Hawkeye Soccer Team Reaches First NCAA Tournament

From Hawkeye Sports

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By Aaron Hepker

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- It didn't take long for the University of Iowa soccer team to learn its NCAA Tournament fate.

The Hawkeyes were selected in the opening bracket during Monday's NCAA Selection Show that streamed live on NCAA.com. Iowa (15-6-1) will travel to South Bend, Ind., to face Notre Dame (11-7-1) on Friday at 6 p.m. (CT) at Alumni Stadium.

"This is an awesome opportunity for our program and to do this for the first time in our history, I am excited for our players," UI head coach Ron Rainey said following an NCAA Watch Party in the Feller Club Room inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. "I am excited to go to one of the top programs in the country in Notre Dame. It will be a great challenge, and we know how good of team they are."

Junior midfielder Katie Nasenbenny says it was exciting to see the Hawkeyes achieve one of their team goals and be among the 64 teams in the tournament.

"It's like any other game. Everyone comes into this tournament with a clean slate, and it doesn't matter who you have beaten or who you lost to. It's a fresh start, and it's a little more intense. We did well in the Big Ten Tournament, and I know we'll do well here."
UI junior Emily Scott

"It was nice to see our name up there," said Nasenbenny. "Ron seemed pretty confident we were going to get a bid, but the only people that get an automatic berth are the 31 teams that win the conference tournament.

"We had never won a postseason game. It has been our goal the last several years, and we've fallen short, so (being among the teams selected) was cool."

The Fighting Irish posted an 11-7-1 overall record during the regular season, which included a 7-5-1 mark in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Notre Dame's ACC Tournament run ended in the quarterfinals with a 2-1 double overtime loss to No. 5 Virginia Tech.

The 2013 season is Notre Dame's 21st NCAA Tournament appearance in 26 years as a program. The Fighting Irish advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals in 2012 and have won three national championships (1995, 2004, 2010).

"Notre Dame is one of five or six teams that judge their years on championships and Final Fours," said Rainey. "We know we'll have to get better over these next couple of days. We need to work as hard as we can and watch a lot of film to give our players a good game plan going into the contest."

Junior defender Emily Scott is the lone Iowa player with NCAA Tournament experience, having competed in the event in 2011 and 2012 at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She says the Hawkeyes need to approach Friday's game with the same mindset they have all season.

"It's like any other game," she said. "Everyone comes into this tournament with a clean slate, and it doesn't matter who you have beaten or who you lost to. It's a fresh start, and it's a little more intense. We did well in the Big Ten Tournament, and I know we'll do well here."

The Hawkeyes' confidence is high, having knocked off No. 7 Michigan and No. 20 Penn State last week in in the Big Ten Tournament in Champaign, Ill., for the first two postseason victories in program history. Iowa has won a school-record 15 games this season.

"I don't think we should be scared of any opponent," said senior Alex Melin, a team co-captain. "We have beaten Michigan and Penn State twice. We need to keep it going."

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