Women’s Soccer Get Another Shot at NCAAs

| Sports Reporter

Freshman Jessica Johnson strikes the ball on Nov. 6 against the University of Chicago.

Freshman Jessica Johnson strikes the ball on Nov. 6 against the University of Chicago.

Last year, the Washington University women’s soccer team went the furthest that it has ever gone in program history, falling one goal short of an NCAA National Championship. This year, there was uncertainty whether or not the team would even make the post-season with its 10-7-2 record (3-2-2 University Athletic Association).

On Monday, the team received its fifth consecutive Division III NCAA Tournament bid and will face Allegheny College in the first round of play on Friday at 1:30 p.m.

“I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people,” junior co-captain Emma Brown said.

When members of the team woke up early Monday morning for what was supposed to be an 8 a.m. NCAA Tournament selection show, they were prepared for the worst news. Instead, the team received no news and more uncertainty.

At the Athletic Complex (AC), the Bears learned the selection show was canceled and that a bracket would be posted online at 9 a.m. The bracket, bearing good news, finally appeared on the NCAA website at around 9:30 a.m. and was greeted by faces of disbelief and shock in the lobby of the AC. The momentary pause was broken by hugs all around as the team rushed the big screen TV to pore over the rest of the bracket.

According to Brown, the delay was to be expected and it didn’t make much of a difference. “It made it more climatic in the end,” she said.

In this year’s tournament, a UAA conference-record five teams received bids, including UAA champion University of Chicago, Emory University, the University of Rochester and Brandeis University.

“It reinforces that we play in one of the strongest conferences,” senior and captain Julie Tembunkiart said. Wash. U. was a co-champion or outright winner of the UAA title from 2006-2009, but finished in a tie for fourth this season.

The other two teams in the Bears’ opening round draw are Calvin College and host and No. 3 Otterbein College. Wash. U. defeated Calvin 1-0 on Sept. 3. The winners of the first round will meet on Saturday for a spot in the sectional semifinals. “As long as you do it one step at time, something special can happen,” head coach Jim Conlon said.

Wash. U. is making its fifth NCAA appearance in a row and its tenth overall and looking to follow on the success of last season, when the team made its second ever appearance in the Final Four.

“Anytime you have a junior/senior class that’s been in the NCAA tournament, they can help the younger players understand the environment they are getting into,” Conlon said.

The journey back to San Antonio will be difficult from the very beginning. Both Calvin and Allegheny received votes in the latest National Soccer Coaches Association of America top-25 poll while Otterbein is ranked third in the nation with an 18-0-1 record.

“I’m excited to be back as the underdog,” Tembunkiart said. “That’s what drove us through Wheaton last year, coming into the game knowing we had to fight.”

The Lady Bears take their first steps in returning to the Final Four by facing Allegheny College in Westerville, Ohio on Friday, Nov. 12, at 1:30 p.m.

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