How’s this for high stakes?
Oklahoma State is playing for a title. Oklahoma is playing for its postseason life.
The Bedlam rivals will collide at 7 p.m. tonight in Norman for their regular-season finale. If the No. 9 Cowgirls win, they will secure their first Big 12 regular-season championship. If the Sooners win, they will earn the eighth and final seed in next week’s conference tournament in San Antonio.
“It couldn’t be scripted any better,” said OSU coach Colin Carmichael. “This is the business end of the season, so if we come short, it’s a little disappointing. They know they’ve had a great year but hopefully there’s more good stuff to come.”
Senior goalkeeper Erin Stigler added, “It’s really exciting. It’s kind of crazy to know it’s all in our hands now. We’ve worked really hard for this — winning our conference would be huge.”
A victory tonight would give the Cowgirls (15-1-2, 6-1-2) their first league title since claiming the Big 12 Tournament crown in 2003. Since that point, O-State has progressed each season and is aiming for its third straight trip to the NCAA Tournament, which would be a program first.
“We’ve been pretty good over the last five years and we want to be better than that,” Carmichael said. “We want to win championships and go far in the NCAA Tournament.”
Senior midfielder Yolanda Odenyo added, “To be recognized as one of (the national powerhouses), you need to have continued success every year — and we’re just in the beginning. But I think we’ve definitely proved that we’re as good as anybody.”
In addition to a conference title, the Cowgirls — who have an RPI of 10 — could improve their chances of earning one of 16 seeds in the NCAA Tournament with a win against OU. Carmichael’s crew has been eliminated in the second round in each of the last two seasons.
“We’ve done everything we need to do to put ourselves in a good position,” Stigler said. “We’re legitimately a Top 16 team. We deserve to be seeded and we deserve to be where we’re at right now. (Bedlam) gives us even more motivation.”
The Sooners (3-14-1, 26-1), under the direction of first-year coach Nicole Nelson, struggled for the majority of the year but have surged late in the season. OU is 2-2-1 in its last five games including last Sunday’s 1-0 home win against Iowa State.
“Whenever you change coaches, there’s obviously going to be some disharmony in the program but they’ve turned things around,” Carmichael said. “I think part of the challenge is keeping our team grounded a little bit.”
Odenyo added, “We know we’re supposed to beat them, but we’re not taking anything for granted. We know we’re going to get their best shot.”
O-State leads the Bedlam series, 10-2-1, and has won the last three meetings. With a win tonight, the Cowgirls — who lead the NCAA in goals scored — would claim the No. 1 seed in the Big 12 tourney next week and would be a victory shy of tying the school’s single-season record for wins.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Stigler said. “My first year (in 2004), we played our Bedlam game fighting just to get into the tournament. The fact I could end my career by winning a championship would be icing on the cake.”
Trick or treat
When asked if he was superstitious of his team playing on Halloween night, Carmichael laughed and said, “We do wear orange, so maybe that can help us a little bit.”
How’s this for high stakes?
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