"It's probably one of the greatest thrills we've had," said head coach Ronnie Coveleskie Hill. "This is my first trip. It's Vanderbilt's fist since 1998. The opportunity to make the tournament and to be able to host the first two rounds is amazing."
The No. 20 Commodores (16-3-2, 8-2-1 SEC) will face off against Samford (15-3-3), who secured their trip to the tournament when they won the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament to earn an automatic berth. The Commodores defeated the Bulldogs earlier this season. Entering that game Samford was unbeaten and Vanderbilt had posted six straight shutouts. Both those streaks ended when VU won 2-1, their seventh victory in the middle of a 12-game winning streak.
The entire bracket is available on www.ncaasports.com.
Watching at the Student Recreation Center on Vanderbilt's campus, the team was nervous throughout the selection show, aired on ESPNews. When the student-athletes finally saw Vanderbilt on the screen they jumped up screaming and shouting. Only after Hill calmed them slightly did they realize they were also going to be hosting and they cheered again.
"I'm so excited this mean's my family can come watch us in the first round." said sophomore forward Sarah Dennis (Germantown, Tenn.), the team's only Tennessee-native.
"Samford was a very, very rough game," Dennis said. "We have to treat every game as if we were playing North Carolina."
Dennis' mention of UNC is fitting as the No. 3 Tar Heels (17-1), the premier team in women's college soccer during the last quarter century, is the No. 1 seed and also a host site in Vanderbilt's portion of the bracket. If both teams were to win their first three games, they could potentially meet in the Elite Eight round.
Before the Commodores can worry about that however, they would have to deal with the first two rounds at home. Should they get past Samford, the Commodores would face either Pepperdine (13-3-3) or SEC rival Ole Miss (14-4-2), which won the Western Division.
The Commodores and Rebels are not the only SEC teams playing. Florida (13-5-1), who tied Vanderbilt for second place in the East are also hosting. The SEC regular season and tournament champion Tennessee must travel to Virginia for their first two rounds, starting with Wake Forest.