Brady Anderson didn’t hesitate when the question was asked. He’s had plenty of practice talking about it with teammates.
How far is this 22nd-ranked Wartburg men’s soccer team looking to go in the NCAA tournament?
“National championship,” Anderson, a senior midfielder, said. “Nothing else. We talked about it. Our goal is set on nothing else.”
Wartburg (12-3-5), which received an automatic bid to the big dance with a shootout victory over No. 8 Loras on Saturday, will host Milwaukee School of Engineering (17-4-0) in the first round Saturday at 5 p.m.
Chicago (11-5-2), University Athletic Association tournament champs, and St. Scholastica (20-2-0), Upper Midwest Athletic Conference automatic bid recipients, will play at 7:30 p.m., with the winners meeting at Wartburg at 5 p.m. Sunday.
It’s the second straight year Wartburg has hosted the first two rounds, beating Dominican and Hope last season.
“Hosting is really nice,” Wartburg head coach Kirk Artist said. “To play on our grass field is a big difference than playing on a turf field. I think it does provide a good advantage and I think our boys have earned.”
MSOE knocked off top-seeded Dominican 1-0 in this year’s Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference final, a game Artist watched.
The Knights and Raiders have three common opponents — St. Thomas (W: 4-1, MSOE: 2-3), Dubuque (W: 1-1, MSOE: 1-0) and Wis.-Platteville (W: 0-0, MSOE: 3-1).
“They’re a really, really good team,” Artist said. “Anytime you get to the NCAA tournament, every single game is going to be tough, so you have to prepare fully and give everything that you have.”
The other half of Wartburg’s part of the bracket includes Wheaton (Ill.) (18-3-0), Wis.-Whitewater (13-4-4) and Carroll (10-8-2).
Loras (15-2-2) is a host on the bottom half with Westminster (Mo.) (13-7-1) its first round opponent. Texas-Dallas (13-4-3) is the other host in this region, 1/4 of the 61-team tournament.
Anderson and his teammates could relax a little more during this year’s selection show compared to last season, when they received an at-large bid.
It’s the ninth NCAA tournament appearance in program history. This two-year run snapped a three-season drought.
“It’s become more of a standard that we have to get there,” Anderson said. “You can see it, there’s a change in culture in our team, the way we work out every day, the way we practice and I think that’s what’s gotten us there.”
Seth Nutting contributed to this report.