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Texas Tech faces Utah in first round of the NCAA Tournament

Making the tournament

Posted: November 12, 2016 - 1:03am

TEXAS TECH VS. UTAH

SATURDAY, 2 P.M.

Making the tournament

Tom Stone knew Texas Tech was going to make the tournament.

The Tech coach just didn’t know where the Red Raiders were going to fall.

“The one thing we had going against us was the last eight games which is one of the factors,” Stone said. “What we had going for us was a top-10 win, a good RPI, great non-conference schedule and record and the best RPI in the country for conferences. If everybody focused on those things, we were in.”

It is the fifth time in school history the Red Raiders have played in the NCAA Tournament, but will be the first time they have started the opening round on the road.

Texas Tech is 5-3-1 all time in NCAA Championship action.

“It’s my fifth year here,” senior goalkeeper Lauren Watson said. “I didn’t want that (NCAA Tournament) streak to be done. ... When I saw we were in I was super excited and ready to play again.”

Regular season wrap-up

The Red Raiders (9-8-2) went through a regular season with plenty of ups and downs.

Texas Tech finished its non-conference slate with a 7-1-2 record and split the first two Big 12 matches.

After a 3-0 rout of Iowa State, Tech hit a bit of a dry spell offensively, until breaking through in double overtime against then-No. 24 Oklahoma, 1-0, to wrap up the regular season.

Leading the team on offense for Tech this season is freshman Jade King, an All-Freshman conference team member, who has six goals and one assist for 13 points in 2016.

The Red Raiders have had nine different goal scorers this season, while the defense has been anchored by senior goalkeeper and first team All-Big 12 honoree Lauren Watson.

Tech also had sophomore midfielder Gwennie Puente (All-Big 12 second team) & Jordie Harr (All-Big 12 freshman team) earn all-conference nods this season.

Overall, six Big 12 teams advanced to the NCAA Tournament.

“That makes me feel better about our conference record,” Stone said. “That shows how hard it was. When Iowa State and TCU both moved into the ranks of competition for the conference title it raised the level of the whole league.”

Utah

Saturday’s contest will mark the first meeting between the Red Raiders and Utah and will also be the first time Tech has faced a PAC-12 opponent in the NCAA Championship.

“Now we get to go to altitude and play a team that’s red hot,” Stone said. “They’re one of the best teams in the PAC-12: very athletic, very well-coached, they’re the heavy favorite and I think we can sit in that spot and get ready for them and hopefully give one of our best performances of the year.”

Utah (11-3-5) put together a 6-1-4 record in PAC-12 action this season and were led on offense by sophomore forward Hailey Skolmoski, who recorded 13 goals and three assists for the Utes. Utah finished the year against five ranked conference opponents, while maintaining their own top 25 mark.

“We’ve been working on the fine details, like formations and preparation for them specifically,” Gwennie Puente said. “We know exactly what we’re up against and how to beat them.”

TEXAS TECH (9-8-2, 2-6-0)

Goals: Jade King 6

Assists: Jordie Harr 3

Saves: Lauren Watson 82

UTAH: (11-3-5, 6-1-4)

Goals: Hailey Skolmoski 13

Assists: Katie Rogers, Taylor Slattery 4

Saves: July Mathias 57

— Krista Pirtle, A-J Media

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