Nov. 1, 2012

Women's Soccer Tournament Central

***TODAY ONLY***In support of local efforts concerning Hurricane Sandy, all fans will be admitted to the 2012 A-10 Women's Soccer Championship free of charge.

For Colleen Williams and Juliana Libertin, it's about repeating. For Renee Washington and Kelsey Haycook, it's about redemption. For newcomers VCU and Butler, it's a chance to serve notice.

The Atlantic 10 women's soccer championship kicks off Thursday at 11 am, and for each team the reasons are different but the goal is the same: to hoist the A-10 trophy on Sunday and win the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Championship.

For the second straight year, La Salle (14-4-1, 8-0-1 A-10) enters the A-10 Championship as the top seed, not having not lost an A-10 regular season contest since Oct. 29, 2010 - the fifth longest conference winning streak in the country. Paced offensively by Washington and Haycook and anchored on the other end by A-10 Defensive Player of the Year Courtney Niemiec, the Explorers want redemption. A semifinal upset in 2011 by upstart Massachusetts derailed La Salle, who posted another loss-free conference campaign with a balanced team, ranking in the top three in the league in both offense and defense.

Dayton is on the other end of the spectrum. The second-seeded Flyers (13-4-1, 7-1-1 A-10) are looking for their fourth straight Atlantic 10 title. Led by Offensive Player of the Year Colleen Williams, UD led the league in every offensive category, including goals (2.94 per game).

A new tournament format makes La Salle and Dayton's road a bit tougher. Previously, in the six-team format, both teams would have earned a quarterfinal bye. The championship was expanded to eight teams last spring however, meaning both teams will play on Thursday.

La Salle plays No. 8 Charlotte (10-7-2, 4-4-1 A-10) at 11:00 am on Thursday. Charlotte has a long history of success in women's soccer, including playing in the 2008, 2009 and 2010 title games, winning the 2008 trophy.

Dayton faces No. 7 Massachusetts (9-9-1, 4-4-1 A-10) at 5:00 pm on Thursday. UMass made a surprise run to the championship game last year, marking the first finals appearance for the Minutewomen since 1997.

Third-seeded VCU and fourth-seeded Butler will be looking to win their first A-10 women's soccer title. The league newcomers joined the Atlantic 10 in July of 2012. VCU (11-4-4, 6-2-1 A-10) will face sixth-seeded Saint Joseph's (9-6-4, 4-2-3 A-10) at 7:30 pm on Thursday. It's the first championship since 2005 for Saint Joseph's, who is led by two-time Midfielder of the Year Mo Hawkins.

Fourth-seeded Butler (11-4-4, 5-1-3 A-10), led by Rookie of the Year Sophia Maccagnone, will face fifth-seeded St. Bonaventure (8-10-1, 5-4-0 A-10) at 1:30 pm on Thursday. The Bonnies are making their third straight A-10 championship appearance.

The La Salle-Charlotte winner will face the Bona-Butler winner in the first semifinal, Friday at 5:00 pm. The second semifinal match, which kicks off at 7:30 pm Friday, will feature the Dayton-UMass winner against the VCU-SJU winner. The finals will be played Sunday at 1:00 pm. The winner earns the Atlantic 10 automatic bid and will advance to the NCAA Championship.

For complete coverage of the 2012 Atlantic 10 Women's Soccer Championship log on to www.atlantic10.com.