Even with a 9-9 record, members of the Virginia women's lacrosse team were confident they'd get an at-large bid to this year's NCAA Tournament. But that didn't take anything away from the moment when that bid became official.
That moment came Sunday night, as the NCAA unveiled the 26-team bracket during its online selection show.
"Honestly, it was so exciting to hear the news. Because we were all watching in the locker room together," senior Caroline McTiernan said Monday. "So the minute our name was on the TV, we all got up. We were cheering, clapping, screaming. We definitely were on the bubble, and we had to beat Duke in the ACC Tournament."
"Being it's my last year, it's definitely coming to an end. So I couldn't be more happy to continue to play."
"It was definitely a relief," sophomore Courtney Swan admitted. "I mean, our name popped up on the screen and you didn't know how exciting it would be. And it was great. To not be, the unknown of where you're going to be put in the bracket. I think we got into a great spot."
The Cavaliers will travel to Georgetown later this week, where they will face Ivy League champion Penn on Friday. The winner advances to Sunday's second round, and a match-up with the host Hoyas.
Friday's game will be the first-ever meeting between Virginia and the Quakers, though the two teams did scrimmage last fall.
"It's definitely more exciting playing a team you've never gotten to play before," said McTiernan. "We scrimmaged them in the fall. We did win -- which is nice for us, to give us a little confidence. But they're definitely a tough team. They just won the Ivy League."
"I mean, Penn's good," said Virginia coach Julie Myers. "They're very disciplined, very feisty and organized. They're kids that play with a lot of heart, all over the field. So we're going to need to definitely be sharp and limit our mistakes."
Virginia qualified for this year's tournament with that 9-9 record. But the Cavaliers needed some big wins down the stretch -- including an upset of Duke in the first round of the ACC Tournament -- to finish with that non-losing record, a requirement for NCAA eligibility.
Myers said Monday that she thinks her team has been playing with a postseason mentality for the last several games.
"I think they've done a great job, really since the week going into ACCs," she said. "We pulled the fourth-years in, and the senior captains in particular, and said, "Look. We need you guys. We need you to set the tone, and to do all the little things when we're together and when we're not.""
"I think it just shows our true character as a team," said Swan. "That when our backs are up against the wall, we can come out and put together a full 60-minute game, and come out with a win. So I think that definitely important to have going into postseason."
Friday's game will mark Virginia's 26th all-time appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The Cavaliers have now reached the bracket in all 18 of Myers' seasons as head coach.
"It's something that I think we've taken for granted in years past," she said. "But this year it was something that we really had to fight hard for. And we were able to accomplish that. So this year I think this year is even more sweet and special because there was a threat at one point of are we going to play in May."
"But this is the best time."
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