TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – It was smooth sailing for the Crimson Tide in their NCAA tournament opener, locking Western Carolina down to win 2-0.

The style of play from Alabama seemed more like last year’s team in their win. The Tide attacked on offense, forcing corners and taking chances with their shot attempts. The Alabama backline held strong as well, drawing WCU offsides five times in the shutout.

Coach Wes Hart summed up his pride for his team’s performance with a simple phrase: “really pleased.”

“You know it’s not easy, first of all, to get into the NCAA Tournament, then on top of that, to qualify for the second round. We are certainly pleased with the fact that we’re still competing this late in the season. It’s three years in a row for us that we’ve gotten to the second round, after 25-plus years of never getting there, and now, three years in a row,” Hart added.

Alabama wasted no time getting out to a lead Friday, with Macy Clem scoring in the 11th minute off a Marianna Annest assist. The goal was Clem’s first of the season, coming at a clutch time for the graduate student.

The second half was when the Tide opened the floodgates offensively, pouring on 12 shots in the second half, seven of which were on goal.

Alabama kept WCU goalkeeper Leanne Trudel on her toes Friday, as she finished with seven saves but was unable to stop two of the Tide’s shots on goal, including an impressive shot from Itala Gemelli in the 82nd minute. Gemelli’s score served as the dagger and was her third goal of the season.

Gemelli, a transfer from DePaul, has had a crucial impact on the Tide’s offense, putting up a shot on goal in 12 games this season for a total of 18 shots on goal this year.

Coralie Lallier got the start at keeper for Alabama, pitching a shutout with four saves. Lallier improves to a record of 7-2-3 as the starter and has given up just 13 goals in her 12 starts, five of which came in one game against Arkansas.

For the third consecutive season, the Crimson Tide will advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament. Hart said the continued success “says a lot about the program and where we’re at and where we’re headed.”

Alabama will face third seeded UNC in the second round of the tournament, a rematch of the 1-1 draw between the schools in September.