Nov. 10, 2011
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The Alabama soccer team (10-8-3, 4-5-2 SEC) clinched its first NCAA tournament berth since 1998 and second overall in program history when the Crimson Tide was selected to the field of 64. Alabama will face off against Atlantic Coast Conference foe Miami (9-7-1, 3-6-1 ACC) on Saturday, Nov. 12, at 1 p.m. ET, at Cobb Stadium.
SEC TOURNAMENT RECAP
The eighth-seeded Crimson Tide faced off against Southeastern Conference regular season champions South Carolina in the quarterfinal round of the tournament. Alabama earned a thrilling 1-0 win over the Gamecocks to become the first team to down the No. 1 seed in the tournament since 2002. Molly Atherton’s first half goal held up as Justine Bernier recorded her seventh shutout of the season. In the semifinal round, the Tide went up early on the Florida Gators, 1-0, on a Pia Rijsdijk goal, but just 40 seconds later UF responded to tie the score. Florida then buried the game-winner in the 81st minute.
WHO TO WATCH
Senior goalkeeper Justine Bernier and sophomore midfielder Molly Atherton were named to the SEC Tournament team this past weekend. Both helped the Tide earn a 1-0 upset over the top-seeded and 19th ranked South Carolina in the first round, with Bernier earning her seventh shutout of the year with seven saves. Bernier finished the tournament with 15 saves in two games. Atherton scored the lone goal of the South Carolina match, her fourth tally on the year, to lead the Tide to victory. On the season, Bernier is 9-8-2 with 109 saves and a 1.32 goals against average. Atherton ranks fourth on the team with 10 points on four goals and two assists. Three of her four goals are game-winners.
The Miami Hurricanes enter the game with a 9-7-1 record overall and a 3-6-1 record in ACC play. Their conference record is deceiving, as two out of their three conference victories were over top 20 teams, and four of their losses were to top 15 teams. The Hurricanes rank No. 25 in the latest RPI to help secure a NCAA bid. This is the Hurricanes first NCAA tournament appearance since going in back-to-back seasons in 2007 and 2008. Miami’s last appearance ended in the first round on a 3-1 defeat to South Florida. UM is one of a tourney-high nine ACC schools in the field. Miami is led on the attack by junior forward Kate Howarth and her 26 points on 10 goals and six assists. In goal, the Canes are led by senior Vikki Alonzo, who has posted a shutout, along with 77 saves and a 1.72 goals against average. Miami went 10-8-1 last season and finished ninth in the ACC. They are led by Tom Anagnost, who is in his first year as the Hurricanes head coach. Anagnost came to South Beach from Central Michigan, where he posted an overall record of 40-12-7 in three seasons.
The two teams will be meeting for the first time since 2000 and the third time overall. The two programs have split the series thus far, earning their respective win on the road. In the first meeting in 1998, the Tide emerged victorious with a 3-0 win in Miami. The Hurricanes exacted revenge two years later in Tuscaloosa, winning a 1-0 rematch.
BRAMBLE VERSUS MIAMI
Coming from the ACC, Alabama head coach Todd Bramble has a history with Miami. While at Clemson, Bramble led the Tigers to a 2-1-1 record against the Hurricanes. The last meeting between Bramble and UM came on Oct. 27, 2007 when the two teams played to a 1-1 draw at Miami.
ALABAMA IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT
Alabama will be participating in its second NCAA tournament in program history and for the first time since 1998. The Crimson Tide earned its first ever berth in 1998, after finishing 13-7-1 that season. UA traveled to College Station, Texas to face Texas A&M on Nov. 11. The Aggies won the match on their home field, 3-1, sinking the Tide in its only NCAA tournament appearance.
RIJSDIJK, ATHERTON SHOT WATCH
With her 75 shots on the season, freshman forward Pia Rijsdijk has broken a school record held since 1998. She passed the 66 shots of former Tide greats Tiffany Carle (1998) and Jennifer Carle (1994). Her 34 shots on goal broke Dawn Nash (2002) and Libby Probst’ (2005) school record of 30. With at least one more game to play, Rijsdijk will look to extend her record. Rijsdijk is not the only Tide player shooting at a high rate either. Sophomore midfielder Molly Atherton is currently fifth on the single season shot list with 53 shots on the year, only one shot behind Libby Probst (2005) for fourth place.
