Friday, 8:00 PM
Washington State (10-4-4; 6th, Pac-12; WTSR – 1.04, 4th – Pac-12)
Seattle (14-4-2; 1st , WAC; WTSR – 1.46, 2nd – WAC)
Wait, Why Is Seattle Playing Washington State When Washington Is Right There?
Honestly, if I had to question and explain every bizarre decision, I might never finish these previews.
Seattle Scored How Many Goals in WAC Play?
Thirty-nine in ten matches. But you might want to put a giant asterisk by it considering two of the clubs in the league were new programs, and two others were generally hopeless defensively.
The Redhawks Can Still Ball Though, Right?
Oh yeah. You can pretty much sum up Seattle’s offensive gameplan as “Get The Ball to Stephanie Verdoia”. Verdoia ripped apart WAC defenses to the tune of twelve goals and ten assists in just fifty-five shots and comes into the NCAA Tournament with twenty-one goals to her name. She’s a fantastic talent for Seattle’s level and will likely be key to any hopes for an upset. Taylor Ritzman also has eleven goals on the season, and it’s going to be interesting to see if the Redhawks can muster enough offense to take down a much more touted team in the Big Dance.
OK, Seattle Can Beat Up Bad Teams. Can They Pull Off An Upset?
It’s not out of the question. Unlike a lot of the other mid-majors in this tournament, Seattle actually has experience against bigger conference schools this season and hasn’t been bowled over either. They lost to Kentucky and Washington by just a single goal, while also drawing with Portland right before league play started. The defense, led by assist maven Kiana Kraft, and buttressed by Kelly Beck and Stephanie Spiekerman probably aren’t going to be overwhelmed by anything Washington State can throw at them. There’s little to indicate that Washington State is going to blow anyone out of the water either. In short? There’s a chance.
But Bring Me Back To Earth Now.
Washington State’s still a pretty good team. The defense was in the upper-half of the Pac-12, and they still finished tied for fifth in the best league in America in 2014. They drew with BYU and Pepperdine away from the Palouse and drew with Washington at home while beating Cal in the league also. At their best, the WSU attack can bisect opposing defenses as well as any club in the nation, with diagonal runs to open up gaps in the backline. The spine of Washington State is very strong, with promising youngsters like Jordan Branch being joined by veterans like Jamie Schnieders and Susie White on the backline. Nicole Setterlund can serve as the glue in midfield or also as a calming presence on the backline depending on the need of the club. And capping it off, WSU has a great last line of defense, with the underrated Gurveen Clair an excellent set of hands in goal for the Cougars. Clair is experienced and a great shot stopper, and her ability is going to come in handy for a club that has trouble scoring goals.
So The Offense Is A Problem?
Yeah. The Cougars seem to have a good gameplan to get its forwards in a position to score but have trouble actually putting the ball in the back of the net. Leading scorer Jocelyn Jeffers has just four goals on the season, which is the mark of a team that shouldn’t be making the NCAA Tournament, not one that has dreams of progressing. Jeffers and Kaitlyn Johnson have been doing most of the heavy lifting in attack in the league, but have just two goals each in Pac-12 play, with one of Jeffers’ coming from the penalty spot. The Cougars are not meant to come from behind, and any deficit faced in this tournament is going to create a mountain for them to climb given the misfiring attack.
That In Mind, What Are Washington State’s Odds of Making A Run?
Well, they certainly got drawn into a nice area of the bracket. South Carolina and Clemson are the exact kind of defense-first teams that Washington State can stymie and beat if at the top of their game, making a run to the Sweet Sixteen a possibility. But at the same time, WSU hasn’t kept a clean sheet in their last five and haven’t won in their last three, which all happened to come in Pullman. If they’re wearing down and looking ahead, they could easily fall victim to a very game Seattle time on Friday.