Women's Soccer Earns No. 3 National Seed in NCAA Tournament
LEXINGTON, Ky. -The University of Kentucky women's soccer team earned its first-ever NCAA Tournament national seed in the tournament's current alignment on Monday afternoon, as it was announced the Wildcats will be hosting Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. ET at the Wendell & Vickie Bell Soccer Complex in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
The match will be shown live on the SEC Network+, as well as ESPN3.com and the WatchESPN app on Saturday night live from the Bell Soccer Complex.
"First of all, it's such an honor to get to represent the school in the NCAAs again," UK head coach Jon Lipsitz said, who has now guided UK to the NCAA Tournament each of the last four years. "You're looking at a senior class that is leaving quite a legacy. This is their fourth year in a row in the NCAAs and that's never happened before in this program. So it's something we want to be able to say about every class in the future, but we never take it for granted. Almost half of last year's field is not in this year and it says a lot about how competitive it's becoming in women's soccer and what a special thing it is for us to be here."
Kentucky is the No. 3 national seed in the Charlottesville, Va., regional, which features (2) Virginia, High Point, LaSalle, Rutgers, Arizona State, Northern Arizona and SIUE. The Wildcats are slotted to face the winner of the Northern Arizona/Arizona State match if UK wins on Saturday night.
"About five weeks ago, we lost a game at Texas A&M and our RPI was 59 at the end of that." Lipsitz said. "We handed it out to the team and we said, `Look, we need to make it clear: We're not in the NCAA Tournament. And we're not even on the bubble.' And every week, every Tuesday morning before practice, we would have a meeting and I would hand out the RPI sheets and who we're playing and where all our opponents are and where we are. And I've kept all those sheets in the office. Our goal from that moment on was to get seeded. It's something that hasn't happened. And our goal was to get seeded and I felt like we had done enough. To get a three seed is an incredible tribute to the way we've been playing the last month and to the way we also played yesterday in a tremendous championship game representing the SEC."
Tickets for Saturday's match against SIUE are available beginning Tuesday Nov. 11 at 9:00 a.m. ET. Tickets can be purchased by contacting the UK Ticket Office between 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. ET or by calling 1.800.928.2287.
Ticket prices are $8 for adults, $5 for students (2-18 years old), $3 for senior citizens (65+), with children under the age of two admitted for free. Any UK student presenting a valid UK student ID will be admitted free of charge by checking in at the marketing gazebo.
The Wildcats appearance in the NCAA Tournament is its fourth-straight season in the postseason, and fourth-straight season hosting an opening round match - both new program records. Kentucky has never faced SIUE in program history.
The Cougars were both the regular season and Ohio Valley Conference Tournament Champions, as SIUE came from behind two goals with less than 10 minutes remaining on Sunday afternoon to claim the OVC Tournament Championship title 3-2 over Jacksonville state in overtime. The Cougars are 13-6-1 and 8-2-0 in OVC play this season.
The Wildcats were appearing in the SEC Tournament final for the first time since 2006, and only the third time in program history on Sunday afternoon. UK finishes the regular season with a 15-6-0 record, as winners of eight of the last nine matches, with Sunday's defeat coming as UK's first since losing to the same Texas A&M Aggies back on Oct. 4 in College Station.
Kentucky finished the season slotted at No. 17 in the national computer. The Wildcats have wins on its resume over (9) Florida and (10) South Carolina, as well as five wins over the top-50 in the current RPI.
UK head coach Jon Lipsitz
Opening statement ...
"First of all, it's such an honor to get to represent the school in the NCAAs again. You're looking at a senior class that is leaving quite a legacy. This is their fourth year in a row in the NCAAs and that's never happened before in this program. So it's something we want to be able to say about every class in the future, but we never take it for granted. Almost half of last year's field is not in this year and it says a lot about how competitive it's becoming in women's soccer and what a special thing it is for us to be here. About five weeks ago, we lost a game at Texas A&M and our RPI was 59 at the end of that. We handed it out to the team and we said, `Look, we need to make it clear: We're not in the NCAA Tournament. And we're not even on the bubble.' And every week, every Tuesday morning before practice, we would have a meeting and I would hand out the RPI sheets and who we're playing and where all our opponents are and where we are. And I've kept all those sheets in the office. Our goal from that moment on was to get seeded. It's something that hasn't happened. And our goal was to get seeded and I felt like we had done enough. To get a three seed is an incredible tribute to the way we've been playing the last month and to the way we also played yesterday in a tremendous championship game representing the SEC. We're very excited. We'll take it one game at a time now, but we'll be ready for every single game. I'm not a big `when' person. I never--we don't put up on our website the national championship dates and all that. We do one game at a time. We're very excited about this bracket. If we advance we'll be excited for next game. But we're going to focus on Saturday and being the best we can be."
