Stanford (Beattie Goad)
First Round: v Utah Valley – 2pm, Sunday November 12
As was the case in 2016, Stanford come into the NCAA Tournament as the #1 overall seed, but with a better team and a stronger chance to go all the way than was the case last year, when the Cardinal fell in the Round of 32 to Santa Clara following an injury to Andi Sullivan. The Cardinal start their NCAA Tournament campaign at home to Utah Valley, a team that was only able to put together a 10-11-1 record for the regular season, but managed to win their way through the Western Athletic Conference tournament to secure their spot in the NCAA Tournament. A win in the opener will see Stanford host either Aussie-laden Hofstra or Auburn in the Round of 32, whilst their main challengers for a spot in the College Cup in Orlando come December shape to be Penn State and last year’s national runner-up West Virginia. Minutes have been hard to come by for Beattie Goad in recent weeks, but if Stanford can comfortably handle Utah Valley, then a spell on the field late in the game may just come the sophomore’s way.
Colorado (Isobel Dalton)
First Round: v Denver – 6am, Monday November 13
Colorado just scraped into the tournament with what must have been one of the last at-large bids handed out. A bubble team in every sense of the word, Isobel Dalton and the Buffaloes have been given a fairly favourable draw as geographical considerations see them take on Denver, one of the lowest RPI sides in the entire tournament at 225th. A win for Colorado would see them most probably face #1 seed North Carolina in a rematch of an NCAA Tournament game from 2014 that saw the much more fancied North Carolina side just scrape home with a 1-0 win in overtime after a fantastic rearguard performance from a Colorado defence featuring Australian Alex Huynh.
Hofstra (Emily Hulbert, Monique Iannella)
First Round: at Auburn – 10am, Saturday November 11
A bubble team coming into the conference tournament final against Northeastern, Hofstra removed all doubt with a 2-1 win which secured an automatic bid and delivered a trip to Alabama to play Auburn. The choice of who hosts this game may raise eyebrows, with Hofstra sitting at #22 in the RPI and Auburn at #27, but the Pride can only play the game on the rectangle of grass at which it has been scheduled. It will no doubt be an incredibly hard-fought battle between what appear to be evenly matched teams, and a win for Hofstra would almost certainly see the CAA champions take on #1 overall seed Stanford in the second round.
La Salle (Claudia Jenkins)
First Round: at Rutgers – 9am, Sunday November 12
A dominant force throughout the Atlantic 10 regular season, things became decidedly harder for the Explorers as they required overtime in both their semi-final and final victories on their way to securing their spot in the NCAA Tournament. Now, they face a short but tough away trip to New Jersey to face nationally ranked Rutgers, a side that has given up just five goals in 19 games to this point. La Salle may have banged home 47 goals this season, but that Rutgers defence, and particularly goalkeeper Casey Murphy, will be incredibly hard to breach. If the Explorers are able to sneak a win over Rutgers, their likely second round opponent would be last year’s national runner-up West Virginia, who, despite losing Ashley Lawrence and Kadeisha Buchanan from last year’s side, remain a force at this level.
Murray State (Nyomi Devine, Harriet Withers)
First Round: @ Tennessee – 9am, Sunday November 12
Murray State come into this contest with an almost identical RPI to Tennessee, in yet another game that will attempt to answer the question as to the gap between solid power conference teams and dominant mid-majors. Tennessee finished in a tie for fourth in the always-strong SEC with a 14-4-1 record, whilst Murray State were simply dominant in the Ohio Valley Conference, going 8-0-2 in the regular season before clinching the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament by winning the conference championship. The Racers have a real shot in this one, but they will need to re-discover their attacking form from earlier in the season, having scored multiple goals in just one of their last six games. During that time though, they have kept five clean sheets, but Tennessee come in having scored 43 goals this season.
St. Francis (Shelby Milton)
First Round: at #3 Virginia – 11am, Sunday November 12
As the lowest rated team of those which feature Aussies, Shelby Milton and St. Francis have the toughest draw of the seven, playing #3 seed Virginia away in the first round. St. Francis played a fairly tough non-conference schedule and came into league play with a 3-6-1 record, but recovered in conference play to finish 10-7-3 and win the Northeast Conference title on penalties over Sam Roff and Fairleigh Dickinson. Virginia’s record reads a similar 11-5-4, but with one significant difference: the Cavaliers play in the ACC, one of the top conferences in the nation. #3 seeds generally win their first round games by margins of three goals or more, but St. Francis can look to 2015’s upset of California by Loyola Marymount for inspiration in their attempt to create a boilover on the first weekend.
UCLA (Teagan Micah)
First Round: v San Diego State – 2pm, Saturday November 11
Despite securing a #2 seed, geographical considerations mean that UCLA will be taking on #80 RPI San Diego State despite a number of teams in the tournament sitting in the sub-200 range. However, UCLA have already played San Diego State this season, demolishing the Aztecs 5-1 as part of a five-game stretch to start the season in which the Bruins smashed home 25 goals. With Australian sophomore Teagan Micah in goal behind a defence that has been wall-like at times this season, UCLA have dropped points in just three games this season, although one of those was a loss to overall #1 seed Stanford. If the Bruins do get past San Diego State, they will take on Butler or Northwestern before facing either Pepperdine – whom they drew 1-1 with earlier in the season – or #3 seed Virginia. If the Bruins make the Elite Eight, they will likely face #1 seed North Carolina in an exact replay of the 2013 matchup at the same stage – #2 UCLA v #1 UNC. UCLA won that game 1-0 on their way to a national title, defeating Virginia on penalties in the semi-finals before edging Florida State in overtime.