NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Vanderbilt is back in the NCAA Tournament. Now it’s time to see if the Commodores can create a little history.
Head coach Darren Ambrose’s team will travel to Clemson (11-6-1) Friday at 4 p.m. CT in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. It’s the fourth straight year the Dores have made the national postseason – but the Vandy program has never ventured past the second round.
“Just day by day, step by step, hoping to get past that this year – obviously that’s the goal for every year,” Vandy senior keeper Lauren Demarchi said. “But we’re not worried what we’ve done historically because this is a new year and a new team.”
Commodores are in for the third straight season. 🏆
They’ll face Clemson in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. 😎#AnchorDown pic.twitter.com/PVuArx6Vq1
— Vanderbilt Soccer (@VandySoccer) November 11, 2019
The Commodores (14-5-1) are coming off a 1-1 showing in the SEC Tournament in Orange Beach, Alabama, where they beat Alabama and lost to eventual champion South Carolina. Still, Vanderbilt is 3-1 in its last four and 6-2-1 in its last nine.
Vandy is also two wins short of matching last year’s win total of 16.
“Look, we’re in, and it’s exciting when you see your name called. Being an at-large is never guaranteed,” Ambrose said. “We had a good year overall considering all the things that took place for us in the middle of the year with injuries. To get an at-large and to see your name is exciting.”
There was certainly a hint of disappointment on campus Monday after the official bracket reveal because the Commodores were not awarded a home match. And as Ambrose pointed out, Nashville’s three best teams – Vanderbilt, Lipscomb and Belmont – were all sent on the road for this weekend’s opening round of games.
The Commodores have only hosted NCAA Tournament matches now in 2018, 2005, 1998 and 1994.
“It’s a bummer because I’m a senior and I’d like to play one more game here,” Demarchi said. “But we can beat anyone, anywhere, I truly believe that.”
Clemson enters the tournament having lost five of its final eight to end the season, including a 2-1 loss to defending national champion Florida State in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament. The Tigers started the year 7-0-1 before their first loss.
Vandy is 0-3-1 all-time against Clemson.
“We’re excited. This is the third year in a row we’ve got a bid so it doesn’t matter who we’re playing, we’re just focusing on ourselves,” Demarchi said. “We’re excited to get through this week and get to play Clemson.”
Vanderbilt ended its season last year in the second round at Baylor. The year before that Santa Clara sent Vandy packing in the second round and in 2006 it was Clemson who ousted the Commodores in a first-round match.
Vandy also made appearances in the second round in 1998, 1996, 1995 and 1994.
The 2019 College Cup is scheduled for Dec. 6 and Dec. 8 in San Jose, California. After this weekend’s game the second and third rounds are scheduled for Nov 22-24 followed by the quarterfinals Nov. 29-30.
The winner of the first round match will advance to travel to No. 2 overall seed UCLA (14-4-1) or host Lamar (16-6) in the second round.
“If you’re looking at the field as a whole it looks like the committee leaned heavily on strength of schedule and this year the couple of games we played outside of our conference that we played, their RPI dropped lower than we expected when we scheduled two years ago,” Ambrose said. “But at the end of the day, the committee makes a decision and we’re in.
“Disappointed? Sure, we’d love to have another home game for our seniors and for the soccer community. But our kids are excited they got another game to play.”