As the bracket suddenly flashed on the screen revealing Duke as a No. 3 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament, the women's soccer team didn't quite know how to respond.
The stunned silence was quickly followed by groans and grumbling as the players realized not only were they a three seed, but also they would not be hosting the first two rounds.
The Blue Devils will travel to New Haven, Conn. to face Fairfield in the first round Friday, and host-school Yale will take on Central Connecticut St. in the other matchup. All three of the other teams in Duke's group were conference champions this season.
"More than anything else, I'm disappointed for our eight seniors that we have because we really wanted to play at home and have the first two games at home for them," head coach Robbie Church said. "We thought we had done enough on our resume during the regular season to be at home."
The NCAA revised the tournament's configuration this year and now ranks only the top four schools in each of the four 16-team brackets.
In addition, rules prohibit seeded teams from facing off in the first two rounds and schools from the same conference from meeting in the first round.
Duke is one of five seeded teams not to be hosting the first and second rounds.
"With the NCAA, it's a cost question," Church said. "Instead of flying three teams into Durham-when you look at Yale, Central Connecticut St. and Fairfield-it's easier to fly one team out."
Unseeded Yale is the only team in the group that the Blue Devils have played this season. Duke battled to a 1-0 victory over the Bulldogs in the UNC Tournament Sept. 2.
"[Yale] is a very good team," Church said. "It's a tough bracket. We're going to have to play very well to advance out of that bracket."
If the seeded teams prevail in the first two rounds, Duke would play second-seeded and Big East champion Notre Dame in the round of sixteen. First-seeded and West Coast Conference champion Portland and fourth-seeded Brigham Young round out the top four teams in Duke's bracket.
The ACC leads all other conferences with seven teams in the 64-team field. Top-seeded North Carolina and No. 2 seeds Virginia and Florida State join Duke to give the ACC four seeded teams, also tops among conferences. Wake Forest, Clemson and Boston College will also represent the conference.
"There's no question we've got the best league," Church said. "We've had the best league all year long. I'm very excited for the other six teams and I think the other six teams will represent the ACC to the fullest."
The 2005 Women's College Cup will be played December 2 and 4 at Aggie Soccer Stadium in College Station, Texas.
It's first things first for the Blue Devils, however.
"I'm focused to play Fairfield," tri-captain and ACC Defender of the Year Carolyn Ford said. "It's one game at a time at this point, and I am not going to look past that game."
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