By Brett Fera
EVAN CARAVELLI/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Juniors Kelly Nelson, left, and Mallory Miller react to seeing the Wildcats' NCAA Tournament seeding announced yesterday.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, November 9, 2004
Cats, Colgate to face off in Connecticut
The No. 13 UA soccer team enters NCAA tournament play for the first time in program history Friday when the Wildcats face Colgate in opening round action in Storrs, Conn.
The winner will face Harvard or host Connecticut, who also square off Friday, in Sunday's second round.
The Wildcats' (15-5, 6-3 Pacific 10 Conference) hopes for Murphey Stadium to receive a bid to be one of six first round host sites - after Arizona clinched a share of the Pac-10 title with a 2-0 win over Oregon Sunday - ultimately fell short.
The consolation: earning the 13th overall seed in the 64-team field, the highest of any of the five Pac-10 teams to receive a bid. UCLA picked up the 14th seed and Washington was given the 15th seed, while California and Stanford rounded out the conference's selections.
"It's a great step for our program," said UA head coach Dan Tobias, coaching in his third NCAA tournament in the past five seasons, after receiving bids with Washington State in 2000 and 2002. "You always hope you can host, but that's out of our own control."
UCLA was the only Pac-10 team to be named a host, with Cal and Stanford traveling just minutes to host Santa Clara and Washington joining the Wildcats on a cross-country trek, traveling to Auburn, Ala., for first- and second-round action.
UA junior midfielder and leading scorer Mallory Miller said she was disappointed that the Wildcats weren't picked to host, despite defeating UCLA 1-0 two weeks ago and receiving a higher seed.
"I think the pick was kind of weak - that UCLA was the 14th seed and got to host," Miller said.
Miller added that getting the opportunity to play in the tournament at all was most important.
"I think we all had the potential to do it," Miller said, noting that the team's offseason addition of 11 new players, coupled with a strong core of returnees, contributed greatly to the team's success. "When we needed the personnel, we got it and all the pieces fit."
Miller was flanked by just a few of her UA teammates for yesterday's 2:30 p.m. ESPNEWS tournament pairing announcement, as much of the Wildcat roster - including Tobias - were still trying to get back to Tucson. Inclement weather in Oregon delayed the team's return trip to Arizona after the Wildcats' win yesterday, leaving the team scrambling on separate flights to get back.
Tobias said he first found out the results of the announcement from a phone call from assistant coach Harold Warren while he was en route to McKale Center.
UA junior midfielder Jennifer Klein said the change in scenery - namely weather conditions - in Connecticut shouldn't affect the team too much.
"Once you get moving you don't even notice it," Klein said.
For Wildcat seniors Candice Wilks, Vanesha Bailey, Kamaya Damwijk and Lindsey Peeples, making the tournament means a game-by-game effort to extend their college careers.
"It intensifies, especially as seniors," Wilks said. "We should just continue on the same path we've been going: one game, one practice at a time."
"I think our confidence grew heading to the Pac-10s," Klein added of the team's near-worst-to-first accomplishment, after finishing ninth in the Pac-10 race a year ago. "Our main goal this year was getting to the tournament."
Now that the Wildcats have achieved their initial goal, Klein said she thinks as simple an approach as possible is vital to tournament success.
"It's one game at a time," she said. "That's worked for us so far, and that's what we're going to keep on doing."
"We actually talked about that on Sunday," Tobias said of the team's preseason hopes. "I congratulated them on Sunday for making history for the soccer program and asked them, 'Are we done yet?' and they all said, 'No, no, no.'"