“Relieved” was the word that Michigan women’s soccer coach Greg Ryan and senior forward Nicky Waldeck used to describe the Wolverines’ first selection to the NCAA Tournament since 2013.
Michigan (10-5-4) was picked for the 64-team field announced by the selection committee Monday afternoon and will host Illinois State in the first round of the tournament Saturday night.
“I was definitely relieved — we were pretty nervous all day,” Waldeck said. “When we saw our name, we just jumped up.”
The Wolverines are 44th in Rating Percentage Index, with two wins and a tie against top-25 teams, including a victory over then-19th-ranked Rutgers. But even with a respectable resume, Ryan wasn’t certain his team would be given an at-large selection after two consecutive years of missing the cut.
“Based on the last two years, I was really nervous going into the selection,” Ryan said. “We’ve watched that show in the same position as we were this year in terms of the RPI numbers, so it was nice to see our players finally getting rewarded for a great season.”
Illinois State, the winner of the Missouri Valley Conference, owns an RPI of 144, a 14-5-1 record and a seven-game winning streak heading into its match against the Wolverines. The two first-round foes shared a common opponent in this year in now-No. 10 Notre Dame, to which the Red Birds fell after Michigan handed the Fighting Irish a resounding 2-0 loss a week prior.
For the Wolverine seniors, led by Waldeck and defender Anna Sorccorsi, the matchup will give the group another opportunity to take the field with one another.
“All the seniors watched (the selection show) together,” Waldeck said. “We’re just really happy to get a chance to play with our best friends and enjoy the time we have left together.”
This marks the second appearance for the class of 2017 in the NCAA Tournament — the first of which resulted in a magnificent run to the quarterfinals in 2013 and included a victory over Illinois State in the second round.
“It’s fantastic for (the seniors) to be rewarded, especially after the last couple years of seemingly doing everything to get into the NCAA Tournament and then not quite getting there,” Ryan said. “So for us, it couldn’t be better than this.”
As the Wolverines make their fourth postseason appearance under Ryan with another opportunity to play at U-M Soccer Stadium, it’s safe to say that Monday was a welcomed change from years prior. It certainly brought a sense of relief for Ryan and his team.