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. The Bearcats will play a first round game on Saturday, Nov. 11 against the nation’s top-ranked team, Trinity University (Texas), as part of the four-team tournament hosted by the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash. Willamette and Trinity will compete in the first game on Saturday, with kickoff set for 11 a.m. (PST) at the UPS East Athletic Field. Puget Sound and Hardin-Simmons University (Texas) will play in the second game, scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. (PST).

The Tacoma first and second-round site appears to be the toughest in the overall bracket, with Willamette (16-2-2), Trinity (16-0-1), Puget Sound (15-1-3) and Hardin-Simmons (17-0-3) combining for just three losses. In the NCAA Division III National Rankings compiled by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (last released on Oct. 31), Trinity is #1, Hardin-Simmons is #13, Puget Sound is #14 and Willamette is #19.

Ticket prices for each game in Tacoma are $6 for adults, $3 for students and senior citizens, $2 for children ages 3-12 and free for children less than three years of age. Saturday’s winners will meet in the second round at 1 p.m. (PST) on Sunday, Nov. 12.

Willamette is 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, 15-1-3 overall, were the only teams selected from the NWC.

Trinity earned its tournament berth as the champion of the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference. Hardin-Simmons automatically qualified for the tournament by winning the American Southwest Conference postseason tournament title. HSU also won the regular season title in the ASC.

The Bearcats have shown an ability to compete with some of the top teams in the country, as Willamette earned a tie against the University of California-Santa Cruz (now 15-0-3) and gained a split of the two-game series with NWC rival Puget Sound. WU gave UPS its only regular season loss.

Willamette defeated UPS, 3-0, at Sparks Field on Sept. 24. The Loggers defeated Willamette, 2-1, in Tacoma 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). Willamette allowed more than one goal just once during the regular season and the Bearcats were held scoreless only two times. WU won four 1-0 games and was 7-2 in games decided by a single goal.

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.

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 received first round byes and eight teams will play first round games on Wednesday, Nov. 8. Teams receiving byes were Washington University (Mo.), Webster University (Mo.), The College of New Jersey and Calvin College (Mich.). The four winners on Wednesday will advance to the second round to take on the four teams with byes. The remaining 48 teams in the bracket have been split into 12 four-team sites for first and second round games on Saturday, Nov. 11 and Sunday, Nov. 12.

2006 NCAA Division III National Tournament Information