Turns out the BYU women’s soccer team was a no-doubter when it came to the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
Waiting for an at-large bid is always a nerve wracking experience, especially in a year with so much uncertainty surrounding the pandemic.
The Cougars – 11-3-1 overall but second in the West Coast Conference with a 7-1-1 record – were ranked No. 17 last week and held a No. 18 RPI, so coach Jennifer Rockwood was confident her team would be in.
BYU was tabbed as a No. 12 seed on Monday (the top 16 teams are seeded) in the 48-team field, which means a first-round bye. The Cougars will play the winner of the Virginia and Southern Illinois-Edwardsville first round game on May 1 at WakeMed Field in Carey, North Carolina.
“We’re really excited about the opportunity to head to the NCAA Tournament this year,” Rockwood said. “We’re really excited about our seeding and the brackets and we’re looking forward to playing our first game May 1. It’s been an extraordinary year for us with a lot of ups and downs. Our team has been resilient and continues to improve. We got a lot of games in, more than most teams this spring, and I think that really benefited us. The players are excited to see how good we can be.”
The Cougars lost road games at No. 2 seed UCLA and No. 8 seed USC in the preseason. BYU lost a 2-1 decision to Santa Clara in WCC play and the Broncos earned a No. 11 seed. Later in the season, the Cougars traveled to Santa Clara for a non-league and picked up a 2-1 victory.
In 2019, BYU completed an unbeaten regular season (18-0-1), won three home matches in the NCAA Tournament and advanced to the regional finals (Elite 8) before losing to eventual champion Stanford.
This year’s tournament will be held entirely in North Carolina.
“This is definitely the most unique postseason play I’ve ever been a part of,” Rockwood said. “I felt we had the credentials to get an at-large bid but you just never know until you see your team on the board. There was a little more nervousness than usual. I’m excited about having a more national grouping for the brackets. In our sport the tournament is usually broken up with region matchups. We’ve never really had a true national tournament that’s not been broken up regionally. We’ll see a lot of different matchups that we haven’t been seeing in the first and second rounds.”
Virginia has a long history in the NCAA’s and finished the 2021 regular season with a 10-4-2 mark. SIU-Edwardsville was 8-2-2 in the Mid-American Conference.
“We still don’t know exactly when we’re leaving, who we’re playing or where we’re staying,” Rockwood said. “We’ve learned through this Covid season to go with the flow and that’s what we’ll continue to do.”
This is BYU’s 21st NCAA Tournament appearance – all under Rockwood – and eighth in the past nine seasons.
WCC champion Santa Clara (7-1-0) will play the winner of the first round match between Ohio State (7-2-3) and Stony Brook (6-3-0).
Utah Valley (12-4-4), which claimed the Western Athletic Conference Tournament championship on Saturday, will open the NCAA’s on April 28 with a first-round matchup against Memphis (8-3-0). The winner of that match will go on to play No. 6 seed Arkansas (11-3). This is UVU’s first appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
The No. 1 overall seed is Florida State (11-0-0). The championship match is scheduled for May 17.