Nov. 5, 2012
BERKELEY - Twenty-third-ranked California earned an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament to play No. 22 Pepperdine in the first round on Saturday at 1 p.m. in Malibu, Calif., the NCAA announced on Monday. The Golden Bears completed the regular season with a 15-5-0 overall record, 8-3-0 Pac-12 mark and third place in the conference. They take on a Pepperdine team that finished 14-6-0 in the regular season (5-3-0 in the West Coast Conference) and likewise earned an at-large entry into the postseason.
Head coach Neil McGuire has led the Bears to the postseason in each of his six years in Berkeley.
"It's always a privilege to make the NCAA Tournament," McGuire said. "I think our players have earned the right to be in the tournament. We felt like we did enough to host, but obviously the NCAA felt that wasn't the case, so we're on the road against Pepperdine. They're very talented. The coach is a good friend of mine and a tremendous coach. This is going to be a stiff test for us, but one that we're excited to do."
Cal closed the regular season with a hard-fought 1-0 setback against No. 1 Stanford on Nov. 4 at Edwards Stadium. Dynamic freshman forward Ifeoma Onumonu leads Cal in total points (27), goals (11) and game-winning goals and is tied for the team high in assists (5) with senior midfielder Betsy Hassett. Junior Emily Kruger - who played strong in goal against the Cardinal, making six saves - has compiled a 1.02 goals-against average in 19 starts this season.
The Bears finished with a 7-4-0 home record and with an impressive 8-1-0 road mark. In the final NSCAA poll of the regular season, Cal remained at No. 23, while Pepperdine remained at No. 22.
"The team has been very successful this year on the road," McGuire said. "It's a team that no matter where they're playing, they have the same mentality - they just want to play their best soccer, and they're up for any challenge. We played Pepperdine last year, so we know a little bit about them. It's going to be a difficult game, but one that I think the players will be up for."
This marks Cal's ninth straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament, the 14th in the last 15 seasons and the 20th overall. The Bears have an all-time postseason record of 13-18-3. They have advanced to the semifinal round of the tournament, three times - 1984, 1987 and 1988. Cal has advanced to at least the second round of the tournament four out of the last seven seasons.
Last season in the NCAA second round, the Bears tied Boston College, 0-0, in overtime before falling to the Eagles, 3-1, on penalty kicks. In the first round, Cal tied Santa Clara, 1-1, before clipping the Broncos, 4-3, on PKs.
Pepperdine has earned two straight bids to the NCAA Tournament and produced a 6-6-0 overall record in the postseason. Under coach Tim Ward, the Waves have won eight of their last 11 games entering Saturday's match and finished tied for third place in the WCC. Senior forward Anisa Guajardo leads the Waves in points with 28 and is tied for the team high in goals (10) and game-winning goals (4) with sophomore midfielder forward Amanda LeCave. Junior defender/forward Michelle Pao paces her team in assists (9), while senior goalkeeper Roxanne Barker has posted a 1.21 GAA in 18 starts.
Last year, Pepperdine also hosted an NCAA first-round match, but the Waves lost to Long Beach State, 1-0, in overtime. Additionally in 2011, Cal fell to Pepperdine, 2-1, in the season opener at Edwards Stadium.
In games against six common opponents, Cal produced a 3-3-0 record, while Pepperdine was 4-2-0. Both teams beat Pacific and San Francisco and both lost to UCLA. The Bears defeated Arizona State and fell against Arizona and Santa Clara, while the Waves beat Arizona and Santa Clara and lost to ASU.
Cal is one of six Pac-12 teams - including Stanford (No. 1 seed in Cal's bracket), UCLA (No. 3 seed in Cal's bracket), Arizona State, Washington and Washington State - to earn berths in the NCAA Tournament. Pepperdine is one of four WCC teams - including BYU, Portland and Santa Clara - to reach the postseason.
The Cal-Pepperdine winner will face the winner of the San Diego State-Cal State Northridge first-round match. SDSU is the No. 2 seed in Cal's quarter of the bracket.