The national rankings have shown all season long that the Atlantic Coast Conference was considered the best womens soccer league in the nation. On Monday, the NCAA made it official by awarding ACC schools an unprecedented four No. 1 seeds in the national championship bracket and extending invitations to four more of their conference rivals in the 64-team field.
North Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech and ACC tournament champion Florida State earned the No. 1 seeds, which means that somebody will have to upset them on their home field to deny them a trip to the College Cup at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary on Dec. 6-8. Four more ACC schools Duke, Wake Forest, Notre Dame and Boston College also got at-large berths. Only Duke will have to go on the road in the first round.
Its not a surprise this year, UNC coach Anson Dorrance of the ACCs seedings. It was an excruciatingly difficult conference season. I think the NCAA obviously agreed with our feeling. Weve never had such a challenge in every conference game.
Despite the sweep of the No. 1 seeds, the ACCs representation in the postseason field actually dropped from an all-time high of nine last season to eight. The Big Ten got seven teams in the field, while the Pac 12 has six.
In first-round pairings UNC (17-4) will host Liberty (16-5-1), the Big South champion, this weekend, at a time still to be determined. Duke (8-8-4) will go on the road to play Colorado College (15-4-2) of Conference USA. Regarding the other No. 1 seeds, Virginia (20-1) named the tournaments top seed despite an ACC tournament semifinal loss to Virginia Tech hosts St. Francis, Pa. (13-7-1); Virginia Tech (16-4-2) entertains UMBC (13-5-2); and Florida State (18-8-3) welcomes South Alabama (13-5-2).
The other pairings involving ACC entries have Wake Forest (10-6-2) hosting Morehead State (8-10-1), Notre Dame (11-7-1) at home with Western Michigan (9-5-5), and Boston College (10-9-1) entertaining crosstown rival Northeastern (6-8-6).
The first four rounds of the tournament will be played at campus sites. First-round matches will be this Friday or Saturday, with the second round on Friday, Nov. 22, and the third round Sunday, Nov. 24. Quarterfinal matches will be played Nov. 29 or 30.
Despite his teams .500 overall record, Duke coach Robbie Church said he expected a bid.
I was not concerned about getting in, he said. We had a good RPI (30), a quality win at Notre Dame, a quality win at Texas Tech, which won the SEC, and a tie against West Virginia, which won the Big 12. Those only helped us. And a tie against a No. 1 seed, Virginia Tech. I dont think we were close to not getting in.
He said Colorado College, which romped through Conference USA, will be a tough opponent.
What jumps out at me is they score a lot of goals, Church said. They played Colorado, Denver, Marquette this is a tough team. Their RPI (22) is better than ours. Its a tough draw.
Plus its long trip, he added, although his two Colorado players, redshirt junior goalkeeper Meghan Thomas and freshman defender Lizzy Raben, dont mind. Both are very excited to go back to their home state, he said.