No. 4 seed, in the 2006 NCAA Soccer Tournament today, as the Buffaloes were also selected as one of 16 hosts for first and second round games that will be played this Friday and Sunday, November 10 and 12.
Colorado will welcome a pair of local teams to Boulder as well as a new face from the SEC.
Tournament play in Boulder will begin with the first round match between the University of Denver and the University of Kentucky on Friday at Prentup Field in Boulder. The Buffaloes, at 12-5-4 this season and fresh off of their second straight Big 12 Championship appearance, will follow as they host the Colorado College Tigers in their first round match-up. The game times will be announced on Tuesday.
"This will be huge for us," senior captain Laura Munnelly said. "Hopefully we can get a ton of people to come out and support us."
"You've got to applaud the two other Colorado teams," Colorado coach Bill Hempen said. "For giving Colorado the opportunity, not necessarily the university, but the state, a chance to host a Division I NCAA Tournament. Congrats to CC and DU."
The Buffaloes, making their fourth-ever NCAA Tournament appearance and ranked No. 16 in the latest Soccer America poll, will look to continue their seven-game unbeaten streak on Friday, having won their last two NCAA Tournament first round matches, including last year's postseason victory over UC Riverside, where Colorado won 4-3 in a shootout.
"I think we all just came together and found a common bond and a common goal," Munnelly said. "We figured out what we all wanted to do. We're peaking at the right time and hopefully we can continue through the NCAA's."
Colorado is 4-2 all-time against the Colorado College Tigers, winning the last four meetings between the two schools, having not conceded a goal in those four matches. Colorado College (15-5-1) is making their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 1991, earning an at-large bid to the field of 64 after falling to Alabama-Birmingham 3-2 in the Conference USA Championship match on Sunday.
On the other side of the Boulder draw, the Sun Belt Conference Champion Denver Pioneers will look to improve their 14-game winning steak against the tournament champions from the Southeastern Conference, the University of Kentucky Wildcats.
Denver (18-2-1) capped off an impressive conference run on Sunday, defeating North Texas 4-0, to capture their fourth conference championship in six years. The Pioneers have remained unbeaten this season since their 1-0 loss against CU on September 12 in Boulder.
Kentucky (14-6-3) will make its first appearance in the tournament since 2002, as the Wildcats will look to capture the school's first ever NCAA Tournament victory. Kentucky comes into their first round match against Denver on a seven-game unbeaten streak, fresh off their 2-1 win over No. 12 Florida, en route to the SEC Championship.
Friday will mark the first time Colorado has hosted an NCAA Soccer Tournament, a luxury Hempen won't take for granted, out of experience from past seasons.
"The last two years with us playing to the Sunday of the Big 12 Tournament, the thought of having to get on a plane on Thursday can just beat you down," Hempen said. "We went the limit this past weekend, and the thought of being able to sleep in your own bed will make the recovery that much quicker mentally and physically."
The Buffaloes posted a 4-4-1 record against the 7 teams they faced this season that qualified for the NCAA Tournament, which include Texas, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma State of the Big 12, as well as Brigham Young, Clemson, Denver, and Utah.
Colorado made a late season run in conference play to secure a spot in the Big 12 Tournament, and after enduring the ups and downs of the season, the Buffaloes will look to take one game at a time during NCAA Tournament play.
"I think [the team] gets it as far as what the bigger picture is," Hempen said. "We get a chance to go on and that's our philosophy at this point."
This marks the first time that Colorado has hosted NCAA Soccer in the school's 11 year history. CU has previously played host to NCAA Tournament play in women's basketball and volleyball on campus, as well as the skiing championships and various men's basketball tournament rounds in Denver.
Prentup Field is located at 33rd Street and Colorado Avenue in Boulder. For more information, directions, and maps to Prentup Field, visit www.cubuffs.com. Tickets will be $7 for adults, $3 for seniors, students of participating institutions with ID as well as youth under 12, and $1 for children 5 years and under. Tickets will be available for purchase starting Tuesday morning by visiting the CU ticket office at Folsom Field or by calling 303-49-BUFFS.