Nov. 9, 2009
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- For the 17th consecutive season, the Notre Dame women's soccer team (17-3-1) has earned a berth in the NCAA Championship. The recently-crowned BIG EAST Conference champion Fighting Irish -- ranked fourth in the National Soccer Coaches of America (NSCAA) poll and fifth by Soccer America -- parlayed the league's automatic bid to the tournament into the No. 2 seed in the Florida State Region, with Notre Dame beginning its journey towards the program's third NCAA title on Friday night, Nov. 13, at Alumni Stadium, when it plays host to Summit League champion IUPUI at 7:30 p.m. (ET).
Mid-American Conference champion Central Michigan and Purdue, an at-large selection out of the Big Ten Conference, will tangle in Friday's other first-round game at Alumni Stadium (5 p.m. ET kickoff), with the winners of those games returning Sunday, Nov. 15 for a second-round game at 1 p.m. (ET).
"I'm just so proud of this team and all they've been accomplish up to this point in the season," Notre Dame head coach Randy Waldrum said. "Now, everyone in this tournament has a clean slate and all the records are re-set to 0-0. What we've done so far has gotten us in the door, but now it's all about how we handle this opportunity. IUPUI is a very talented and well-coached team, as everyone saw by the way they rolled to the Summit League title. We've got to be focused and disciplined when we take the field Friday night, because we know that every team in this tournament is going to bring their absolute best. It should be a fantastic few days of soccer at Notre Dame, and we're encouraging the entire South Bend community, especially the Notre Dame student body, to come out to Alumni Stadium and cheer on your Fighting Irish in the NCAA tournament."
The past five 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 format has four seeds (listed 1-4) in each of the four quadrants of the bracket. Notre Dame is the second seed in its portion of the bracket, with Florida State (16-4-1) the No. 1 seed, Florida (15-5-2) the third seed and LSU (14-4-4) the fourth seed in Notre Dame's quadrant of the bracket. If the seeds played out, the Fighting Irish and Seminoles would be on target for a second consecutive meeting in the NCAA quarterfinals, following Notre Dame's 2-0 win last year at old Alumni Field. The teams also met the two seasons prior to that in the NCAA semifinals, with the Fighting Irish posting a 2-1 in 2006 (at Cary, N.C.), and Florida State returning the favor with a 3-2 victory in 2007 (at College Station, Texas).
Besides FSU, the other three national No. 1 seeds are Stanford, North Carolina and UCLA. Notre Dame faced both UNC and Stanford earlier this season, dropping a 6-0 decision to the Tar Heels back on Sept. 4 in the first game at the new Alumni Stadium, then falling to the Cardinal, 2-0, on Sept. 13 at the Santa Clara (Calif.) adidas Classic. Since that loss to Stanford, the Fighting Irish have rebounded in a big way, going unbeaten in their last 15 games (14-0-1) and outscoring their opponents, 36-6 in that span.
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 (Florida will be playing at Ohio State; UCF at Wisconsin; and Virginia Tech at Dayton).
The other quadrant on Notre Dame's side of the bracket includes (seeds 1-4): North Carolina, South Carolina, Wake Forest and Maryland.
The other side of the bracket features the top quadrant with (1-4): Stanford, Boston College, UCF and Santa Clara, while the four seeds in the lower quadrant are (1-4): UCLA, Portland, Virginia Tech and Penn State.
The 28th annual NCAA Division I Women's College Cup will be played December 4 and 6 at Aggie Soccer Stadium in College Station, Texas, with the national semifinals (times TBD) to be televised live to a national audience by ESPNU, and the title contest to air live at noon CT/1 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com.
IUPUI (17-4-0) is headed to the NCAA Championship for the first time in the program's 12-year history after winning its first Summit League postseason title with a 4-1 victory at top-seeded South Dakota State in the Summit League tournament final on Sunday. The Jaguars, who shared the league's regular-season crown for the second consecutive season, are piloted by seventh-year head coach Chris Johnson, and already have posted a school-record 17 wins this year.
Friday's game will be the first meeting between Notre Dame and IUPUI in women's soccer, although the schools have met in a number of other sports through the years.
Like IUPUI, Central Michigan (16-3-3) will be making its first-ever trip to the NCAA Championship. The Chippewas are in the midst of a 17-game unbeaten streak (14-0-3) and won their first Mid-American Conference postseason title on Sunday, downing Miami (Ohio), 1-0 in the tournament final. CMU also claimed the MAC regular-season crown with the first unbeaten season in conference history (9-0-2), and has been notoriously stingy on the defensive end, allowing just 10 goals all season (eight in consecutive losses to Michigan and Michigan State back in early September). In fact, Central has recorded a national-best 18 shutouts this season, including a streak of 13 consecutive shutouts earlier this season that ranks second in Division I history.
