Timbers U-23s Spencer Richey sunset
Leah Parr

Notebook: Richey among cast of Timbers U-23s in NCAA tournament

PORTLAND, Ore. – Monday was a highly-anticipated day as NCAA coaches and players across the country awaited the draw of the 48-team NCAA men’s soccer bracket. For five Portland Timbers U-23s, the road to the 2012 NCAA College Cup, held in Hoover, Ala., on Dec. 9, begins this week.

Timbers U-23s goalkeeper Spencer Richey will lead the University of Washington into its first NCAA tournament since 2007. The No. 24-ranked Huskies, the runner-up in the Pac-12, earned an at-large bid in the tournament and play host to Air Force in a first-round matchup Thursday.

“We are confident and excited heading into the tournament,” said Richey. “We're going to take the whole experience one game at a time, starting with Air Force, and enjoy every minute of it. We have played some extremely good teams this season and earned results, so we have nothing but confidence that we can make a run.”

After anchoring one of the top defenses in the Premier Development League’s Western Conference in 2012 with the Timbers U-23s, Richey has backstopped arguably the best defense in the Pac-12 this season. The Huskies led the conference in fewest goals allowed (15), goals-against average (0.74) and shutouts (9). Richey, a junior, played every minute of the 2012 season, finishing with a 12-4-3 record.

The Huskies will call upon that leadership and experience in the back as they look to make a run in this season’s tournament.

“We knew as a team this year that with the loss of some explosive offensive guys like Brent Richards that our backline would have to step up and have another good year,” said Richey. “We were fortunate enough to return six of our back seven players, so defense is something that we take a lot of pride in as a team. We have a great mix of older guys leading the way as well as younger guys stepping up to help out.”

The winner of the Washington-Air Force match will advance to the second round against No. 12 Creighton University, which features a pair of Timbers U-23s players in defenders Andrew Ribeiro and Eric Miller, on Sunday in Omaha, Neb.

Ribeiro, the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Defensive Player of the Year, and Miller, a member of the U.S. U-20 National Team, helped Creighton cap an impressive season by winning the MVC tournament title last weekend. Both were members of the Creighton team that reached the NCAA College Cup semifinals in 2011.

Elsewhere in the bracket, Timbers U-23s defender Reed Matte, an All-Conference-USA second-team selection this season, leads University of Alabama at Birmingham into a first-round match against Charlotte on Thursday in Charlotte, N.C.  UAB, an at-large selection, faced Charlotte in the first round of last season’s tournament as well.

Meanwhile, No. 10 Louisville and Timbers U-23s defender Brock Granger have earned a first-round bye and will play host to either Winthrop or Southern Methodist, who square off Thursday, in the second round Sunday at Cardinal Park. Louisville, an at-large bid in this season’s tournament, finished the regular season with a 12-5-1 record and won the BIG EAST Red Division title.