Let’s get you updated on women’s soccer in the WCC so far this season. Two teams have dominated the rankings, but a lot is left to be decided.
BYU, #15, UP TWO SPOTS: The Cougars have been rolling for a while now, and they have been flying up the rankings. They have rattled off 11 straight wins including a perfect 6-0-0 start to WCC play. Combined with the recent struggles of Pepperdine, and the Cougars are already on the verge of clinching the WCC Championship.
With three games remaining, the Cougars need just one win to guarantee the championship regardless of the results of other teams. And with their next two matches against the worst two teams in the conference, that is all but a foregone conclusion. If they can win out including beating a very good Pepperdine team in their season finale, the Cougars will be rolling into the NCAA Tournament red hot. They would be riding a 14 game winning streak and probably be in the top ten or close to it.
Ashley Hatch is on a tear for the Cougars and is putting WCC Player of the Year quality numbers. She leads the WCC with 15 goals and 17 points. She leads a high-octane offense that has ten more goals than any other WCC team. The Cougars have scored at least two goals in every game since their last loss, a 1-0 defeat to Utah in early September. They have already taken care of the WCC and now the rest of country should be on notice with the postseason looming.
PEPPERDINE, #12, DOWN ONE SPOT: What happened to Pepperdine? They rolled into conference play with one loss and ranked in the top ten including some wins over really good teams like North Carolina. They seemed unstoppable with their only loss having come to #1 UCLA. But they have collapsed in conference play with two ties and a loss over their last five games.
There’s not much reason to explain their struggles except that the WCC knows the Waves well and figured them out. They aren’t playing poorly, but they just aren’t playing as well as they were earlier in the season. They still have a high ranking and aren’t losing much. In fact it only looks worse because BYU has been so dominant.
Can’t imagine how hard it must be for the Waves knowing they have had a great season but probably have no chance at a WCC Championship thanks to BYU getting hot. The winning streak the Cougars are on is relentless, and it capitalized on the hiccups the Waves suffered. But there has to be some consolation knowing that barring a major collapse, they will get their shot at glory in the NCAA Tournament.
The Waves have the #18 RPI in the country, still by far the best in the WCC. They could even suffer a bad loss or two to and still make the tournament thanks to their fast start.
SANTA CLARA, #30, RECEIVING VOTES: The Broncos have a very good squad this year led by Sophie Huerta. A First Team All-WCC performer last year after leading the WCC in points and goals, she is having another strong year in 2014. Her two goals lead the Broncos to a key win over San Diego in their last game, and she is second in the WCC in points and goals behind BYU star Ashley Hatch.
Unfortunately for the Broncos, their fate is sealed for the most part. They are a strong 4-2-0 in WCC play, but their two losses have come to Pepperdine and BYU who remain ahead of them in the standings. If the Broncos win out they still have a shot at first place, but BYU only needs one win to clinch as we talked about earlier.
The best shot for the Broncos is to get hot and hope Pepperdine continues to struggle. If they can jump the Waves for second place, it will look very good heading into tournament time to have finished ahead of a nationally ranked team in the standings. If they can do that and continue to pick up votes, they have a strong case for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Their RPI is currently #56 in the country, right on the fringe of being in consideration. Goal number one for the Broncos should be to avoid any losses from here on so they can finish the season with their only WCC losses coming to Pepperdine and BYU. That should be enough to get them in.
SAN DIEGO IN THE MIX: The Toreros aren’t currently picking up any top 25 votes, but they’re in the postseason conversation. Like the Broncos their title hopes are gone, but they do have a case for the NCAA Tournament if they finish strong. All three of their losses in WCC play have been to legitimate opponents, and they can hang their hats on the huge upset win over Pepperdine. The Toreros are the only team besides #1 UCLA to beat the Waves this year.
San Diego actually has a slightly higher RPI than Santa Clara at #54, and they riding the strength of a number of quality wins. The Toreros are a very impressive 4-2-1 against ranked opponents this year, and it’s what is keeping their RPI so high despite the pedestrian 7-7-2 record. Most of their losses are good losses to against elite opponents, so you really have to think that if they stay around the cut line for NCAA Tournament consideration that the committee will have to look at their elite competition and put them in the field.
WHERE IS PORTLAND?: The Pilots aren’t having a bad season, but their less than stellar record against an average non-conference schedule is coming back to haunt. They are buried in the rankings with an RPI of #155 and out of the running for the WCC after a three game losing streak to BYU, San Diego, and Pepperdine.
Preseason All-WCC selection Danica Evans has been solid and is among the WCC leaders in goals and points. But reigning WCC Newcomer of the Year Allison Wetherington has been quiet with just two goals on the year. One has to blame the anemic offense for the struggles of the Pilots as they have just five players who have scored this year. Portland is second to last in the WCC in goals, and they have been shutout seven times this year including all three matches during their recent WCC losing streak.
Unfortunately for the Pilots, they just couldn’t keep pace with the others. After dominating the WCC last year and reaching the NCAA Tournament along with BYU and Santa Clara, Portland could end up the only team from that trio who doesn’t make a return trip to the postseason. The upside? They are young and you can call this a rebuilding year. Both Evans and Wetherington are just sophomores, and the Pilots could be contenders again as early as next season.
WHO’S IN, WHO’S OUT?: While the WCC Championship may be pretty much decided, there’s lots left to decide in the postseason picture. After three WCC teams made the NCAA Tournament last year, the conference currently has two locks to go this year and two others in the running. Despite all the talent lost from last year, the strength of the conferdence as a whole is just as good.
These final games will be key as these teams look to solidify their tournament resumes.