UCLA's and UC Irvine's women's teams Monday were awarded home assignments for the first two rounds of the NCAA Division I tournament, but neither was among the 16 national seeded teams.
Economic decisions prodded the NCAA Women's Soccer Committee, with five Southern California schools in the 64-team field, to bring fourth-seeded Wake Forest and Central Florida to the Southland for quartets featuring three Western schools.
Big West Conference tournament champion Long Beach State was given a tough assignment, opening against Santa Clara in top-ranked Stanford's quartet, and USC was shipped to South Bend, Ind., where it will open against Illinois.
All first-round games are Friday and second-rounders Sunday except at UCLA, which will play on Thursday and Saturday because the quartet includes Brigham Young, which does not play on Sundays.
A quick look at the local schools:
UCLA: The Bruins (12-7-1), who have been to seven straight NCAA College Cup final fours, were No. 3 in the preseason standings, but they've struggled to score when burgeoning U.S. national-teamer Sydney Leroux has been out -- and sometimes when she's there. They'll open up Thursday night against No. 25 BYU(16-3-2), with unranked Central Florida (14-3-1) -- overrated as a No. 4 seed -- meeting Fresno State (9-8-5) in the other game.
UC IRVINE: The 11th-ranked Anteaters (17-2-2) had a perfect run through the Big West Conference, but they were beaten by Long Beach State in Sunday's conference tournament final, costing them a seed. No matter -- they'll be home to start off their first NCAA appearance, Friday against Arizona State (9-7-3). Wake Forest (12-7-3), one of six Atlantic Coast Conference seeds, takes on San Diego (11-7-2) in the other first-round match.
USC: The Women of Troy (12-5-3) beat UCLA, are ranked (17th, although they'll fall in Tuesday's poll after losing Friday at Arizona State), and finished ahead of their archrivals in the Pac-10 standings. Their reward: A much, much tougher draw. The Illini (13-4-1) are a decent Big Ten team, but the real test would come in the second round against No. 8 Notre Dame (15-2-2), woefully underseeded at No. 3. The Irish face New Mexico (12-2-5) in the first round.
LONG BEACH STATE: The 49ers will be tested by No. 14 (and dropping) Santa Clara (12-6-2), once among the elite tier in women's soccer but now trying to bounce back from losses to Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine. Pull that one off, and it's over. Stanford (18-0-2), which opens against Sacramento State (8-9-1) is No. 1 for a reason, and there should be no stopping the Cardinal until the final four, if at all. The winner of this quartet meets the winner of UCLA's in the second round.
NATIONAL SCENE: The committee took regionalization too far, but there's controversy every year in the women's soccer pairings. The biggest this time: Putting No. 1 Stanford and No. 2 Portland on target for a semifinal meeting. The Cardinal and Pilots (18-1-1) are joined as national top-seeded by defending champion North Carolina (17-2-2), which has won 21 national titles (NCAA and AIAW) since 1982, and Maryland (17-2-2).
Other Pac-10 teams in the field (with first-round opponent): Washington (against Oklahoma at Portland), Cal (Duke at Gainesville, Fla.) and Oregon State (Memphis State at Stillwater, Okla.).
The final four is Dec. 3 and 5 in Cary, N.C.