Soccer makes NCAA bracket

 

 

By Steve Contorno

Illinois did not have too wait long to hear its name called.

In fact, the announcement that the Illini made the NCAA Tournament came so quickly they were caught too off guard to even celebrate.

“All right, I’m leaving,” midfielder Shannon McDonnell joked after Illinois was quickly announced as one of the 64 teams to make the NCAA Tournament. McDonnell’s reaction was indicative of the team’s excitement – or lack thereof.

“When it pops up there that quick, the reaction was, ‘Oh, OK, there we are,'” head coach Janet Rayfield said. “We felt comfortable enough that we were going to be in. We weren’t sitting on the edge. It wasn’t a matter of if, but where.”

Sitting in the tent outside Bielfeldt Athletic Administration Building surrounded by televisions tuned into ESPNews, the Illinois soccer team (11-6-2) watched the selection show to see where and who they will play. The answers: South Bend, Ind., and Louisville (13-5-2).

“I think it’s a team we haven’t been able to play in my four years here so that’s always exciting to get to play somebody new,” goalkeeper Lindsey Carstens said of the Cardinals. “And being able to go to Notre Dame is going to be awesome.”

The Fighting Irish will play host to four teams and three games in the opening two rounds of the NCAA tournament. Illinois will be playing Louisville while Notre Dame faces Loyola (Ill.). The winner of both games will meet to see who will make the round of 16. Rayfield was content with her team’s placement.

“The funny thing is I watched the teams go up and there wasn’t a team up there that I went, ‘Oh, I wish they were in our draw,'” Rayfield said. “There’s a lot of good teams in that field of 64 and there’s some really tough draws.

“I looked at it and said, ‘I’ll take that draw,'” she added.

Illinois enters the tournament after falling in the second round of its conference tournament on Saturday, a 3-0 loss at the hands of the Purdue Boilermakers – who went on to win it all and are a two seed in the Illini’s side of the bracket.

Illinois would love nothing more than to avenge their Big Ten tourney loss with a long run at Nationals.

“When we win it all, our storybook will be that much greater,” Masar said.