A year after seeing their NCAA tournament streak snapped due to the vagaries of Covid, the No. 18-ranked Washington State Cougars have returned to the 64-team field, it was announced on Monday.
WSU will host Montana on Saturday in the opening round game at 5 p.m. at Lower Soccer Field.
If the Cougs defeat the Grizzlies, they will play the winner of No. 3 seed Tennessee-Lipscomb in the second round on Nov. 19, likely in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The Cougars finished third in the Pac-12 — their highest finish since placing third in 2015 — and they ended just three points off the pace of conference champion UCLA after dismantling Washington 4-2 in the season finale on Friday in Seattle. It’s the closest they’ve ever come to the top of the league (their second-place finish in 2013 was seven points back of the Bruins), and the committee rewarded the Cougars’ performance in one of the country’s premier conferences.
The last time WSU was in the tournament, they made a run all the way to the College Cup final four in 2019. This team features some new faces — notably Oregon State transfer midfielder Sydney Studer and freshman sensation goalkeeper Nadia Cooper — but it also features a number of players who were a part of that run two years ago, including a bunch of seniors and super seniors who played integral roles back then: forward Elyse Bennett (10 goals, 4 assists); defenders Mykiaa Minniss (team leading 1,769 minutes), Brianna Alger, and Elaily Hernandez-Repreza; and midfielder Sidney Pulver (5 goals, 4 assists). Junior midfielder Mackenzie Frimpong-Ellertson played nearly 1,000 minutes for that team, scoring four goals, and junior forward Grayson Lynch played about 500 minutes, scoring once.
In other words, this team is deep and experienced and while nothing is a given, there’s no reason to think they can’t go on the kind of run they went on two years ago.
The College Cup will be held at Stevens Stadium in Santa Clara, California on Friday, Dec. 3 and Sunday, Dec. 5. It will consist of the four quarterfinal winners.