Nov. 12, 2001
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Santa Clara University will face Evansville in the first round of the 2001 NCAA Women's Soccer Championships, the NCAA announced this afternoon. The Broncos, who have reached the semifinals seven times--including four of the last five--are the tournament's second overall seed, but will travel to Champaign, Ill., for the first and second rounds of the Championship
The Broncos will face the Purple Aces at the Soccer and Track Stadium at 2:30 p.m. Pacific Time on Friday. Host Illinois will face Syracuse in the other game at 5 p.m. The winners will face each other on Sunday at noon.
The Broncos, ranked second in the country with a 17-2 record, will be making its 13th straight NCAA postseason appearance. Santa Clara received an automatic berth in the 2001 Tournament after winning the West Coast Conference Championship on November 4.
Evansville is 16-6-1 on the season and earned a berth into the tournament by winning the Missouri Valley Conference Championship. The Purple Aces are led by senior forward Jessica Schwartz, who has 20 points on the season with eight goals. Host Illinois is 12-7-1 while Syracuse carries an 11-6-0 overall record.
Of the 64 teams selected, 11 are from the West Coast. Along with Santa Clara, California, Stanford and Saint Mary's were the other three Bay Area teams selected. Additionally, West Coast Conference opponents Portland, Saint Mary's, San Diego and Pepperdine were placed in the draw. SCU went 9-1 against the tournament field during the regular season. Undefeated North Carolina is the tournament's top seed, followed by the Broncos, UCLA, Portland, Stanford, Florida, Notre Dame and Connecticut.
Last week, the NCAA announced that as a result of the September 11 tragedies and concern for the welfare of the student-athletes, the Division I Championships/Competition Cabinet and Management Council approved adjustments to seeding, site selection and pairings for the championship. The memo added that the changes were implemented in light of the unstable world climate in order to minimize air travel and mitigate risk, inconvenience and travel delays to the greatest extent possible.
The changes include seeding only eight teams and moving seeds to other regions if there are two many from the same region. This means that the NCAA was not guaranteeing that a top-seeded team would host and that site selection would be based on geographic location. Of the eight seeds, Santa Clara is the only school not hosting.
"What you want to see as the number two seed in the country is that you're hosting and that you're playing the weaker teams in the tournament, and that we didn't get both those things is disappointing," Santa Clara head coach Jerry Smith said. "The bottom line is that you hope to have the best of both worlds and we didn't get it. But, we've had disappointments in previous NCAA fields, so we'll start preparing for our opponents this week and rise to the challenge."
The third round will be held November 23-25 and the quarterfinals will be played November 30-December 2. The 2001 Women's College Cup will be held December 7 and 9 at Gerald J. Ford Stadium on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.
The NCAA Championships expanded this year from 48 to 64 teams. Three seasons ago, the women's bracket was increased from 32 to 48 teams. In the championship, 28 conferences will be awarded automatic berths with 36 teams receiving at-large selections.
Additional Quotes from Jerry Smith
"I'm very happy for our conference that we got five teams in the tournament. We're one of the strongest conferences in the country this year, so we're happy about that. The west certainly has the strength. Four out of the top five seeds are from the west. We've played the third through fifth seeds (UCLA, Portland, Stanford) and had wins in those games, so we're happy about that. I think that it shows we played a really strong regular season schedule and warranted the overall No. 2 seed in the tournament but we're very clearly disappointed about not hosting.
"The NCAA sent out a memo very clearly stating that because of the events of September 11, overall travel would be taken into consideration and top seeds may not host, so they gave us some warning of that. When you're the overall number two seed in tournament, you expect to have the best of both worlds-you're not going to have to travel and you're going to be playing the lesser teams-so we're disappointed that's not going to be the case.
"Because of the memo the NCAA sent out, all of the NCAA teams would have to knock each other out, but now you see that seeding really took a precedent: Santa Clara is two, UCLA is three and Portland is four, so we can't much up with either of them until the final match ups of the year. We deserve to be the top seeds, along with North Carolina. My biggest fear was that we would have to eliminate each other. This way, it allows the true seeds to have the best opportunity to get through.
"Field dimension, field surface and weather play a major part in women's soccer and they could be the equalizer. As long as the field's good and we have reasonable weather... you know, you can't get great weather anywhere in November, not even in the Bay Area, but it's just the hassle of traveling. I thought we might have to travel, but I thought it would only be one time zone away. That we're two time zones away is a little surprising to me. The bottom line is that you hope to have the best of both worlds and we didn't get it. That's disappointing. But, we've had disappointments in previous NCAA fields, so we'll start preparing for our opponents this week and rise to the challenge."