Bears selected to play at Pepperdine for first NCAA match

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On Monday afternoon, the Cal women’s soccer team gathered in the Simpson High Performance Center to view the NCAA women’s soccer tournament selection show. The players anxiously waited to hear Cal called.

When that happened, there was a short burst of applause. But then came a  few gasps of disbelief as the reality of the selection set in.

The Bears made the tournament — that was never in question — but will not have the benefit of home-field advantage in the first round of the tournament. Instead, the Bears will face No. 22 Pepperdine (14-6, 5-3 WCC) on the road.

“There were some gasps in the room that we are not hosting, which we are surprised and not exactly happy about,” said senior Lauren Battung. “But you can’t have everything go your way, and we will be prepared to face Pepperdine.”

Cal wrapped up a largely successful season on Sunday with a home loss to No. 1 Stanford. Cal went 15-5 overall and 8-3 in Pac-12 play, at one point racking up an eight-match winning streak. Two of the Bears’ conference losses were to the nation’s top two teams, Stanford and No. 2 UCLA.

The third loss was a significant red mark on its record as the team dropped the conference opener to unranked Arizona. The only other loss to an unranked team was against Nevada. Aside from the two No. 23 Bears have played well, ranking as high as No. 12.

“It is always a privilege to make the NCAA tournament, and I think our players have earned the right to be in the tournament,” said coach Neil McGuire.

Though the squad is disappointed to not be hosting, the Bears should still be in good shape against the Waves. Cal has lost only one game on the road all season to the Bruins.

“The team has been very successful this year on the road, and it is a team that no matter where they are playing they have the same mentality,” McGuire said. “They just want to play their best soccer and they are up for any challenge.

Should the Bears advance past Pepperdine, possible future opponents include Santa Clara, UCLA and Stanford. These three teams are responsible for three of the Bears’ five total losses, giving the Bears a tough road to navigate.

However, at this point the team is focused on overcoming its first obstacle and getting out of the first round by beating the Waves on Saturday.

“If you are not one of the top three or four seeds you never get an easy road in the NCAA tournament and we didn’t expect one,” McGuire said.  “The girls have played well all year … So that’s all you can really want at the end of the year.”

Taylor Brink covers women’s soccer. Contact her at [email protected]

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