Washington, Seattle U women’s soccer teams ready for big meeting in NCAA tournament

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Never has a battle between the Washington and Seattle University women’s soccer teams meant more.

One team’s season will continue and one will end Saturday night after the Huskies (11-6-2) host the Redhawks (12-7-2) in an opening-round game of the NCAA tournament. Game time is 6 p.m. at Husky soccer field.

“I think it’s going to be a battle of two great teams, and I know that the athletes are looking forward to the competition,” said Seattle University coach Julie Woodward, who is in her 23rd season and has led the Redhawks into the NCAA tournament five of the past seven years.

Seattle U, which won the Western Athletic Conference regular season and tournament titles, has not had a losing season in a decade. But the Redhawks have never beaten the Huskies, a No. 4 seed in the tournament. The teams played to a scoreless tie at the end of the August, which was a milestone for Seattle U after losing the school’s previous 13 matchups.

Woodward said getting a draw against the Huskies is good for her players’ mentality going into Saturday’s game, but there is no question the Redhawks are the underdogs.

The Huskies beat five ranked teams and capped off regular-season play with a 1-0 win over No. 24 Washington State. UW was rewarded by getting its first NCAA tournament berth since 2015, and it’s the first time the Huskies have hosted an NCAA tournament game since 2014.

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“We were out (of the NCAA tournament) too long,” said UW coach Lesle Gallimore, who is in her 26th season and was named Pac-12 coach of the year earlier this week. “The expectation for this program is that we are a tournament team every year.”

The Huskies are led by sophomore Summer Yates, who was named to the all-Pac-12 second team after compiling eight goals and six assists. Her 22 points are the most for a Husky since 2012.

Jessie Ray has 27 points (nine goals and nine assists) to lead the Redhawks and was named the WAC offensive player of the year. Junior Leahi Manthei has eight goals and three assists. But can they crack the UW defense? The Redhawks have not scored against UW in the past nine matchups going back to 2012.

“That’s a good question,” Woodward said. “We have some upperclassmen on our front line who have been kind of in a groove lately.”

Gallimore said UW’s past success against Seattle U will mean nothing.

“It’s tournament time, and all that goes bye-bye,” she said. “Anything that has happened in the past doesn’t matter. What matters is the game that day.”

When the Husky men hosted Seattle U in the 2017 NCAA tournament, a packed crowd was on hand, with the support pretty evenly split.

“It will bring a lot of excitement to the city,” Gallimore said. “Julie has done a great job with her team, as they always do, especially in conference. The expectation in scheduling them every year is that they are going to do a great job in trying to win the WAC, and be an important game on our schedule. We don’t have to go anywhere, either of us, so it will be a derby times two, and we’re up for it.”

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