By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
When Oklahoma State’s name appeared on the big board during the NCAA Tournament soccer selection show Monday, Kelsey Bass raised her arms triumphantly and George Christie let out a deafening scream.
Oklahoma State soccer coach Colin Carmichael didn’t do any of those things. Instead, he made a beeline for the men’s restroom, where he celebrated his excitement in the solitude of a stall at the Varsity Club, accompanied only by his son Ean and a porcelain throne.
Maybe it was too many sweets and bottles of water before hand. Or maybe it was just the excitement of getting selected to the tournament after missing out last season.
Either way, one can only imagine the sense of relief that washed over Carmichael at that moment.
“It’s a great feeling,” Carmichael said. “Two weeks ago, we were really on the outside looking in. Our play over the last week or two is obviously what got us into the tournament. I’m really excited for this group.”
After missing last year’s tournament, the Cowgirls (9-6-6) will open the tournament against Arkansas (13-8-0) at 7 p.m. Friday at the Cowgirl Soccer Complex.
“I didn’t (think we’d be getting a home match), but you never know,” Carmichael said. “Once you get past those seeded teams, a lot of it has to do with geography. ... When we saw that Arkansas got in, we knew there could be a chance of us hosting because of the geography and location.”
Much like their road to the NCAA tournament, watching Monday’s selection show wasn’t a breeze by any means. Once the first two brackets were unveiled, an uneasy tension started to fill the room. Some even started to whisper to each other, “What if we don’t get in?”
But before those questions could find answers those worries turned to cheers of excitement.
“It was pretty stressful,” Carmichael said, admitting the stress may have played a factor in his sudden rush to the restroom. “I remember quite a few years ago we were one of the last teams to come up on the board. You start wondering and questioning if you’re in. We felt pretty comfortable that we deserved to be in, but until you see your name up there, you’re never quite sure.”
The reason behind the confidence? Everyone on the team had been following the bracket projections since the team lost to West Virginia 1-0 Sunday in the Big 12 championship in Kansas City, Mo.
“We looked at the predictions so I had kind of an idea that we would maybe get a bid,” Oklahoma State sophomore defender Delaney Kiely said. “And then just talking to Colin, who has been through this a lot, just how sure he was about it. Seeing him and how hyped up he was, I figured there was a good chance we were in. I wasn’t too worried about it.”
A big reason for the Cowgirls’ lack of worry, has a lot to do with their schedule. While they did have six ties, three of those came against teams in the tournament field.
“Tying is really hard because you’ve played 90 minutes and extra, but the good thing about it was that we were really hard to beat,” Oklahoma State junior midfielder Miriam Rhinehart said. “... We played teams like Florida State and we tied against them. That showed that we have character and heart. We worked hard to play against those good teams, and that played a big part into helping us get into the tournament — having those ties against teams that were ranked really high.”
“When you looked at our résumé and saw a tie with Florida State, tie with Texas, tie with Texas Tech, and then a win with Tech and a win with Texas, it was a pretty solid résumé for a bubble team,” Carmichael said. “That tie with Florida State got a lot of people’s attention since they won the ACC championship. That was a big result for us.”
But while the ties may have helped ease the Cowgirls into the tournament, Oklahoma State won’t have that luxury moving forward. Now, it’s win or go home.
And for Carmichael, he’s definitely not ready to flush this season down the drain just yet.
“There’s obviously a ton of work to do,” Carmichael said. “We’re very excited to play Arkansas. We know how good they are and how strong they are. Even if we survive that, we’ll have to theoretically play Central Florida, but we’ll worry about that a little later on down the road.”