DURHAM, N.C. – For the 20th time in school history and the 11th straight year, the Duke women's soccer team received an at-large invitation to play in the NCAA Tournament on Monday as the Blue Devils will travel to Colorado College on Saturday, Nov. 16 for the first round contest at 1:00 p.m., in Colorado Springs, Colo.
“Obviously, we are really excited,” said Duke head coach Robbie Church on the team making the NCAA Tournament. “You saw the reaction of the girls. When we stepped in this room on Aug. 5, our goal was to play for a NCAA Championship and now it is here. We have a chance to play.”
Colorado College has posted a 15-4-2 overall record this season, including a 9-0 mark at home under the direction of head coach Geoff Bennett, who is in his 15th year at the helm. The Tigers, which played host to the first national collegiate championship for women’s soccer in 1980, will be making their 11th appearance in the NCAA Tournament and the second straight. Colorado College has been led on the year by Jessie Ayers with 13 goals and 27 points, while goalkeeper Kate Scheele owns 11 shutouts and a 0.77 goals-against average.
The Tigers received an automatic invitation to the NCAA Tournament after winning the Conference USA Championship with a 3-0 victory over North Texas on Sunday.
“Colorado College has had a fantastic year,” said Church. “We are just excited and it is a great honor to be a part of the NCAA Championship. It is a thing all of our student-athletes shoot for when they come to Duke is to play for a NCAA Championship and this is the first step. All of our attention, preparation and work we will put in will be towards going to Colorado and playing there.”
Saturday’s winner of the Duke/Colorado College match will advance to the second round to face the winner of the second-seeded Florida (17-4-1) versus Jacksonville (12-7-1) match.
In Duke’s bracket, Virginia Tech was the No. 1 seed, while the Gators are seeded No. 2 and Central Florida was the No. 4 seed. The other No. 1 seeds in the 2013 bracket are Florida State, Virginia and North Carolina. The ACC received eight teams into the NCAA Tournament, including all four No. 1 seeds.
“It feels unbelievable,” commented Weinberg. “We have had kind of a rocky season but at this point it doesn’t really matter as everyone is going into the tournament 0-0. It is a clean slate and a fresh start for us. We have historically done really well in the tournament; have gone really far and made deep runs. We are excited about the opportunity to start over and get out of the ACC as it has been a ruthless conference this year.”
The Blue Devils (8-8-4) have been led on the offensive side of the pitch by junior Kelly Cobb (6 goals), Weinberg (5 goals), Kerr (5 goals) and DeCesare (4 goals). Anasi, who is a two-time All-America, has anchored a defensive line that has featured three freshmen at times. Freshman Christina Gibbons has come on as a rookie and started every match, while leading the Blue Devils in minutes played.
“We are extremely excited,” said Kerr. “To get a chance to play in the NCAA Championship again and to make a big run is awesome. We have a really talented team this year and we are just ecstatic right now. We have had great success on the road this year so we will try to continue it and continue to play our game.”
Last week, Anasi and DeCesare earned All-ACC second and third team honors, respectively. Gibbons and fellow rookie Toni Payne were named to the All-ACC Freshman team.
With Duke traveling to the state of Colorado, the Blue Devils will get a chance to take home freshman defender Lizzy Raben and Thomas. Raben is out of Greenwood Village, Colo., while Thomas is from Castle Rock, Colo.