Tennessee, which holds an 11-6-3 record on the year, received the No. 4 seed in the bracket headed up by the nation's top seed, North Carolina. The Lady Vols garnered an at-large bid after finishing the Southeastern Conference regular season in a tie for second overall. This is the sixth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance for Tennessee and the fourth time it has been chosen as the host site for the first and second rounds.
"(This was) completely unexpected," said UT head coach Angela Kelly. "Last year, we won the SEC triple crown and did everything we felt was necessary to be able to host, and we didn't. This year, we weren't able to accomplish those same goals, and we do (get to host). To be perfectly honest, I'm just very grateful to see Tennessee 's name up there."
The top 16 teams are seeded. Conference teams cannot play each other in the first round; however, second round conference match-ups are permissible. When pairing teams, the committee is restricted by geographic proximity. Sites are selected for the first and second rounds to create the least number of flights; therefore, only 12 of the top 16 seeds will be hosting first- and second-round competition.
"I'm very excited, even though it was a little unexpected," said senior All-American midfielder Ali Christoph. "I just think we need to take advantage of our opportunity. No matter what, we have to respect our opponent no matter where we are."
Duke ranked seventh in the Atlantic Coast Conference during the regular season and brings a 9-8-2 record into the tournament. The Blue Devils are making their 13th appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Last year, Duke advanced into the second round of the tournament before falling to Yale, 2-1, in New Haven, Conn.
Louisville makes its first showing in the national championship tournament, sporting a 13-4-2 record overall after finishing fourth in the American Division of the Big East Conference. The Cardinals advanced to the quarterfinals of their league tournament before West Virginia dismissed them in penalty kicks.
The Blazers of UAB (8-11-1) earned the automatic bid from Conference USA after a stunning run through the tournament in Dallas, getting a 2-1, double-overtime win over UCF, a shootout advancement over Memphis and a 3-2 victory over Colorado College. The Green and Gold are making their second appearance in the national draw, with their only previous trip coming to Knoxville in 2004.
UAB advanced into the second round that year with a 2-0 victory over Wake Forest. Tennessee knocked out the Blazers in the second round, 1-0.
The three previous opening round weekends hosted by the Big Orange have been favorable to the home team. Tennessee holds a 6-0 mark in those earlier opportunities, including four consecutive shutouts in 2003 and 2004 by former ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American goalkeeper Vanessa Phillips-Bosshart.
"To win this tournament, you have to play the best anyway," commented Kelly, herself a former four-time champion as a player with North Carolina. "So we're ready and excited to face whoever we do face. Hopefully we can meet the challenge of UAB on Friday night."
Seven teams from the Big East and Atlantic Coast Conferences advanced into this year's tournament, tops among all leagues. The SEC ranked third with five teams, while four teams represent the Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-10. Conference USA, the Mountain West and the West Coast Conference all received three bids.