Walking to the media, Haley Woodard trembled; she also had a noticeable smile on her face and a bounce in her step.
For the second straight season, the Oklahoma State women’s soccer team heard its name called during the NCAA Tournament Selection Show. The team gathered into the O-Club on the west concourse of Gallagher-Iba Arena, joining some family, friends and fans for a watch party.
When NCAA.com announced the Cowgirls (16-3-2) would host a first-round matchup against Missouri State, everyone enthusiastically cheered. Woodard, a junior forward, described her emotions in the moment with excitement.
“Oh my gosh,” Woodard said. “All I heard was, ‘Traveling to Stillwater’ and I knew. … I haven’t been nervous really all day because we were pretty confident we would be in. But, getting to host is an even bigger deal. I am still shaking.”
After the selection, OSU coach Colin Carmichael announced the Cowgirls match against Missouri State (10-9-1) will be played in Cowgirl Soccer Complex at noon Saturday. Having a 9-0 home record and a loyal fan base, the Cowgirls have the advantage.
Carmichael said he knows the Bears will challenge his squad.
“There is no easy games when you get to this point,” Carmichael said. “… We will prepare as always and give them the utmost respect.”
If the Cowgirls win, they will play the winner of Duke, a one-seed, and UNC-Greensboro. Anna Beffer said OSU has proven it can compete with any team, so the Cowgirls are ready for all challengers.
A senior midfielder, Beffer said unity, belief and respect, along with talent, have guided the Cowgirls through the season. For the first time since 2011, OSU won the regular-season Big 12 title, going 8-1 in conference play.
In the preseason, the Cowgirls were projected to finish sixth. Beffer said the team focused on itself and performing well.
“We didn’t really pay attention to what people said about us, outside of our locker room,” Beffer said. “Because, we knew we had what it took, and we knew what we had to do. We obviously did it. So, it was awesome to prove people wrong.”
OSU didn’t have the best performance in the Big 12 Tournament; it lost 3-0 against the eventual champion Baylor in the semifinals. Woodard said the Cowgirls have a short memory win, lose or draw, but they are motivated to bounce back.
Carmichael said the Cowgirls earned a NCAA Tournament match in Stillwater. He said winning the Big 12 regular season and 16 games puts people on notice nationally.
He said it is not only exciting for a team to hear its name announced, but it is also special to play at home in front of family and friends. It is an amazing opportunity for the group, he said.
“For this group to come as far as they have, it is quite amazing,” Carmichael said. “This group will always be special to me. I think I said it preseason, their work ethic since day one is remarkable. … They have made my job easy.”
With the program transitioning into an upgraded stadium, he said Saturday has a chance to be especially special.
“I think it would be a terrific honor to be able to close out one era with a win in the NCAA Tournament,” Carmichael said. “That would be fabulous. … This team have done a terrific job of making sure we go out of the old stadium with a bang.”
Tickets for the match range from $5 to 10, and all OSU students receive free admission; and they can be bought at the OSU Athletics Ticket Office, online or by calling 877-ALL-4-OSU.