On whether he expected a three seed ...
"I expected a four, but I thought that we were on the bubble for a three. I wouldn't have been disappointed with a four at all. Again, what an amazing climb to a month ago be not even close to go to a seeded team. That's a tribute to these players. They made a decision. Their toughness and the ability to be so tough every day in training, but still put the ball on the ground and play great soccer. It's all about the work they've put in, the decisions they've made and the leadership from our seniors and that's why we're here. And all of this comes from unbelievable support from our administration. Mitch Barnhart and Melissa Gleason said, `Hey, here's your facility. Look what we're building.' And we're in it right now and this is how much we believe in women's soccer here. Well, you know, before the championship game yesterday the first thing I was thinking about was wanting to bring a championship home for Mitch. And my biggest disappointment is for all these players and for Mitch and Melissa, who have done so much. We've got a lot of soccer left in us. We've got championships to be won and we'll be ready."
On hosting in the NCAAs ...
"I mean, it's huge. It's home, and we get to play in front of Big Blue Nation. I can never state strongly enough what a difference it makes having our fans here. It really does. And the love we feel from our fans even when we're on the road, it pushes us through everything and it pushes us through our difficult moments and it's helped drive us to where we are today. So it's not just having them; it's having the opportunity to show them how much we care. And for these players to play so hard for something bigger than them I think is a special thing."
On experience in the tournament being helpful ...
"I think it does. I think anytime something is more of a known than an unknown you can relax a little bit. But I think one of the things that has helped us we relax in terms of being calm, which helps our style of soccer, but not relax in terms of how hard we're going to play. I think that's a very, very important thing. We did not play well on Wednesday in the quarterfinals of the SEC and we found a way to win in a game where we were not good enough. And where maybe a team with lesser toughness wouldn't have found a way and we learned a lot from it and I don't see that happening again. We'll be ready and the experience of everything we've gone through will help us through all these years."
On what he likes about UK's draw ...
"I like that we're in the NCAAs. You know, it's really that simple. We've got film on everybody. We've been obviously preparing for this for a month and while we're handing out forms saying, `Here's our RPI. We're 59th and we're not in,' we have all the confidence in these players in the world and we're getting film on all the teams that we can find. We always prepare for success and we'll be prepare for each match, but we will not even look at film or discuss film on anyone other than our Saturday opponent. That's all that matters to us."
On how playing into the SEC final helped UK's seed ...
"I think it absolutely is the reason why. And I'd like to believe that our performance, also. It was a fantastic match. I think that's huge. I think going a month without losing. One of the secondary factors is your late season and how we'll you're playing or not and I think that's a huge part of it. The other thing in that championship game is it's the third game in five days. And so the question is how will we react emotionally and physically. Before the bus pulled away from Orange Beach, I got on the bus and I said to the team, `I am more confident in our ability today than I was before the game.' We lost the game and all congratulations to Texas A&M, but the way we played told me that we're ready and told me that we're playing our best soccer at the end of the year and I think that's a big difference from the past."
On the strength of the SEC ...
"Yeah. The league has really gotten stronger and stronger every year. I think when I got here six years ago we were the fifth or sixth strongest conference. This year our overall RPI is second and we're shooting to be the best. We're not there yet, but I think we're pretty darn close and the depth of this conference has really come through again. That's why the SEC conference, all those games are so difficult. It's such a rigorous challenge every single game and that'll make us better and that'll make all the SEC teams better as we go. Obviously we're not rooting for our opponents when we play them for those 90 minutes, but besides that we want all the teams to do incredibly well. NCAA Tournament is all about the SEC now."
For continuing coverage of UK women's soccer, log on to UKathletics.com.