Washington men’s soccer coach Jamie Clark thought his Huskies deserved to be the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament.
UW didn’t get that honor — that went to Pac-12 champion Oregon State — but the Huskies still earned a program-best No. 2 overall seed.
That means Washington (14-1-2) will play at home all the way to the College Cup, college soccer’s version of the final four, assuming it doesn’t get knocked off along the way.
The Huskies will open tournament play Sunday against the winner of Friday’s first-round match between Seattle University (13-7-1) and host Portland (10-6-1).
Seattle U earned its spot into the NCAA tournament with a dramatic win in the Western Athletic Conference tournament championship game, scoring two goals in the final four minutes of regulation to tie the score at 2 against Grand Canyon, then winning a shootout.
Washington defeated Seattle U 2-1 in overtime and beat Portland, the West Coast Conference champion, in nonconference games in September. Portland defeated Seattle U 3-2 at home in September.
“I think our toughest game in the whole thing is going to be that opening-round game,” said Clark, whose team has reached the final eight the past two seasons. “Local derbies are incredibly tough and I think Portland and Seattle U are top-20 teams in the country. That will be potentially our hardest game all the way through.”
Washington was ranked No. 1 in the NCAA RPI and in the latest Top Drawer Rankings. Oregon State was No. 1 and UW No. 3 in the United States Coaches rankings, which have not been updated since UW and Oregon State (12-2-3) played to a season-ending 2-2 tie.
“I think we should have been the No. 1 seed is what I think,” said Clark, whose team’s only loss was 3-2 to Oregon State while playing with a two-man disadvantage in the second half. “I guess I should be happy with the No. 2 seed, but we’re the No. 1 team in the RPI and the No. 1 team in the rankings, but so be it. I am happy we are in.”
That left Oregon State as Pac-12 champions with a 7-1-2 conference record. Washington was 6-1-2, having played one fewer game after its match against California was canceled during the match because of unsafe field conditions.
“I think in the end, why Oregon State claimed the No. 1 seed was because they won the Pac-12 Conference,” Clark said. “We didn’t have a fair chance to win the Pac-12 Conference because we played a game less in the season. … It’s frustrating, but in the end, I’ve got to move past it.”
Oregon State senior associate athletic director Kimya Massey was head of the tournament selection committee, but said he was out of the room when the committee discussed Oregon State to eliminate possible bias.
“That being said, when I returned to the room and we continued the discussions, the committee really felt that with Oregon State’s profile – having the best strength of schedule in the entire country, having won outright the No. 1 RPI conference in the country and their overall depth and the dangerous team that they are – that they really earned that No. 1 seed,” Massey said during the selection show.
Massey’s take on UW: “The University of Washington had an incredible season as well. They are a dangerous team with 12 different goal scorers and incredible goaltending … so the committee felt they earned that No. 2 seed.”
The past two seasons, Washington has had to play on the road in its quarterfinal matches, losing at Georgetown and at Pittsburgh in bids to reach the College Cup for the first time.
It certainly would be a big difference hosting a potential quarterfinal at home.
“100%,” Clark said, quantifying the difference. “It’s a huge advantage. Our field is different than most fields and we’re used to it. … But it’s got to stop raining here so our field can dry out.”
Seattle U likely needed to win the WAC tournament to earn its fifth NCAA tournament bid in nine seasons. It looked like that would not happen when Grand Canyon scored to take a 2-0 lead in the 86th minute, but then came the great Redhawks rally.
“I was in the zone, the entire team was in the zone, and it wasn’t until I got to the airport when I was like, ‘That just happened,’ ” said Seattle U coach Peter Fewing. “It was just so surreal.”
Now, Seattle U gets a rematch against the Pilots. Seattle U led 2-0 in the first meeting, but Portland rallied for the win, aided by a pair of penalty kicks.
“It will be really fun to play them,” Fewing said of Portland. “It will be an absolute battle.”
Seattle Pacific women a No. 1 seed
The fourth-ranked Seattle Pacific women (17-1-1) were selected as the No. 1 seed in the West Region of the NCAA Divison II tournament.
The Falcons, who received a first-round bye, play the winner of Sonoma State and Hawaii Hilo on Saturday at SPU’s Interbay Stadium at 2 p.m.
The Western Washington women (14-4-3) are the No. 2 seed in the West Region and also received a first-round bye. The Vikings host the winner of the Point Loma and Cal State East Bay game on Saturday at 1 p.m.
The SPU men (12-3-2), the No. 9 seed in the Super Region 4 in the men’s NCAA Division II tournament, open against Colorado State Pueblo (14-5-2) on Thursday at 6 p.m in Los Angeles.
The winner will play host Cal State Los Angeles on Saturday at 6 p.m.