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First NCAA Championship field selections produce record numbers for ACC
GREENSBORO, N.C. (theACC.com) - The Atlantic Coast Conference has repeatedly set the bar when it comes to Olympic sports, but the first NCAA postseason selection announcements of the fall season bordered on the absurd.
Late Sunday evening, the conference learned that all seven of its teams had been selected for the 16-team NCAA Field Hockey Championship field. But it didn’t stop there.
ACC champion Maryland earned the No. 1 overall seed. No. 2 Syracuse, No. 3 North Carolina, and No. 4 Duke also were selected as host sites for the first and second rounds as play gets under way Saturday.
"That's phenomenal and says so much about the strength of our conference," said North Carolina veteran coach Karen Shelton. "To have all four of the host sites at ACC schools is amazing."
What could the conference possibly do for an encore? It took less than 24 hours to find out.
The 2013 NCAA Women’s Soccer Championship Bracket was unveiled on Monday afternoon to more raised eyebrows and dropped jaws.
The ACC boasted all four No 1 national seeds in Florida State, North Carolina, Virginia and Virginia Tech. That’s a first ever for any conference, and mind-blowing even for a league that has consistently proven itself to be the nation’s best in the sport.
“Going through our conference has been a challenge all year,” said Virginia Tech coach Chugger Adair, whose team sports a 16-4-2 record and dropped a narrow 1-0 decision to Florida State in last Sunday’s ACC Championship title game. “It’s nice to see that our accomplishments were recognized by the selection committee. We look forward to backing up our seeding and getting after it (when first-round play starts) on Friday evening.”
With traditional field hockey national power Syracuse joining the already loaded ACC this season, that sport’s seven teams in the NCAA field set a league record. But batting 1.000 isn’t without precedent for the ACC. This marks the second year that the entire league is postseason bound, as all five ACC squads in 1999 were awarded bids. At least half of the league has earned a bid for 19 straight years.
Boston College, Virginia, and Wake Forest are the other ACC representatives in this year’s NCAA field hockey tournament. History favors the conference as it sets out to justify its high collective billing. ACC field hockey teams have won 10 of the last 11 national championships and 17 overall. The national championship game has been an all-ACC matchup in eight of the last 10 years.
"I am very happy that all of the ACC teams were rewarded for a grueling season," Virginia coach Michele Madison said. "It was an extremely competitive year with ACC tournament seedings determined by goal differentials. Every one of us deserves to be in the tournament, and I am positive everyone is very excited."
ACC women’s soccer also boasts a long tradition of living up to the hype.
This is the 11th straight year that at least seven ACC teams have made the NCAA Tournament field, and the 15th straight year that at least six have been selected. North Carolina has claimed 21 NCAA titles (22 national championships overall), and the ACC has placed at least one team in the Women’s College Cup in 30 of the 31 years since the event’s inception.
All of the above was accomplished prior to the arrival of new league member Notre Dame, which is playing in the NCAA tournament for the 21st time and owns three NCAA titles to rank second behind North Carolina all-time.
"We know that we are battle tested," Florida State coach Mark Krikorian said. "The last six games of the year we played Virginia Tech, Virginia, Notre Dame, Duke, North Carolina and Virginia Tech again. All five of those teams are in this year's field. They are highly seeded and highly respected teams.”
In addition to the four No. 1 seeds and Notre Dame, the 2013 NCAA Women’s Soccer Championship includes Boston College, Duke and Wake Forest. Notre Dame is ranked 19th nationally this week by Soccer America, and Wake Forest is 23rd.
“The message we go into the tournament with is that there's not a whole lot that will surprise us and there's not a whole lot that we haven't already seen,” Krikorian said. “Now it's a matter of us going out, preparing properly and executing the plan."
This weekend could be only the start of good things when it comes to ACC and NCAA fall Olympic sports. Regional action gets under way in cross county, where the ACC will be led by fifth-ranked Florida State on the women’s side and No. 14 Syracuse on the men’s side.
The ACC Men’s Soccer Championship concludes this Sunday in Germantown, Md., with NCAA selections to follow next Monday. ACC men’s soccer, which rivals field hockey and women’s soccer historically in terms of national success, currently boasts four teams among the top 10 in the most recent Soccer America poll (No. 1 Notre Dame, No. 4 Maryland, No. 9 Wake Forest, No. 10 Virginia plus No. 15 North Carolina).
The volleyball regular season does not end until Nov. 30, but the ACC currently has three teams ranked among the AFHCA national Top 25 with Duke at No. 13, North Carolina No. 15 and Florida State at No. 22.