This season, seven Australians across six teams will contest the NCAA Tournament. Three of those sides – Stanford, UCLA, and USC – could be considered legitimate challengers for the title, whilst Colorado and Texas Tech could definitely shake things up and spring an upset or two. Beattie Goad and Stanford have secured the overall top seed, but UCLA and USC have also managed to grab seeded positions and could use those favourable draws to their advantage.
Stanford (Beattie Goad)
First Round: v Houston Baptist – 2pm, Saturday November 12
Live on Stanford Women’s Soccer Facebook
As the overall top seed in the tournament, Stanford go in as favourites to make it to San Jose for the College Cup. First up, they take on Houston Baptist, who qualified for the tournament as champions of the Southland Conference. The Huskies have compiled a 10-10-1 record this season, and sit a lowly 220th in the RPI rankings. If Stanford get through this first game, they will take on the winner of Long Beach State and Santa Clara, two teams in the top 50 of the RPI rankings. Expect to see Beattie Goad play a cameo off the bench for Stanford, as she has done in recent weeks, unless the Cardinal get out to a big lead, which is possible. If that happens, there may be scope for Beattie to play a lot more minutes as some starters are rested.
UCLA (Teagan Micah)
First Round: v Seattle – 2pm, Saturday November 12
Live on Pac-12 UCLA Stream
The 4th seed in their quarter of the draw, UCLA will be hard-pressed to reach the final weekend as they must go through heavyweights West Virginia (or a team that defeats them) to reach even the quarter-finals. Before that though, they must take on Seattle in the first round. The WAC champions, Seattle are 93rd in the RPI rankings with a 14-5-1 record to this point. UCLA should win this game comfortably, but a second round matchup with Top 20 side Nebraska would be far tougher. However, with Teagan Micah doing her best impression of a brick wall between the sticks for the Bruins, the path through to a potential game with West Virginia should be much more smooth.
Colorado (Isobel Dalton, Kahlia Hogg)
First Round: v Oklahoma State – 6am, Sunday November 13
Live on Pac-12 Colorado Stream
Of the four Pac-12 teams featuring Aussies to reach the tournament, Colorado are the lowest in the RPI rankings and, as such, face the toughest test in the first round. The 29th ranked Buffaloes face off against 56th ranked Oklahoma State on their home patch. Colorado do have a reasonable history of making things happen in the NCAA Tournament, reaching the Sweet 16 in 2013 after knocking off Denver and BYU in unexpected wins, and taking North Carolina to overtime in 2014 as the Buffaloes came incredibly close to a huge upset. If Colorado can manage a win, they will almost certainly play #1 seed South Carolina in the first round, unless Aussie student assistant coach Shelbi Vienna-Hallam can help Alabama State conjure what would be a ludicrously massive upset. We may not see a lot of Isobel Dalton and Kahlia Hogg in this game due to various circumstances, but you never know how these things pan out.
Texas Tech (Demi Koulizakis)
First Round: at Utah – 7am, Sunday November 13
Live on Pac-12 Utah Stream
Texas Tech were forced to wait until Selection Monday to learn if they would make the tournament, as they sat firmly on the bubble. Fortunately, Demi Koulizakis and the Red Raiders were granted a bid, and they will travel to Utah for their first round game. At 21st in the RPI rankings, Utah will go into this game as favourites against 42nd ranked Texas Tech. If Texas Tech can manage a victory first up, things only get tougher as they will likely take on ACC champions Florida State. Demi Koulizakis was only seeing limited minutes earlier in the season, but her playing time has exploded recently and it will be interesting to see if this continues through the tournament.
USC (Lulu Pullar)
First Round: v Eastern Washington – 8am, Sunday November 13
Live on Pac-12 USC Stream
The second seed in their quarter of the draw, USC were close to snagging a top seed until their final day loss to UCLA and Florida’s SEC championship victory. The Women of Troy come into this game against Big Sky champion Eastern Washington as hot favourites to advance to the second round and a game against either TCU or Texas A&M. USC sit in the same section of the draw as Demi Koulizakis and Texas Tech, and whilst it might take some upsets, we could see a Sweet 16 matchup between the two Aussies. How much playing time Lulu Pullar gets in that potential game, or indeed in any other, remains to be seen, though.
Albany (Claire Urquhart)
First Round: v Connecticut – 10am, Sunday November 13
Live on Husky Vision ($$)
Last season, Claire Urquhart played the first few games, then saw no playing time for the rest of the season until the NCAA Tournament. This season has followed a similar course so far, and we may yet see Claire in the NCAA Tournament again as the Great Danes take on Connecticut in the first round. Certainly, it will be another tough game for Albany. Last season, Penn State were a #1 seed and won the NCAA title after beating Albany in the first round. This season, Connecticut are #8 in the RPI even if they haven’t secured a seeding for the tournament. It’s going to be hard for Albany to get through the first round, but upsets are certainly more likely in soccer than they are in many other sports.