For the twentieth straight season, the Virginia women's soccer team is headed to the NCAA tournament. But for the first time ever, the 'Hoos will enter the tournament as the No. 1 overall seed in the field.
"That was one of our main goals coming into the season, so to be able to accomplish it now you know, it's pretty exciting," senior defender Annie Steinlage says of earning the top seed. "I think it also means a lot because we kind of took the season, we approached it game by game. To now look back and see, 'okay we really did it, we're here,' it's exciting."
The Cavaliers will open play at home on Friday as it hosts Saint Francis (Pa.). Game time at Klöckner Stadium is set for 7 p.m.
Saint Francis received an automatic bid as the champion of the Northeast Conference. The Red Flash is 13-7-1 this season and making its second NCAA Tournament appearance.
The four No. 1 seeds in the tournament field are all from the ACC, including Virginia, Florida State, Virginia Tech and North Carolina. UVa finsihed a perfect 19-0 in the regular season, including a 13-0 mark in the conference.
"We've broken a lot of records here at Virginia this year and that's pretty exciting itself," says junior midfielder Morgan Brian. "I think that just shows what this team can accomplish in the end. If we keep playing the way we are and taking it one game at a time, hopefully we can set some more records."
Virginia enters the NCAA Tournament with a 20-1 record. The Cavaliers won a school-record 20 consecutive games before falling to Virginia Tech in the ACC semifinals.
"It's not something we wanted to go through," head coach Steve Swanson said of the loss. "I don't think they dwelled on it much, but we learned from it. There are a lot of lessons we took away from the game. There are a lot of teachable moments in that game."
"I think for us it was kind of nice to get that bad game out of the way," added Brian. "We're 20-1. Some people ask about the pressure of winning and to keep winning, but right now I think since we did lose that game it makes us more hungry and I think it's a blessing in disguise for us going forward."