BRAMBLE IN NCAA TOURNAMENTS
Alabama head coach Todd Bramble will be making his eighth appearance in the NCAA tournament. Bramble led Clemson to seven straight NCAA tournament appearances, posting a 6-7 record. Bramble led Clemson to the Sweet 16 in 2001 and then later got the Tigers into the Elite Eight in 2006. In his final season at CU, Bramble advanced to the second round.
THREE EARN ALL-SEC HONORS
The Alabama soccer team garnered three All-Southeastern Conference accolades, the league office announced Monday. Senior goalkeeper Justine Bernier (Oakville, Ontario, Canada) was named to the second team while Pia Rijsdijk (Numansdorp, Netherlands) and Theresa Diederich (Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.) nabbed all-freshmen team honors. This marks the third time Alabama has earned three All-SEC honors in the same season, tying last year and the 2004 season for the most in school history. With the second team selection, Bernier becomes the only Tide player in program history to earn All-SEC honors all four seasons.
The Alabama soccer team needed to finish the season strong to earn a berth into the NCAA tournament and that is exactly what the Crimson Tide did. In the last seven matches of the season, against six teams that were ranked at one point during the year, Alabama finished 4-2-1. The Tide earned wins against Arkansas (3-0), No. 24 Tennessee (1-0), Auburn (3-2) and No. 19 South Carolina (1-0). The only losses came to No. 18 LSU (2-0) and Florida (2-1), with the draw coming against Georgia (2-2) on the road. The Tide scored 11 goals over that span and held its opponents to 1.11 goals per game, with three shutouts.
FIRST YEAR SCORERS
This season, the Tide is seeing a youth movement take over and lead the team in scoring. The top four scorers on the team have been on campus for two seasons or less. Redshirt freshman Theresa Diederich leads the team with seven goals overall and 15 points, while true freshman Pia Rijsdijk has scored five goals to go along with four helpers, to give her 14 points. Sophomores Kendall Khanna and Molly Atherton have chipped in as well, with both scoring four times. True freshman Laura Lee Smith led the team in scoring for the first month of the season with three goals before missing action with an injury. She is sixth in scoring with seven points on three goals and an assist.
Two years after scoring just 14 goals, and a year removed from scoring 20 times, the Tide have seen what could be called an offensive outburst this season. The Tide has scored 31 goals, with 10 different players finding the back of the net this season. The 31 goals are the most by an Alabama team since the Tide scored 36 in 2007. Freshman Theresa Diederich has tallied seven goals in 2011 which ties for the most goals scored in a single season since Libby Probst found the back of the net 15 times in 2005.
ONE GOAL OR LESS
The Alabama starting defense that features five upperclassmen, including four seniors has been the core of the success in 2011. The Crimson Tide has allowed one goal or less in 11 of the 21, including seven shutouts. Alabama has had two different streaks of allowing one goal or less in four straight matches. The Tide went 6-2-0 over that span. The last shutout for the Tide came against South Carolina (Nov. 2). It was the 21st clean sheet for Justine Bernier for her career, her seven shutouts in 2011 ties for the most in a single season in school history.
Alabama head coach Todd Bramble put together a tough schedule in 2011 and it was one of the reasons the Tide was able to make the NCAA tournament. The Tide has eight teams on its schedule that are in the top 50 in the RPI, and have played 11 teams that made the field of 64. Also, Alabama has played five teams that were ranked in the regular season. The Tide earned its first win over a ranked opponent since 1999 (SDSU, 1-0, Sept. 4) and after the 1-0 win against No. 24 Tennessee, defeated two ranked opponents in the same season for the first time in school history. The SEC Tournament victory over No. 19 South Carolina was the Tide’s third victory over a ranked opponent in 2011. The last time the Tide defeated a ranked opponent before the three this season was in the opening match of the 1999 season, when the Tide downed No. 19 Vanderbilt, 2-1, in overtime on Aug. 27 in Tuscaloosa.
AROUND THE SEC
Freshman forward Pia Rijsdijk ranks sixth in the conference with 3.79 shots per game and also checks in fifth overall with 72 shots on the season. Senior goalkeeper Justine Bernier ranks third in the conference in saves (109), saves per game (5.74), and shutouts (7) and is fourth in shutouts per game (0.37). Bernier ranks fourth in the league with a .813 save percentage.
Alabama goalkeeper Justine Bernier has already etched her name in the record books in numerous categories and is looking for more in her final season at the Capstone. Bernier earned her 29th career victory (Nov. 2, South Carolina) moving her closer to Tide great Amy Pseja, who holds the record with 30 career wins. Bernier has extended her career records in saves (447) and shutouts (21).