Nov. 8, 2010
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- For the 18th consecutive season, the Notre Dame women's soccer team (15-2-2) has earned a berth in the NCAA Championship. The BIG EAST Conference National Division champion Fighting Irish -- ranked eighth in last week's National Soccer Coaches of America (NSCAA) poll (the final regular season survey comes out Tuesday) and 10th in Monday's final Soccer America poll of the season -- earned an at-large bid to the tournament as the No. 4 seed in the North Carolina Region, with Notre Dame beginning its journey towards the program's third NCAA title on Friday night, Nov. 12, at Alumni Stadium, when it plays host to Mountain West regular season champion New Mexico (12-2-5) at 7:30 p.m. (ET).
No. 16/18 Illinois (13-4-1), an at-large selection out of the Big Ten Conference, and No. 17 (NSCAA) USC (12-5-3) -- the 2007 national champion, which earned an at-large spot out of the Pac-10 Conference -- will tangle in Friday's other first-round match at Alumni Stadium (5 p.m. ET kickoff), with the winners of those contests returning Sunday, Nov. 14 for a second-round match at 1 p.m. (ET).
Tickets for this weekend's NCAA Championship matches at Notre Dame are available by contacting the school's Murnane Family Ticket Office by phone (574-631-7356) or in person (Gate 9 in the Rosenthal Atrium at Purcell Pavilion) from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET) weekdays. Fans also can purchase tickets on-line through the official Notre Dame athletics ticketing web page (www.UND.com/tickets) or by visiting the ticket windows at Alumni Stadium on match day.
"We're obviously pleased to be returning to the NCAA tournament once again," Notre Dame head coach Randy Waldrum said. "The past week has been a long wait for our program, and I know our players are looking forward to getting back out there and competing. The four teams that will be playing at Notre Dame this weekend are all very strong, well-coached programs, and it should make for an exciting and attractive brand of soccer. New Mexico did an exceptional job in winning the regular season title in a tough league like the Mountain West, and I'm sure they're going to be fired up to play on Friday. We're looking forward to the challenge that lies ahead in the NCAA tournament and invite our fans, especially our student body, to come out Friday night and help show why Alumni Stadium is one of the toughest places to play in the country."
The Fighting Irish earned their sixth consecutive BIG EAST divisional title and 13th regular season crown in 16 seasons as a conference member with a 9-0-2 BIG EAST mark. Notre Dame also went on a 13-match unbeaten streak (11-0-2) following an early September overtime loss at 13th-ranked UCLA (2-1), but the Fighting Irish have been anxiously awaiting a return to the pitch since a 2-0 upset loss to Connecticut in the BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals on Oct. 31 at Alumni Stadium, a loss that snapped Notre Dame's NCAA Division I-record 77-match unbeaten streak against conference opponents.
The Fighting Irish are led by junior forward Melissa Henderson (Garland, Texas/Berkner), who recently was named BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Year after leading the conference with 14 goals and 35 points. Senior forward/midfielder Rose Augustin (Silver Lake, Ohio/Walsh Jesuit) also was a first-team all-BIG EAST selection after posting career highs of nine goals and 26 points, while freshman midfielder Elizabeth Tucker (Jacksonville, Fla./Bishop Kenny) was a third-team all-conference choice after leading all BIG EAST rookies with seven goals and 17 points. The team co-captains -- senior Lauren Fowlkes (Lee's Summit, Mo./St. Teresa's Academy) and junior Jessica Schuveiller (Plano, Texas/Plano West) -- both earned second-team all-conference accolades after pacing a Notre Dame defense that has posted a 0.62 goals-against average (GAA) and 10 shutouts this season.
The past six years have seen the NCAA shift to a different seeding system for the tournament, abandoning the format where there were 16 national seeds that were assigned number 1-16. The current format has four seeds (listed 1-4) in each of the four quadrants of the bracket. Notre Dame is the fourth seed in its portion of the bracket, with North Carolina (17-2-2) the No. 1 seed, Florida (18-2-2) the second seed and Oklahoma State (17-3-2) the third seed in Notre Dame's quadrant of the bracket. If the seeds played out, the Fighting Irish would be in line to face North Carolina in a third-round match during the weekend of Nov. 19-21, with the teams having played nine times previously in the NCAA Championship, including last season when the Tar Heels scored in the final 10 minutes for a 1-0 College Cup semifinal win over Notre Dame in College Station, Texas.
The Fighting Irish also are one of six BIG EAST teams selected for this year's NCAA Championship, joining Marquette, West Virginia, Georgetown, South Florida and Connecticut in the 64-team field.
The NCAA selection committee's bracketing principles and procedures prohibit teams from the same conference facing each other in the first round but second-round conference matchups were permissible in the formation of the bracket. When pairing teams, the committee was restricted by geographic proximity and sites were selected for the first and second rounds to create the fewest number of flights. Therefore, only 13 of the top 16 seeds will be hosting first- and second-round competition (UCF will be playing at UCLA; Wake Forest at UC Irvine; and Texas A&M at Minnesota).
The other quadrant on Notre Dame's side of the bracket includes (seeds 1-4): Maryland, Virginia, Ohio State and Texas A&M.
The other side of the bracket features the top quadrant with (1-4): Stanford, Florida State, Marquette and UCF, while the four seeds in the lower quadrant are (1-4): Portland, Boston College, West Virginia and Wake Forest.
