On a mild fall afternoon in Charlottesville, the Virginia women's soccer team began preparing for the postseason. At 4:30 p.m. while the team was participating in their weekly workouts, the Cavaliers were selected to field of 64 for the 20th consecutive season.
"It's always an honor to be selected in the NCAA tournament and we're happy about that,"
UVa head coach, Steve Swanson said just an hour after the NCAA tournament bracket was released.
In 2013, Virginia became the first ACC team in 10 years to finish the regular season unbeaten and untied, with a record of 19-0. The Cavaliers ran the table in the regular season against the nation's most difficult league, by a wide margin.
"I think it means everything. Knowing that you've played the best, it makes you feel more prepared going into the tournament " senior defender, Annie Steinlage said.
"We're excited and expecting the best from anybody, but knowing the people that we've been playing this season so far are amongst the top gives us a little confidence."
The Atlantic Coast Conference placed eight teams in the tournament and claimed all four number one seeds. Virginia will carry the flag for the league as the top seed in the entire field.
"It's a reward for the season that we've had, but like anything else, post-season, it doesn't mean anything," Swanson said.
"Everyone is zero and zero again. I think you're only as good as you're last performance and that's what we have to remember."
Unfortunately for Virginia, that last performance was a 4-2 defeat at the hands of archrival, Virginia Tech in the ACC semi finals last Friday night.
"It's been awhile since we've been put in that situation," Swanson said.
"It was tough and disappointing, but I think there's a lot we can gain from it as a team. There were a lot of teachable moments in that game that haven't really come out until that game."
The season's lone blemish was Virginia's first loss in 255 days. The Hokies jumped out to an early lead, and this time, the Cavaliers could not complete the comeback.
"It was a bit unfortunate that we had a bad game against Virginia Tech, and it was one of our worst games of the season," Midfielder, Morgan Brian said.
"I think we've been playing well all the way up until then, and there were a couple of different things that broke down all over the field. It wasn't any particular sequence or series of events."
Virginia outshot Virginia Tech 10-9 and held a 4-3 advantage in corners last Friday night. The Cavaliers had beaten the Hokies eight days prior, but it was Tech who would end UVa's dreams of winning back-to-back ACC titles.
"I take a lot of responsibility for what happened on Friday," Swanson said.
"There's a couple areas that I could have emphasized better that I should have emphasized more. Maybe I took for granted that we played them eight days earlier. I think there are things there as a coach that I think I could have done better with."
The Cavaliers will take on a St. Francis squad that is fresh off of a Northeast Conference Tournament title. The Red Flash will enter Friday night's contest with a record of 13-7, and are currently riding a five-game winning streak. The Cavaliers say that it will be nice to take a break from the ACC grind, and take on an unfamiliar foe.
"I think seeing a different opponent with a different style of play will be better for us," Brain said.
"We'll get to see some different things in the NCAA tournament because everyone team brings something different. It's nice to see other teams besides ACC top-ten teams."
Virginia will open NCAA tournament play at home for the 16th time in the last 20 years. Klockner Stadium has seen record crowds this season, and the Hoos will remain at home all the way until the College Cup if they can keep on winning. Both Swanson and the players are thankful for the support, and say that the home-field advantage has helped the team achieve new heights this season.
"I think that the community has shown that they've gotten behind that team, and I think they've been a big part of our success," Swanson said of the home crowds.
"My hope is that they continue to show their support for the team and that we continue to perform for them."
Added Brian, Playing on Klockner is great for us. It's a big field; it plays to our advantage. The crowds have been great this year, and I think if we can keep winning like we are, that's going to play to our advantage."