LEWISBURG, Pa. – The Patriot League champion Bucknell women’s soccer team will be headed to No. 2 seed and fifth-ranked West Virginia for the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. The Bison, who are making their fourth NCAA appearance, will square off with the Mountaineers at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium this Saturday at 1 p.m.
This will be the first time Bucknell (12-8) has played in the NCAA Tournament and not played Penn State in the first round. The Bison fell to the Nittany Lions 3-1 in 2001, 6-0 in 2005, and 6-0 last season.
After cruising to Patriot League regular-season and tournament titles a year ago, Bucknell’s path to the 2017 title was a bit more arduous. As the No. 2 seed in the Patriot League Tournament, the Bison had to travel to Annapolis, Maryland and get by Colgate 1-0 in the semifinals before toppling top-seeded Navy on its home field 3-2 on Sunday.
Patriot League Tournament MVP Kendall Ham, who had a hat trick in the Patriot League championship game win over Navy, leads the Bison and ranks 25th nationally with 12 goals on the season. Kendall and her twin sister Jackie Ham were both First Team All-Patriot League selections this year, while fellow seniors Karli Cirovski, Meghan Holtz and Maddie Mulford were all named to the Second Team.
Meanwhile, West Virginia (15-3-2) began this season as the No. 1 team in the country after losing to USC 3-1 in the 2016 NCAA College Cup Final. The Mountaineers returned nine starters and 85 percent of its goal-scoring from that squad. They are 4-3 against nationally ranked opponents, including a 2-1 win over Penn State in September when the Nittany Lions were ranked No. 1 nationally.
Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium has been a hornet’s nest for visiting teams. WVU is 127-20-15 in the facility since it opened in 2004.
The Mountaineers were beaten by TCU in penalty kicks in the Big 12 semifinals in Kansas City on Friday. That officially goes in the books as a draw, so West Virginia will bring a nine-game unbeaten streak (7-0-2) into the NCAA Tournament.
First Team All-Big 12 forward Michaela Abam has a team-high eight goals for the Mountaineers, who have outscored opponents 36-13 in 20 games this season. Senior Amandine Pierre-Louis was named the Big 12 Co-Defensive Player of the Year.
Bucknell and West Virginia are in the Palo Alto region of the NCAA Tournament bracket, headed by No. 1 seed Stanford. The Bucknell-WVU winner will get the winner of Rutgers and La Salle in the second round.
The Bison and Mountaineers have never before met in women's soccer, however the two schools recently squared off in another NCAA Tournament. Fourth-seeded West Virginia defeated Bucknell 86-80 in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament last March.