BATON ROUGE - After finishing as the runner-up in the Southeastern Conference regular-season standings for the third time in four seasons, the LSU soccer team picked up an at-large berth into the 2011 NCAA Division I Women's Soccer Tournament on Monday with a first-round match against No. 3 seed Texas A&M in College Station on Friday night at 6:30 p.m. CT.
The winner of Friday's contest will advance to face either West Virginia (17-4) or Virginia Tech (12-7-1) in the second round in a potential clash in Charlottesville, Va., on Friday, Nov. 18.
The Tigers (13-7-1) return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2009 campaign with their fourth NCAA at-large berth in the last five seasons following consecutive appearances from 2007-09.
LSU has enjoyed great success in the NCAA First Round in recent years as it has posted a 2-1 record with a pair of trips to the second round in 2007 and 2009 for its deepest run in program history.
"We're really excited to be back in the tournament. The kids have worked hard all year to get to this point and we'll go see what we can do on Friday night in College Station," said LSU head coach Brian Lee. "You put in so much work to get a reward at the end of the year. It's really a long-term process where our kids work so hard. They're definitely looking forward to the postseason."
The Tigers will face a familiar opponent on Friday night as they last faced the Aggies (15-5-2) in 2009 for the right to advance to the NCAA Sweet 16 as part of the Baton Rouge Regional.
After playing to a 1-1 draw in regulation, Texas A&M scored a 4-2 win over LSU in penalty kicks in their second-round matchup at the LSU Soccer Stadium. It remains the first and only match between the Tigers and Aggies on the soccer pitch in the history of the two programs before they kick off Friday night.
Texas A&M has earned a No. 3 national seed in the 2011 NCAA Division I Women's Soccer Tournament on the strength of a second-place finish in the Big 12 Conference regular-season standings and capturing a Big 12 Tournament title with a win over previously-unbeaten Oklahoma State in Sunday's final. The team owns a nine-game unbeaten streak heading into Friday's first-round match at Ellis Field.
"They're a really good team, a Top 16 national seed," Lee said. "We're going to get a tough opponent that our kids are familiar with and our coaches are familiar with. Texas A&M is especially good on their home field. It makes for one of the more exciting matchups in the first round of this year's tournament."
While capturing their fourth SEC Western Division crown in five seasons, the Tigers earned second place in the final SEC regular-season standings again this fall with their second-best league mark in club history with an 8-3 record and 24 points in 11 conference matches played this fall.
The Tigers are not the only team from the SEC to earn a berth into this year's NCAA Tournament field as seven other programs have helped set an SEC record for NCAA representation with eight bids.
LSU will join Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina and Tennessee as part of the field of 64 as the SEC breaks its previous mark of six teams receiving a berth into the NCAA Tournament field. Florida has earned a No. 2 national seed to lead the SEC in the postseason, while Auburn has drawn a No. 3 seed and Tennessee has received a No. 4 seed among the 16 seeded teams in the tournament.
NCAA Tournament Selection Show Quotes
November 7, 2011
Senior All-SEC forward Taryne Boudreau
On LSU's selection to compete in the 2011 NCAA Tournament ...
"I'm excited because we're facing a really good team, and that's going to really test our skill and talent. If we win, it'll just show that we deserve to be in the NCAA Tournament and go a long way. We obviously didn't have a good run at the conference tournament, so it's good to get another game and go from there."
On what the team has done since the SEC Tournament to prepare for the NCAA Tournament ...
"Right now, we're just working on the little things, sharpening the technical stuff and keeping up with our fitness to get ready. I think now that we know who we'll be playing, we'll probably focus more on getting ready for Texas A&M. We're excited for the opportunity."
Senior captain Kellie Murphy
On the team's reaction to playing Texas A&M in the NCAA First Round ...
"We're very excited right now. We've been just waiting for this moment to see where we might be going and who we'll face. We had an idea that it might be Texas A&M, but obviously weren't certain. Mentally now everyone needs to get prepared and play with everything that we've got on Friday night."
On LSU's last NCAA Tournament match against Texas A&M in 2009 ...
"Two years ago in my sophomore year, we lost it in PKs. That was just heartbreaking, especially to watch our senior class fall like that. We worked so hard, and for it to end like that, you never want that to happen. PKs are a tough way to go out. That was an experience I'd like to not have happen again."
On if the team will use the 2009 NCAA Tournament as motivation this postseason ...
"I don't think any of us are comparing this year to that year at all. We're a different team now, and will be in a different atmosphere this weekend. I think that we just have to prepare ourselves for this specific game and take it one game at a time from here on out."