The wait is over — and Michigan is in.

For the eighth straight year, the Michigan women’s soccer
team has made the NCAA Tournament.

The team watched live as the pairings were released on
Monday.

“We all huddled together,” freshman Jamie Artsis
said. “We were more excited than nervous, but when we saw we
weren’t in the bracket with Notre Dame, we got nervous
— we expected to be playing them in the first or second
round.”

Despite their inconsistent play of late, the Wolverines’
(7-4-1 Big Ten, 11-8-2 overall) credentials were impressive enough
to earn a berth in the 64-team field.

After the announcement, Michigan began preparing for its
first-round matchup against Horizon League champion Detroit-Mercy
(6-1 Horizon League, 13-7-1) on Friday at 4 p.m. The game will be
held in Columbus, a familiar site for the Wolverines, who just
returned from the Big Ten Tournament held there. A Michigan win
would set up a possible rematch with Big Ten rival Ohio State
— the sixth seed — in the second round.

“I think first off, everyone was happy and excited to be
in the tournament,” Michigan coach Debbie Rademacher said.
“We got a pretty good draw. We just came back from Ohio
State, so we’re familiar with the venue. And if we end up
playing Ohio State, we won’t need a scout.”

An NCAA Tournament appearance seemed all but assured when the
Wolverines began the season with a 7-2-1 record. But the early
success would not last. Michigan has dropped five of its last seven
games. The Wolverines opened up the Big Ten Tournament needing at
least one win to solidify their NCAA chances — and they got
it, beating Wisconsin 1-0. Michigan’s Big Ten run ended with
a 5-2 loss to host Ohio State in the semifinals, forcing the
Wolverines to sweat until their fate was released today.

As it turned out, the added drama was a blessing in disguise.
Wisconsin will be forced to play the powerful fourth-ranked
Fighting Irish if the Badgers win their first-round matchup against
Dayton. The Wolverines dropped a 4-0 decision to Notre Dame earlier
in the season. Meanwhile, Michigan knows it can hang with the
Buckeyes — the two teams played to a 1-1 tie during the
regular season.

With an NCAA Tournament berth secure, Michigan’s slate is
wiped clean. In order to go deep, the Wolverines need to reclaim
the winning formula that propelled them to a No. 13 national
ranking early on.

“We’ve learned from our mistakes,” freshman
Jamie Artsis said. “And we know the times we’ve lost we
could have done way better.”

Rademacher has coached the program since its inception and
understands that one lackadaisical performance, one key mistake,
and the Wolverines 2004 campaign is over. But she also knows that
at this stage, there’s only so much more she can do.

“We’ve talked about it enough,” Rademacher
said. “The team, they know that we have to pick it up, and we
can’t afford to have any letdowns. You get to this level, you
can’t let up. As coaches, you try to get them going, but a
lot of the motivation comes internally.”

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