Wartburg women’s soccer team received a bid to proceed to the NCAA tournament on Nov. 6 after dropping out of the IIAC conference tournament in the second round.
The Knights were eliminated after a 3-1 loss to number 19 ranked Loras, who would go on to win the tournament, and were overjoyed when they received the news that their season would continue.
“Some of us were in the hall of fame room watching and we just kind of went crazy,” senior Alyssa Hewitt said. “We flipped chairs. We started screaming. It was like a party in there.”
The NCAA tournament starts for the Knights on Nov. 11 as they play St. Thomas at UW La-Crosse. The other teams in this portion of the bracket are the hosts and St. Scholastica.
Wartburg was one of 20 teams that qualified for the tournament without winning their conference, and the road to getting there was not an easy one.
The Knights played four games this year that went on to double-overtime, and the opening round of the conference tournament proceeded to penalties.
They knew the season was going to be difficult, as, on Aug. 24, coach Tiffany Pins described the schedule for the year as “the hardest schedule we’ve ever played on paper.”
The last time the Knights went to the NCAA was in 2015 when Hewitt was a second-year. They progressed through the first two rounds and were eliminated after losing to WashU 1-0.
“Going back I know the feeling, it’s just so great and so I wanted the freshmen to experience it and the people that haven’t been there yet too because it’s just a great feeling,” Hewitt said.
The team will be using this week to focus on ensuring they have the basics right rather than looking into how to adapt to their opponents.
“The next couple of days is just going to be focused on us, things that we need to get better and just tighten up on some things and then we’ll focus on our opponents later in the week,” Pins said.
Being eliminated from the Iowa conference tournament left the team feeling helpless, as they had to wait to hear what their fate would be.
At the beginning of their last practice before the announcement, Pins explained to the team that they had to accept the situation, and come up with a game-plan despite the small amount of information.
The team used the practice turf on Monday, as UW La-Crosse will be hosting the games on turf. The team has played at the location before, so Pins did not think this would be too big of an issue. Her main focus was being glad that they had qualified.
“I’m so happy for the girls. It’s a really great feeling when you know you’re one of 64 teams out of 432 to be playing in the national tournament,’ Pins said. “It’s just an awesome feeling.”