Cougs go dancing

WSU to make NCAA Tournament appearance, host Montana in first round



WSU forward Alyssa Gray (16) challenges a USC player for the ball during a college soccer match, Oct. 21, at the Lower Soccer Field in Pullman.

ERIN MULLINS, Evergreen reporter

WSU (13-2-4) will play at home against Montana (12-5-1) in the first round of the NCAA tournament at 5 p.m. Saturday. In the final rankings, WSU is No. 23. By the ratings percentage index (RPI), WSU is ranked No. 28 while Montana is No. 137.

In their final game of the regular season, WSU won the Boeing Apple Cup 4-2 against cross-state rival Washington and solidified their third-place finish in the Pac-12. The four-goal win tied for most goals scored in the Boeing Apple Cup series.

Montana is coming off the high of winning the Big Sky conference championships for the second consecutive season and scoring an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament by defeating Weber State 1-0. Six Montana players made the all-tournament team. 

“Montana for either three or four years now has either won it or got the final bid to the tournament. So that program is rolling,” head coach Todd Shulenberger said. “They’re doing a good job. We know them, they know us even though we haven’t played for probably a couple years.”

The defending 2020 champions are Santa Clara, who currently have an 11-5-2 record and are ranked No. 32 by RPI and No. 16 in polling. The current top seed is Florida State, with a 16-1-2 record

WSU is joined in the tournament by fellow Pac-12 schools UCLA, USC and Stanford. Stanford is ranked No. 14 by polling No. 31 by RPI. Stanford is set to play against Santa Clara in Santa Clara. 

UCLA is the only undefeated team in D1 soccer with a 16-0-3 record and a No. 2 ranking by polling and a No. 13 ranking by RPI. They are set to host UC Irvine. UCLA is on a 26-match unbeaten streak dating back to last season. USC, the top-scoring offensive team in the Pac-12, is set to host Grand Canyon. USC is playing in their eighth consecutive NCAA Tournament. They are ranked No. 11 by polling and No. 15 by RPI.  

Shulenberger said he did not know what to expect in the tournament, but they would take it one game at a time and try to make it as far as possible. He said that part of the reason the team missed the tournament last year was missing four games due to COVID-19. He said it is great to be a part of the NCAA tournament. 

“We tell our team every day, winning is hard, and we don’t take things for granted,” Shulenberger said. “We had a great year so far. So this team is hungry after the [2019] run, So again, we’re excited to get back into this thing.”