As they waited to hear their name called during Monday’s selection show for the NCAA Division I women’s soccer tournament, members of the Seattle University women’s soccer team were going back and forth between whether they would play USC or UCLA.
“We thought that Montana would play Stanford because they have a worse RPI than us,” said Seattle junior Rachel Bowler, a 2016 ‘Iolani graduate.
To the surprise of the entire Redhawks staff and team, Seattle, which has won four Western Athletic Conference titles in the past six seasons, will open with the No. 1 overall seed Cardinal in the 64-team tournament beginning Friday.
Seattle will travel to play at Stanford on Friday at 5 p.m.
“I’m excited to play Stanford because this is my second NCAA tournament appearance and we played UCLA last time,” said Bowler, who made the All-WAC first team on defense this season. “Stanford is another top team in the nation and we’re playing USC in the preseason next year, so it’s cool to play the very best.”
Bowler, who has played midfield and defender, has started 43 games and played in 57 in her three years in the Pacific Northwest.
Primarily an outside backer, Bowler moved up to play midfield after the team was shut out by Grand Canyon in its WAC opener. After 43 scoreless matches in her career, Bowler scored twice in a 4-3 win over Cal State Bakersfield to begin a run of eight straight matches without a loss heading into Friday’s game.
Bowler is one of two Redhawks to start all 20 games this season.
“I moved up to outside mid for one game and then I scored two goals and my coach joked I got promoted from defense to offense,” Bowler said. “We have 12 new freshmen and most of them contribute. A freshman played on the outside on defense in my position when I played offense and it was cool to coach her in a sense. My role on the team is to be more of a leader and to show them by example what we expect here.”
The influx of freshmen played a role in Seattle’s 2-6-2 start to the season. Since the 1-0 loss to Grand Canyon, Seattle has outscored its opponents 19-5 and hasn’t allowed a goal in the last 316 minutes entering the tournament.
Stanford is 17-0-2 this season and the defending NCAA champion.
“It’s a challenge,” Bowler said. “We’ve had a lot of injuries, but we’ve overcome that, and so I’m proud of this team. We have all of the new freshmen who all contribute and I think it was hard to connect on the field at the beginning of the season, but we’ve really overcome that obstacle and played really well.”
Bowler, who was named to the Star-Advertiser All-State first team twice in high school, decided on Seattle University to be close to family.
She was born in Oregon before she moved to Hawaii when she was 2. Her grandparents, who still live in Oregon, have driven up for almost all of her home games.
Her parents have flown up from Oahu for games five times this season and just booked their flight to Stanford for the tournament.
“Everybody has been so supportive,” Bowler said.
HAWAII PLAYERS IN THE NCAAS
Rachel Bowler is one of six players from Hawaii high schools on teams that have advanced to the NCAA tournament.
>> Taiana Tolleson, Konawaena ’16: The Vanderbilt junior goalkeeper has played in 10 of the team’s 19 games and is averaging 1.09 goals allowed per game with a .643 save percentage. She is 3-1 as a starter and made nine saves total for the Commodores, who will host Murray State on Saturday at 3 p.m.
>> Kaile Halvorsen, Kaiser ’18: The Santa Clara freshman forward scored her lone goal of the season in a 1-0 win over then-No. 2 North Carolina and has played in all 20 games with two starts for the Broncos, who will host Horizon League champion Milwaukee on Saturday at 11 a.m.
>> Makamae Gomera-Stevens, Kamehameha ’17: The Washington State sophomore forward has played in all 18 games and is tied for second on the team with three goals. She also has an assist and is tied for fourth with seven points for the Cougars, who host Montana on Friday at 5 p.m.
>> Noelani Kong-Johnson, Punahou ’15: The Princeton senior goalkeeper has appeared in three games and is 1-1 in two starts with two goals allowed and two saves for the Tigers, who will play at Texas Tech on Friday at 2 p.m.
>> Lytiana Akinaka, King Kekaulike ’18: The Brigham Young freshman forward has appeared in nine games and taken two shots with one shot on goal for the Cougars, who will play at TCU on Friday.
>> School: Seattle University
>> Position: D/MF
>> Class: Junior
>> Height: 5 feet 5
>> High school: ‘Iolani (2016)
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