Arizona women’s soccer to host TCU in first round of NCAA tournament
It came as no surprise when it was announced that Arizona soccer would make the NCAA tournament and play in the post-season. It was a shock, however, when the bracket released and the selection committee had Arizona as one of the 32 teams hosting a first-round playoff match in 2019.
The team entered Selection Monday with an RPI of 40 and eight spots out of having home-field advantage, since only the top half of the 64 total teams get to host a home game in the first round. Those rankings are not set in stone, however, as the RPIs are only used as a tool when assembling the final bracket.
Head Coach Tony Amato, along with the rest of the team, knew what was at stake for the Wildcats heading into selection day.
“We’re right there on the border of hosting,” Amato said following the win against ASU last Friday. “I think some of it will come down to some other results across the country. Some of it will come down to geography. Are we an outlier? Can we get shipped to someone that makes sense or does someone get shipped to us? But we’re right there.”
The anticipation was finally over when the news broke Monday afternoon that Arizona would crack the top 32 and host TCU in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
“When I first saw our name up there it took me back a little bit,” junior forward Jill Aguilera said. “I wasn’t expecting us to get on the board so quickly, but we were all really excited and really pumped. I think we had an amazing reaction to know that there was a chance that we weren’t going to host and I think we deserved to host.”
Arizona certainly had the resume to be recognized. The Wildcats racked up a couple of high quality wins this season, including a 3-0 victory over UCLA, who had an RPI of 7, and a 1-0 win on the road against Washington State University, whose RPI was 27.
Arizona finished the 2019 season ranked seventh in the Pac-12 with an 11-6-1 overall record. As for TCU, they finished sixth in the Big 12 conference and an RPI of 55. The Horned Frogs’ biggest win came last week against one of the No. 4 seeds in the NCAA Tournament, Texas Tech University, on Nov. 8.
It will be a round two for these two teams as Arizona and TCU faced each other earlier in the year, which resulted in a wild 4-3 win for the Wildcats back on Sept. 21. Arizona had a 4-1 lead in that match approaching the 80th minute, when the Horned Frogs crept back to score a pair of goals before regulation.
“We already played them once, so I feel like we kinda know what to expect in a way,” forward Jada Talley said. “I know maybe people come out playing a little bit harder. It’s a tournament game; they might come out with a little more fire, but so will we. We can play now if we needed to.”
This will be the team’s third straight year of both making the NCAA tournament and hosting a first-round playoff game. Home-field advantage certainly has its perks, as Amato talked about how important it is to stay in Tucson for one of the most important games of the season.
“We’re not figuring out flights, hotels, where are we going? Where are we eating? Our staff does a great job with that, but it lets us focus solely on our team, the players and our opponents," Amato said.
Catch the Wildcats in action this Saturday, Nov. 16 at 6 p.m. against the TCU Horned Frogs.
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