Although schools on the East Coast, particularly North Carolina, have traditionally dominated collegiate women’s soccer, Californian teams have had a much larger presence over recent years.
Seven Pac-12 teams earned a berth in this year’s NCAA Tournament, led by No. 1 seed Stanford and No. 2 seed UCLA. Six of those teams remain after the first round, after California was eliminated.
Having eliminated San Diego State 3-1 last weekend, the Bruins will host Northwestern at Drake Stadium on Friday.
The Bruins have made a total of four trips to the championship match in their program history, with three failed attempts in 2000, 2004 and 2005. In 2013, coach Amanda Cromwell led UCLA to a victory over Florida State in her first year in Westwood.
No. 3 seed USC took home the national championship last year, taking down West Virginia 3-1. The Trojans are the only Californian team with multiple championship titles, having won in 2007 and 2016.
The defending champions retired Eastern Washington 2-1 last weekend, and will face Baylor in the round of 32.
Stanford was the only West Coast team to earn a top seed in this year’s bracket, with North Carolina, Duke and South Carolina earning the other top spots.
Although the Cardinal have not seen a championship in six years, they have been named a No. 1 seed for the tournament in four straight years. Stanford put on a scoring clinic against Utah Valley, toppling the Wolverines 9-1 to advance to a second-round matchup against Auburn.
Of the West Coast schools still in the mix, UCLA is most likely to go up against North Carolina – NCAA women’s soccer top program historically. The Bruins and the Tar Heels are on the same side of the bracket, and could meet in the round of 8.
The Tar Heels have enjoyed an overwhelmingly dominant reign, thanks to coach Anson Dorrance who has led the program since its inception in 1979.
Across the 34 years that the NCAA has held a Division I women’s soccer championship tournament, North Carolina has claimed the title 21 times, 18 more than did the second-most successful team, Notre Dame.
North Carolina outshot High Point 23-0 on its way to a 3-0 win in the first round, and will host the second and third rounds this weekend. The Tar Heels will be looking for their first title since 2012, one year before UCLA’s first and only championship.
Programs on the West Coast still have a long way to go before they come close to a legacy like North Carolina’s. But with the Tar Heels currently in their longest championship drought in the history of the program, the schools in California have become a challenge they must overcome to earn their next banner.