Willamette Women's Soccer Team is Selected for NCAA Division III National Tournament

SALEM, ORE. -- The Willamette University women’s soccer team, 16-2-2 on the season, has been selected to receive one of 19 at-large bids to the 2006 NCAA Division III National Tournament, which will feature a 60-team bracket. Pairings and sites for first round and second round games will be released by the NCAA on Monday, Nov. 6.

Willamette will be making its fifth trip to the NCAA National Tournament since 1998, but it is the Bearcats’ first berth since 2001, when WU advanced to the semifinals. Head Coach Jim Tursi, now in his 14th year at Willamette, also led the Bearcats to five consecutive NAIA Tournament berths from 1993-97.

This year, Willamette finished second in the Northwest Conference at 13-2-1 (40 points), just one point behind the University of Puget Sound at 13-1-2 (41 points). Willamette and UPS, 16-1-3 overall, were the only teams selected from the NWC. The West Region received four berths, with the remaining bids going to the University of California at Santa Cruz, 15-0-3, and to Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, 10-7-3, which won the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) Tournament. The NCAA does not have to pair teams from the same region in the first round, so it is possible that the four West Region teams will play at difference sites.

Willamette split two games with Puget Sound, winning 3-0 at Sparks Field on Sept. 24 and losing 2-1 in Tacoma, Wash., on Oct. 21. The Bearcats also played a 0-0 tie in two-overtimes against UC-Santa Cruz at Sparks Field on Sept. 13. WU concluded the regular season with a 43-9 scoring margin, including 12 shutouts (11 wins and the tie with Santa Cruz).

Leading the Bearcats’ on defense is senior goalkeeper Kari Woody (Boise, ID/Timberline HS). Woody has achieved a 0.46 goals against average to go with 10 solo shutouts and two shared shutouts. She has been the goalkeeper of record for Willamette in all 20 games this season. Woody has made 79 saves and owns a .898 save percentage.

The top scorer for Willamette is senior midfielder/forward Susan Butler (Boise, ID/Boise HS). Butler has scored nine goals and provided five assists for 23 points. Emily Gross (So., F, Medford, OR/North Medford HS) and Meghan Anderson (Fr., F, Eugene, OR/South Eugene HS) are tied for second on the team in scoring with 21 points each. Gross has sent the ball into the net eight times, while adding five assists. Anderson has scored six goals and leads the Bearcats with nine assists.

Also contributing to Willamette’s success during the regular season was its depth, as the Bearcats were able to overcome injuries to several key players during the season. Willamette has experience with six seniors who start or play on a regular basis, but younger players such as Gross and Anderson also have been important.

The Bearcats have played solid defense, while contesting opponents for possession all over the field. The technical skills of Willamette’s players also have been helpful, as the overall strength of the team has allowed WU to offset the individual creativity of specific players on
other teams. Willamette allowed more than one goal just once in the regular season and the Bearcats were held scoreless just two times. WU won four 1-0 games and was 7-2 in games decided by a single goal.

The 60-team field for the NCAA Tournament includes 38 automatic bids won by conference champions, plus three berths to independents and 19 at-large berths. Four teams will receive first round byes and eight teams will play first round games on Wednesday, Nov. 8. The four winners on Wednesday will advance to the second round to take on the four teams with first round byes. The remaining 48 teams in the bracket will be split into 12 four-team sites for first and second round games on Saturday, Nov. 11 and Sunday, Nov. 12.

Full list of teams selected for the 2006 NCAA Division III National Tournament