Should Notre Dame advance to meet the Chippewas in Sunday's second round, it would be the first time the two sides have squared off on the soccer pitch.
Purdue (12-5-3) tied for fourth in the Big Ten regular-season race, with that conference forgoing a postseason tournament this season.
Notre Dame is 1-1-0 all-time against the Boilermakers, with the teams splitting a pair of contests at old Alumni Field during the 2002 season. Purdue won the regular-season encounter, 3-1, before the injury-ravaged Fighting Irish battled back to take the return game by the same 3-1 score in the second round of the NCAA Championship behind two goals from Amanda Guertin. Notre Dame crossed paths with the Boilermakers back in September out in northern California, as both teams competed in the Santa Clara adidas Classic, although not against one another.
The BIG EAST had seven teams selected for this year's NCAA Championship field, matching the conference's total from the 2006 campaign and only one shy of its best-ever mark in 2001. BIG EAST Championship finalist Marquette once again will provide dangerous opposition in the field of 64, with the Golden Eagles venturing to Dayton for their opening-round game in the UCLA region, while Virginia Tech (the third seed in the UCLA quadrant) matches up with Murray State in the other first-rounder in Dayton. BIG EAST semifinalist St. John's (who was eliminated by Notre Dame in overtime last Friday night) is into the NCAA Championship for the first time ever, with the Red Storm earning a trip to University Park, Pa., for a round-one meeting with Virginia -- UCLA region fourth seed Penn State entertains Colgate in the other first-round game at that site.
The other BIG EAST tourney semifinalist, West Virginia, also will be dancing this weekend, as the Mountaineers will take on Loyola (Md.) in the first round of the North Carolina region at Winston-Salem, N.C. Homestanding Wake Forest (the region's No. 3 seed) draws Kennesaw State in that site's other first-night affair.
The remaining BIG EAST clubs earning invitations to this year's NCAA Championship, and their first-round matchups are: Connecticut (vs. Boston University at Boston College in Stanford region), Rutgers (vs. Duke at South Carolina in North Carolina region) and Villanova (vs. Washington State at Maryland in North Carolina region).
Notre Dame owns an 8-3-0 record this season versus teams in the 2009 NCAA field, posting wins at West Virginia (3-2 OT) and Rutgers (1-0), as well as home victories over Wisconsin (3-0), Wisconsin-Milwaukee (3-0) and Villanova (2-0). The Fighting Irish also collected neutral-site wins over St. John's (2-1 OT) and Marquette (2-1) in the BIG EAST Championship at Storrs, Conn., while all three losses came in the opening month of the season -- home vs. North Carolina (6-0), at Santa Clara (2-0) and at a neutral site vs. Stanford (2-0).
In addition, Notre Dame's lone preseason college opponent also qualified for this year's NCAA Championship -- the Irish tied Virginia, 3-3, in an exhibition game at Maple City, Mich., back on Aug. 14, although that game was played with a non-traditional format of three 30-minute periods and the teams mutually agreed to play their reserves in the final half-hour after Notre Dame had taken a 3-0 lead through two periods).
Last season, the Fighting Irish made their third consecutive NCAA College Cup appearance and fourth in five years, going on a magical school-record 26-0-0 run to the NCAA title game before a difficult 2-1 loss to North Carolina in the final at Cary, N.C.
Notre Dame has a 49-14-1 all-time record (.773) in NCAA tournament play, including 39-3-0 (.929) in NCAA games played at home (all at its previous facility, old Alumni Field). The Fighting Irish have claimed 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 10 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 17, trailing only North Carolina (28) 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-16, ND-14, Portland-14), quarterfinals since 1994 (UNC-13, ND-12, Portland-12), College Cup berths since 1994 (UNC-12, ND-10) and title game appearances since 1994 (UNC-10, ND-7; no one else with more than three).
Tickets for this weekend's NCAA Championship first- and second-round games at Alumni Stadium can be purchased by contacting the Notre Dame Athletics Ticket Office (574-631-7356) or by stopping by the Purcell Pavilion Gate 1 ticket windows on the second floor during normal business hours (9 a.m.-5 p.m. ET, weekdays). In addition, fans can buy their Fighting Irish women's soccer tickets on-line by going to the tickets page of the official Notre Dame athletics web site (www.UND.com/tickets), or by visiting the Alumni Stadium ticket windows on game day.