North Carolina and Duke received No. 3 seeds in the 64-team NCAA Women’s Soccer Championship bracket announced Monday, as the ACC led all conferences with eight teams in the field.
The SEC and Pac-12 landed six teams each, while the Big Ten had five. The ACC has sent six or more teams to the NCAA tournament for the past 17 seasons, with a record nine in 2011 and 2012.
UNC (14-4-1), which finished in a three-way tie for second place in the ACC before falling to eventual tournament champion Florida State 2-1 in the semifinals last Friday, will host Big South champion Liberty (13-7-1) at 6:30 p.m. Friday in the first round. UNC defeated Liberty 4-0 in the first round of the 2013 NCAA tournament. UNC is the only team to have played in the NCAA tournament all 34 years.
Duke (10-5-4), the ACC’s eighth-place team, earned its 21st NCAA bid all-time in returning to the tournament after a one-year absence. The Blue Devils will entertain Colonial champion James Madison (14-6-2) at 7 p.m. Friday.
“Going from not being in the tournament one year to a three seed the next year is a pretty good accomplishment,” Duke coach Robbie Church said. “I’m a little bit surprised by our seed but not shocked. We played three No. 1 seeds, lost 1-0 to one of them (Virginia) and tied two of them 0-0 (Florida State and Penn State). I think they gave a lot of credit to draws, and you never know how they will handle that.”
Florida State (14-2-4), the reigning NCAA champion, and ACC tournament finalist Virginia (16-1-2) received No. 1 seeds.
FSU will host Evansville (6-10-3), winner of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament and the only team in the NCAA bracket with a losing record. Stanford was the fourth No. 1 seed.
UVa, runner-up last year to Florida State in the NCAA and ACC tournaments, hosts Howard (13-7-2) in a game that will feature the second- and third-leading scoring teams in the nation.
Clemson (13-4-1) was the only No. 2 seed from the ACC and will host in-state rival Furman (17-4-1) on Friday. If the seeds hold, the Tigers and Tar Heels could end up meeting in the round of 16 at Clemson. Ironically, UNC beat Clemson 1-0 in Chapel Hill just 15 days ago but inexplicably was seeded behind the Tigers.
“That was a bit of a surprise,” UNC coach Anson Dorrance said. “But maybe they’ve got a reason.”
Clemson had a slightly better RPI (9) than UNC (15) despite losing head-to-head.
“I have no complaints about where we’re seeded,” Dorrance said. “We’ll just have to do the best job we can in the bracket we’re given.
“We’re not bracket whiners, we never have been, and we don’t intend to start now.”
FSU, Clemson and UNC are all in the same region, which could set up yet another ACC rematch.
Notre Dame (13-4-1) also received a No. 3 seed and will host Oakland (8-5-7) on Friday. The Irish are in the same region as UVa and were the only team to defeat the Cavaliers this fall.
Virginia Tech (14-3-2) is a No. 4 seed and hosts Cincinnati (13-5-5) on Saturday.
The final ACC entrant, Boston College (11-6-2), is the only ACC team that will go on the road in the first round. The Eagles will play at Princeton (13-3-1) on Saturday.
The NCAA tournament concludes with the College Cup, soccer’s final four, on Dec. 4-6 at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary.