For South Dakota State women’s soccer coach Lang Wedemeyer and Louisville men’s coach Ken Lolla, postseason trips to the Triangle offer a kind of homecoming.
Wedemeyer said South Dakota State held a watch party Monday afternoon when the NCAA tournament pairings were announced.
When “South Dakota State” flashed on the screen opposite No. 2 seed North Carolina, Wedemeyer admitted it took a little edge off the festivities.
“North Carolina wasn’t exactly the first team I would have chosen to play in the first round,” he said. “I used to work at the Carolina camps a number of years ago. The chance for our team to play such an iconic women’s soccer team is certainly special.”
The Jackrabbits (10-7-2), champions of the Summit League, will be making only their second trip to the NCAA tournament and first since 2008. Wedemeyer brings some local knowledge with him.
A college player at Virginia Tech and Old Dominion, he spent the late 1990s as an assistant coach with the ODU men’s team. He used to work at UNC women’s coach Anson Dorrance’s summer camps then.
“He’s been a great mentor to me and a good friend,” Wedemeyer said, “someone I’ve gleaned a lot of knowledge from over the years in my own coaching maturation.”
Dorrance said he respected Wedemeyer “as a coach and an educator.”
“The thing I really like about him is he is a consistent contributor to the Soccer Journal, which is widely read in our profession,” Dorrance said. “Whenever I see his byline, I make sure I read it, because his insights in the game are fantastic.”
Wedemeyer said South Dakota State will have a tough task keeping up with UNC.
“I’ve watched a few of their games on ESPN3,” he said. “They’re a fairly typical North Carolina team: athletic, aggressive, versatile, and they go to goal very hard.
“They’re capable of playing at a high level. We know it will be the toughest match in our program’s history.”
South Dakota State is led by junior forward Diana Potterveld, who was named the Summit League Offensive Player of the Year with six goals and 12 assists.
Friday’s winner will play either Colorado or Brigham Young in the second round as part of a four-team sub-regional. The other two teams will be the winners of No. 3 seed South Carolina vs. Clemson and Washington State vs. Seattle, with the highest surviving seed hosting both rounds Nov. 21 and 23.
Maybe his Cardinals can provide him with a third conference championship in as many years as a homecoming present this weekend.
A member of the Big East until the league split up in 2012, Louisville was left behind with the football-playing schools in the American Athletic Conference before joining the ACC this season.
“To be in the ACC is awesome,” Lolla said Thursday after the Cardinals practiced at WakeMed Soccer Park. “Being here in Cary, all of that is wonderful, not only for me and my past experiences, but for my team right now.
“When you look at the RPI, how many (ACC teams) are in the top 30, it’s the top conference in the country or one of them. I think the greatest thing about being in the ACC is it prepares you for winning a national championship. It’s what we saw in our playing days.”
The ACC semifinals don’t lack for national contenders. The top two teams in this week’s coaches poll are here, No. 1 Syracuse (14-2-1, 5-2-1) and No. 2 Notre Dame (10-4-3, 6-1-1), plus No. 14 Clemson (10-6-1, 5-2-1) and No. 19 Louisville (8-6-3, 4-3-1).
The top-seeded Irish and fourth-seeded Tigers will play at 5:30 p.m. Friday, followed by the second-seeded Orange and sixth-seeded Cardinals at 8 p.m.
Notre Dame and Clemson did not meet in the regular season because of the ACC’s unbalanced schedule. Louisville beat Syracuse 2-1 in overtime.
Friday’s winners will meet at 2 p.m. Sunday for the title.
Four of the five winners of the ACC’s top honors will be on hand: Notre Dame midfielder Patrick Hodan, offensive player of the year; Syracuse goalkeeper Alex Bono, defensive player of the year; Louisville defender Tim Kubel, freshman of the year, and Ian McIntyre of Syracuse, coach of the year.