It’s a Wednesday, which means it’s a day, which means Greg Ryan is optimistic.

The Michigan women’s soccer coach always seems to be positive about his team, always seems to think its best days are still ahead. In a few hours, Ryan’s team will board a plane to Minneapolis for the Big Ten Tournament. The Wolverines will take on No. 1 seed Minnesota in the semifinals two days later, a game that very well could determine their NCAA Tournament fate.

Ryan, meanwhile, believes his team is safe either way. He remains hopeful, which is difficult, because this time of year brings back memories of days that were anything but that.

A year ago Wednesday, Michigan’s 2015 season ended in its locker room. The Wolverines lost to Penn State in the same round of the Big Ten Tournament, the semifinals. They thought they’d be playing again the next weekend. They weren’t.

Most teams’ seasons culminate on the field — they lose in a penalty shootout, or they give up a late goal, or they’re just outplayed. Instead, Michigan’s players last year came home from State College, gathered under the stands at U-M Soccer Stadium and found their name absent from the NCAA Tournament field for the second year in a row.

“We were just sick. I don’t think there’s a good explanation for it,” Ryan said. “There were teams that were mathematical points ahead of us by two that we had beaten twice, and they took them above us. There were teams behind us RPI-wise that they pushed in front of us because they had beaten us head to head. So from our perspective, we felt like we’ve been left out two years in a row.”

Ryan called those two days the two most disappointing moments he has had in nine years at the helm of Michigan’s program. And another tense day is coming around Monday, when the NCAA announces the field for this year’s tournament.

The Wolverines are on the bubble again — ranked No. 44 in the Ratings Percentage Index — but given how their last two seasons have ended, you can understand why even Ryan is hesitant to be optimistic.

“To be honest,” he said, “I’m just sickened by what’s happened the last two years.”

Michigan wasn’t as close in 2014 as last year, but still had a chance. Two years ago, the Wolverines entered the selection show ranked No. 53 in the RPI, which is typically not good enough to make the cut. They also had a mediocre strength of schedule and played in the country’s fifth-best conference, and they were still rebuilding from graduation losses after making the Elite Eight the year before, the best season in program history.

Last year stung worse. Michigan appeared to be in good shape to make it back. The Wolverines emerged from the Big Ten Tournament ranked No. 46 in the RPI. They outranked Washington, yet the Huskies made the tournament on the strength of a head-to-head win against Michigan. The Wolverines beat Northwestern in the Big Ten Tournament, yet the Wildcats made the tournament on the strength of their RPI, which was two spots higher.

Hence the feeling of sickness. Last year, Michigan expected to watch the show, see its name, celebrate and then go practice in preparation for an NCAA Tournament game. Instead came that feeling of emptiness that plagues any team in any sport that watches the show and doesn’t see its name.

“It was pretty tough, mostly because I just felt bad for the seniors, and I felt like we let the seniors down after they gave so much to this program,” said senior defender Madisson Lewis. “It was just really disappointing because we felt like we did enough, but now we know that we can’t ever think that we’ve done enough — we just have to keep winning. That’s the only thing that we can do.”

A few hours after she said that, the Wolverines left for Minnesota to try to keep their season alive. The Big Ten semifinal counted as one game, the same as the other 18 Michigan played this season. But Ryan’s team was not under any illusions — he has been around long enough to know that these ones are more meaningful.

“They just are,” he said. “… People that tell you, ‘Aw, it’s just any other game,’ they’re just trying to make everybody calm. It’s not any other game.”

Friday, they gave up a goal in the eighth minute and couldn’t sneak an equalizer past the Golden Gophers’ lights-out defense. It has surely been an anxious couple of days, and it will be an anxious next few hours until the NCAA announces the bracket, team by team, Monday at 4:30 p.m.

But Ryan can still rely on his optimism — he has his team’s credentials readily available. Last year, their best win was against No. 44 Northwestern. The Wolverines have played nine games against top-50 opponents and beaten three top-25 teams, including No. 5 Notre Dame, 2-0, back in August.

So even after Michigan’s elimination loss on Friday, Ryan stayed positive: “Honestly, I think they’re gonna call our name. I think they’re gonna put Michigan in the NCAA Tournament. I don’t think it’s questionable. I think it’s 100 percent that we’ll be in, but based on the last two years, I do have some concerns.”

The Wolverines could have made it much easier on themselves by eking out a couple of wins this weekend and stealing the automatic bid. Now, they’ll just have to wait through a tenuous time. They know they have reason to believe this year, and they know they can compete if they see their name announced Monday. But the wounds from past heartbreak are still fresh.

“I would say,” Ryan started, pausing. “What can I say? There’s a lot of determination in this team to get back into the NCAA Tournament. … We’ve got a lot to prove.”

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