The Washington State Cougars breezed into the second round of the NCAA tournament with a 3-0 win over Montana on Saturday, but what awaits them in the next game will be a much, much stiffer challenge: Third-seeded — and sixth-ranked — Tennessee.
The game kicks off at 11 a.m. PT from Ann Arbor, Michigan (where the second-seeded Wolverines are hosting) and it will be streamed online on Big Ten Network+.
The Vols have won 19 games this season, a program record. They’ve only lost twice, and haven’t lost in their last six, the latest of which was a 3-0 win over Lipscomb in their opening round contest.
I’d love to give you a comprehensive scouting report on the Vols, but I can’t — I haven’t seen them play. I can tell you that forward Jaida Thomas leads the team with 13 goals; she didn’t score against Lipscomb, but she had scored 7 goals in the previous five games. She partners up front with Mackenzie George as part of what looks like a 3-5-2 formation; George leads the team with 9 assists (to go along with 6 goals).
Without a doubt, the Cougars’ center backs — Mykiaa Minniss and Brianna Alger — will have their hands full.
Of course, the Vols will have their hands full with WSU’s attackers, too. Tennessee is coming off consecutive shutouts, but they had given up 8 goals in the previous 5 games.
“Forward-wise, they’ve got some talented kids up front but you know what, so do we,” coach Todd Shulenberger said Wednesday. “And we have some talented kids in the back, and so do they. So it might come down to the midfield because the overlooked piece could be the midfield. What’s the midfield going to do in this moment, and that’s what I’m looking forward to see.”
Best of all, the game will not be taking place in Knoxville, where the Vols are undefeated this year.
“It’s a great standard where we are at with this program,” Shulenberger said. “This group of young ladies, this super senior class has been a part of that whole run these last six or seven years. It’s a great standard to have. I always remind them every day, ‘Winning is hard and don’t you forget that,’ because it doesn’t matter who we play, when or where, winning is hard.”
P.S. — Can you imagine what this team might have done if it had Trinity Rodman? She was a rookie in one of the best women’s soccer leagues in the world ...
This season's best— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) November 17, 2021
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All three days will have live results.