After a 2-1 loss to Dubuque in the Iowa Conference tournament semifinals, the Wartburg women’s soccer team was firmly on the NCAA Tournament bubble.
There were some doubts about whether the Knights would be selected for an at-large bid in the 64-team tournament.
Not only are they in, they’re hosting the first two rounds.
“None of us were really together [during the selection show], we were just at our own houses and stayed away from it and once we heard our name get called we just all freaked out. It’s just the most amazing feeling,” senior goalkeeper Monica Noti said.
“We didn’t know our chances,” head coach Tiffany Pins said. “To host was quite a shock but it’s a nice honor and we’re excited for the opportunity.”
Wartburg (12-4-3) hosts California Lutheran (17-4) in the first round Saturday at 7:30 p.m., following a first round game between Lake Forest (14-5-1) and Concordia-Moorhead (15-3-2) at 5 p.m.
Last year’s Wartburg squad also hosted the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament.
The Knights were ranked No. 14 and defeated Principia, 2-0, in the first round before being upset in a penalty kick shootout by UW-Whitewater.
This team does not want to see their season end at home again.
“They’re two separate years but I think we have expectations now to get past what we’ve done in past years,” senior forward Cathy Reiter said.
Cal Lutheran presents a unique challenge to the Knights. The two teams have never played nor do they have any common opponents this season.
One thing the Knights are hoping will be an advantage will be some good old Iowa weather.
“We’re hoping the weather is as cold as possible,” Noti said laughing.
The average high temperature in Thousand Oaks, Calif., the location of Cal Lutheran, in November is a balmy 74 degrees.
In Waverly? 45 degrees.
The Weather Channel predicts a high of 68 degrees on Saturday, meaning the Knights will have to rely on their abilities to advance.
“We always stress playing our style of soccer. Whether they’re from California or Iowa, we have to come out and do what we can do,” Reiter said.
Pins said the team is stressing mentality going into the tournament. Coming off the Dubuque loss, she said they need to come out and be ready to go.
A win boosts Wartburg into the second round, and they’re all too familiar with losing in a single elimination tournament, facing the end to their season.
“We’re all just really excited. It’s like we’re given another chance to show what we can do,” Reiter said.
FIRST AND SECOND ROUND SCHEDULE (AT WARTBURG)
First Round- Saturday
5 p.m.- Lake Forest (14-5-1) vs. No. 14 Concordia-Moorhead (15-3-2)
7:30 p.m.- California Lutheran (17-4) vs. Wartburg (12-4-3)
Second Round- Sunday
5:00 p.m.- Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2
AT A GLANCE: CALIFORNIA LUTHERAN (17-4)
Colors: Violet and Gold
Location: Thousand Oaks, Calif.
Conference: Southern California Intercollegiate (1st, 13-1)
Tournament Qualification: At-Large (Lost to Pomona-Pitzer 1-2 in OT)
Leaders: Taylor Will (14 goals, 3 assists, 31 points), Mayra Virgen (7 goals, 7 assists, 21 points), Kristina Hulse (5 goals, 2 assists, 12 points), Kristin Bailey (48 saves, 10 goals allowed)
AT A GLANCE- CONCORDIA-MOORHEAD (No. 14, 15-3-2)
Colors: Maroon and Gold
Location: Moorhead, Minn.
Conference: Minnesota Intercollegiate (1st, 10-1)
Tournament Qualification: Automatic (Beat St. Benedict 1-0, Beat Augsburg 0-0, 7-6 in PK’s)
Leaders: Sarah Rounds (10 goals, 11 assists, 31 points), Gina Weiss (8 goals, 4 assists, 20 points), Elizabeth Robinson (4 goals, 4 assists, 12 points), Ali Nelson (87 saves, 15 goals allowed)
AT A GLANCE: LAKE FOREST (14-5-1)
Colors: Red and Black
Location: Lake Forest, Ill.
Conference: Midwest (1st, 8-1-1)
Tournament Qualification: Automatic (Beat Grinnell 3-0, Beat St. Norbert 2-0)
Leaders: Michelle Greenway (16 goals, 8 assists, 40 points), Holly Lesperance (15 goals, 6 assists, 36 points), Lisa Sorensen (4 goals, 9 assists, 17 points), Bri Schleibinger (97 saves, 20 goals allowed)
AT A GLANCE: WARTBURG (12-4-3)
Colors: Orange and Black
Location: Waverly, Iowa
Conference: Iowa Intercollegiate (2nd, 6-1)
Tournament Qualification: At-Large (Lost to Dubuque 1-2)
Leaders: Kaylee Benning (15 goals, 4 assists, 34 points), Cathy Reiter (11 goals, 7 assists, 29 points), Anna Aquino (5 goals, 4 assists, 14 points), Monica Noti (72 saves, 19 goals allowed)