Neither the University of Washington nor Seattle University was favored to win its respective conference title in preseason polls, but on Sunday, both the Huskies and Redhawks did just that to clinch berths in the NCAA Tournament.
UW and Seattle U were announced in the field of 48 in the tournament on Monday, with the Huskies earning the No. 2 ranking and a bye into the second round while Seattle will play Creighton in the first round on Thursday in Omaha, Nebraska, with the winner advancing to play the Huskies at UW on Sunday. Also making the tournament with prominent contributions from Sounders FC Academy alums were Stanford, Wake Forest and Denver.
The Huskies topped Oregon State 1-0 in Corvallis, Oregon, in the regular season finale, pushing UW’s conference record to 7-1-2 and overall record to 14-1-4. Freshman forward Mason Robertson scored the game-winner in the 57th minute to lift UW to its third straight victory since suffering the only loss of the season on October 27, a 2-1 road defeat to UCLA.
Picked to finish second in the preseason conference polls, Washington entered conference play unbeaten at 6-0-2 and later added a non-conference win against Seattle U, as well. In Pac-12 play, UW went 3-1-2 against potential tournament teams in UCLA, Stanford and California.
Sounders FC Academy product Darwin Jones was the joint-leading scorer for the Huskies with six goals and four assists on the season, leading four players with five goals or more. He wasn’t the only Sounders FC Academy alum to find success on Montlake, though. Defender Michael Gallagher and midfielder Ian Lange provided defensive stability in the middle of the field while goalkeeper Ryan Herman stepped in for the injured Spencer Richey in the fourth match of the season and finished the year with seven shutouts in 14 starts with a 0.79 goals against average.
Seattle U, on the other hand, was picked to finish sixth in the Western Athletic Conference and had a stunning turnaround to its season after an 0-6-1 start in non-conference play. The Redhawks, coached by Sounders FC broadcast analyst Pete Fewing, finished with a 7-0-3 record in the WAC and topped Air Force 2-0 and San Jose St. 2-1 to win the conference tournament in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Conference Freshman of the Year Kyle Bjornethun came from the Sounders FC Academy and started all 22 matches at defender for the Redhawks in their 10-8-4 season. Midfielder Austin Sweeney also saw time with five starts in his 15 appearances.
Elsewhere, Stanford rode a victory over California in the regular season finale to earn a berth in the tournament and will host Loyola Marymount on Thursday. With Aaron Kovar (2 G, 5 A) on the left wing and Jordan Morris (6 G, 7 A) at forward, the Cardinal is well represented with Sounders FC Academy products.
Junior forward Sean Okoli topped Wake Forest in goals with eight, adding two assists to help the Demon Deacons to a 9-5-5 record and the No. 14 seed in the tournament. Wake Forest will host the winner of the Virginia Commonwealth-Navy match on Sunday.
Finally, midfielder Jordan Schweitzer helped the Denver Pioneers to the Summit League championship and will meet Louisville in the first round of the tournament on Thursday.