The 29th annual NCAA Division I Women's College Cup will be played December 3 and 5 at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C., with the national semifinals (at 4:00 and 6:30 p.m. ET) to be televised live to a national audience by ESPNU (and possible additional coverage by ESPN2 and ESPN3.com), and the title contest to air live at noon ET on ESPN2 and ESPN3.com.
New Mexico (12-2-5) is headed to the NCAA Championship for the first time in the program's 17-year history after winning the Mountain West regular season title with a 5-0-2 league record and earning the top seed for Mountain West tournament final, which the Lobos dropped 1-0 to BYU this past Saturday in San Diego. UNM is piloted by 10th-year head coach Kit Vela, the Mountain West Coach of the Year, and the Lobos are led by a stout defense that ranks second in the nation in goals-against average (0.387) and save percentage (.913) and eighth in the land in shutout percentage (0.579), having allowed just eight goals all season.
Friday's match will be the first meeting between Notre Dame and New Mexico in women's soccer, although the schools have met in a number of other sports through the years. The Fighting Irish and Lobos do share a common opponent this season in Wisconsin-Milwaukee, which Notre Dame defeated 3-0 back on Aug. 22 at Alumni Stadium, while UNM drew with the Panthers, 1-1 on Aug. 27 in Milwaukee.
Illinois (13-4-1) will be making its ninth trip to the NCAA Championship, and first since 2008. The Fighting Illini got off to a strong start this season with wins in seven of their eight non-conference matches and parlayed that into a solid fourth-place finish in the Big Ten with a 6-3-1 league record (the Big Ten does not hold a postseason tournament).
Should Notre Dame advance to meet Illinois in Sunday's second round, it would be the second time the two sides have squared off on the soccer pitch, having previously tangled in the second round of the 2007 NCAA tournament, a 2-0 Fighting Irish victory at old Alumni Field. Notre Dame also has played the Fighting Illini numerous times during the spring season, most recently on April 27, 2009, in the Kicks Against Breast Cancer Tournament at Soldier Field in Chicago (a 4-0 Notre Dame win in a match shortened to 60 minutes by weather).
The Fighting Irish and Illinois have played five common opponents this season -- Minnesota, Northwestern, Cincinnati, Louisville and Connecticut. Notre Dame went 4-1-1 against that quintet, with wins at home over Minnesota (1-0), at Northwestern (2-1), home vs. Cincinnati (4-0) and at Louisville (5-0) before taking a 1-1 draw at Connecticut and a 2-0 loss to the Huskies in the BIG EAST quarterfinals on Oct. 31 at Alumni Stadium. Meanwhile, the Fighting Illini went 3-2-0 against those common opponents, earning victories at Cincinnati (3-0) and at home against Louisville (3-0) and Northwestern (1-0), while falling at Connecticut (2-1, ot) and Minnesota (1-0).
USC (12-5-3) finished third in the Pac-10 regular season race with a 5-3-1 record, with that conference also forgoing a postseason tournament this season.
Notre Dame is 1-0 all-time against the Women of Troy, earning a 2-0 victory on Sept. 1, 2006, at old Alumni Field. The Fighting Irish and USC have faced one common opponent this season -- UCLA, which defeated visiting Notre Dame, 2-1 in overtime on Sept. 10, while the Women of Troy claimed 1-0 win over the Bruins on Oct. 22 at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
Notre Dame owns a 3-1-2 record this season versus teams in the 2010 NCAA field, posting wins at home over Minnesota (1-0), Wisconsin-Milwaukee (3-0) and Santa Clara (1-0), as well as 1-1 road draws at Connecticut and Georgetown, before the aforementioned loss to UConn in the BIG EAST tournament.
Last season, the Fighting Irish made their fourth consecutive NCAA College Cup appearance and fifth in six years, riding a 19-match unbeaten streak all the way to the national semifinals before North Carolina's late score led to a 1-0 win over Notre Dame.
The Fighting Irish have a 53-15-1 all-time record (.775) in NCAA tournament play, including 42-3-0 (.933) in NCAA games played at home (3-0-0 at their current facility, Alumni Stadium; 39-3-0 at its previous facility, old Alumni Field). Notre Dame earned NCAA titles in 1995 and 2004, joining UNC and Portland as the only repeat winners in the history of the tournament, and Notre Dame also has finished as the NCAA runner-up five times (1994, 1996, 1999, 2006 and 2008), as part of its 11 NCAA College Cup berths (also semifinalist in 1997, 2000 and 2007), all since 1994.
The Fighting Irish also hold the second-longest active streak of consecutive NCAA Championship berths with 18, trailing only North Carolina (29) in that category. Notre Dame and UNC remain the only teams to have reached the final-32 or further in every NCAA Championship since 1993, and remain 1-2 in virtually all tournament appearance records in that time -- round-of-16 trips (UNC-17, ND-15, Portland-15), quarterfinals since 1994 (UNC-14, ND-13, Portland-13), College Cup berths since 1994 (UNC-13, ND-11) and title match appearances since 1994 (UNC-11, ND-7; no one else with more than three).
For more information on the Notre Dame women's soccer program, join the Fighting Irish women's soccer news Twitter page (www.twitter.com/NDsoccernews) or sign up for the Irish ALERT text-messaging system through the sidebar on the women's soccer page at UND.com.