DURHAM, N.C. – For the 22nd time in school history and the 13th time out of the last 14 years, the Duke women's soccer team received an at-large invitation to play in the NCAA Tournament Monday as the 11th-ranked Blue Devils will play Charlotte Saturday, Nov. 12 at 1:00 p.m., at Koskinen Stadium in Durham, N.C.
Duke was seeded No. 3 overall in the NCAA Tournament. In the Blue Devils’ bracket, West Virginia was the No. 1 seed, while Notre Dame is seeded No. 2 and UCLA was the No. 4 seed. The other No. 1 seeds in the 2016 bracket are Stanford, West Virginia and South Carolina. The ACC received seven teams into the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s an honor to be playing in the NCAA Tournament,” said Duke head coach Robbie Church. “As we talked about earlier, there are 333 teams that start this journey in August and now we are down to 64 teams. We spent last week training without knowing who and where we are going to play. Now we know it is Charlotte and we are obviously very familiar with them. We are very happy to be playing Charlotte. John Cullen has done a great job with their program. What a great weekend they had this past weekend winning three games in the Conference USA to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. I am very happy for them.”
Charlotte enters the NCAA Tournament with an 11-8-2 overall record under head coach John Cullen. The 49ers have been led by Martha Thomas and Megan Greene with 10 goals each. Thomas has also collected 10 assists for a team-best 30 points on the year. Riley Orr leads Charlotte with 11 assists. The 49ers knocked off Western Kentucky, UTEP and Florida Atlanta over the weekend to claim the Conference USA Championship and the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
“Really excited about finally finding out who our opponent is going to be, start preparing for them and get underway with the tournament,” said senior Christina Gibbons. “Obviously, you want to make it as far as possible in the ACC Tournament, but maybe it was a blessing in a disguise for our team -- for some of our players to rest their legs, mentally get refreshed and come back ready to play in the NCAA Tournament.”
Duke and Charlotte will meet for the seventh time in school history with the Blue Devils leading the series, 5-1. The 49ers downed Duke, 2-1, in the last meeting Oct. 20, 2002. Blue Devil head coach Robbie Church started the Charlotte women’s soccer program in 1995 and totaled a 66-30-10 record with the 49ers.
“Our whole family is big Charlotte fans,” said Church. “We follow them every year to see how they are doing. Those five years at Charlotte were really good years. It will bring back a lot of memories, there is no question about that. But when it gets down to Saturday, we will be down to business. Only one of us is going to advance so we will be working hard to advance on to the next round.”
Saturday’s winner of the Duke/Charlotte match will advance to the second round to face the winner of the Michigan/Illinois State contest Nov. 18.
Duke is currently ranked No. 11 in the latest Soccer America top 25 national rankings and No. 14 in the NCAA RPI, after totaling a 12-4-3 overall record in the regular season. The Blue Devils finished third in the ACC in 2016 with a 7-2-1 overall record.
Coming off an impressive run in 2015 to the NCAA Championship match, the Blue Devils feature an experienced group looking to make a long run in 2016. Led by captains Gibbons and Lizzy Raben, Duke has 18 players from last year’s squad that competed in the NCAA Tournament.
On the season, freshman Ella Stevens has led Duke with eight goals, while junior Imani Dorsey (7) and senior Toni Payne (6) are right behind the rookie. The Blue Devil defense has been stellar once again totaling nine shutouts.
Church has now guided Duke to 14 tournament appearances over his 16 years with the Blue Devils. He led the team to the NCAA Championship match in 2011 and 2015, while guiding the Blue Devils to the NCAA Elite Eight on four other occasions – 2007, 2008, 2012 and 2013.
Tickets for Saturday’s contest against Charlotte can be purchased by heading to www.GoDuke.com/ticketes and calling the Duke Ticket Office (919) 681-2583 or 1-877-375-3853. Tickets will be $8.00 for adults, $5.00 for students/seniors and $3 for children.