The ticket was officially punched to play in the NCAA Tournament for the Big 12 champion West Virginia women’s soccer team. The bid clinched the program’s 14th consecutive berth in the tournament, dating back to 2000. However, the day for celebration was partly spoiled by the way the bracket will look.
WVU finished the season 16-3-2 and are just two victories away from matching a school record. Despite winning the Big 12 regular season and conference tournament (a feat that hadn’t been achieved since 2005), the Mountaineers were unseeded in the tournament and face a daunting road ahead of them.
West Virginia will host Rutgers in the first round of this year’s tournament, a rematch of a prior matchup between the two schools earlier this season. WVU defeated the Scarlet Knights 3-0 in a preseason exhibition in August.
The mood following the announcement during the tournament selection show was polite yet displeased. The team watched their fate fall before their very eyes, quietly clapped their hands and began talking about the decision.
“We’re a little surprised,” said senior forward Frances Silva. “We just have to now focus on Rutgers and not pay too much attention on what happened and what didn’t happen.”
A total of nine teams that were featured on West Virginia’s schedule this season also claimed spots in the 64-team tournament. Rutgers and Georgetown, WVU’s two preseason opponents, as well as Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Penn State, Kentucky, North Carolina, Duke and Morehead State will all participate in postseason play.
Head coach Nikki Izzo-Brown was away from the team when the tournament announcement was made Monday evening. She was still traveling back from the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City after one of her flights was cancelled, preventing her from arriving in Morgantown with the rest of the team. Izzo-Brown said that she learned of WVU’s positioning with help from a stewardess on one of the flight.
“It’s really unfortunate,” she said. “I thought the team did enough to get seeded, I just have to have faith in what the committee does. I know they obviously have some hard decisions to make, but it’s tough to think, ‘What else do we have to do this year?’”
West Virginia must now go back to work and refocus before opening up another chapter in its 2013 campaign. The team is 12-13 all-time in NCAA games but has been upset in the first round of the tournament in each of the last two seasons.
In 2011, the Mountaineers lost to Virginia Tech, while Princeton defeated WVU in 2012. Both games were played in Morgantown.
“Obviously there are more things we are going to try and look forward to,” said freshman defender Kadeisha Buchanan. “It never stops here. We are always looking toward the NCAA tournament title.”
The Mountaineers will host Rutgers Saturday night at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium in the first round of the NCAA College Cup. The match is set for 7 p.m.