After amassing an impressive resume on the field this season, Alabama is poised to be selected as one of 64 teams to compete in the 2017 NCAA women’s soccer championship tournament.
If the Crimson Tide is chosen during the selection show on Monday, it will mark only the third time that Alabama has qualified for the NCAA tournament in program history. Alabama’s last tournament appearance came in 2011 under the tutelage of then coach Todd Bramble.
For Alabama head coach Wes Hart, qualifying for the NCAA tournament in his third year with the program would be quite the feat, considering that the team only managed to win five games in 2015 – his first year as head coach.
“My first year with the team we were last place in the conference and only won five games and were 213th in the RPI,” Hart said. “It just seemed like we were a world away from it. But we knew internally that if we continued to work hard and keep doing what we were doing that it would pay off.”
Currently sitting at 26th in the RPI rankings and sporting a 12-7-1 record, the potential of claiming an NCAA tournament berth is now a reality for Hart and the Crimson Tide.
Not only has Alabama accumulated double-digit victories this season, but the Crimson Tide has done so while competing in one of the premier conferences in the country. Ten of the top 50 teams in the RPI rankings are from the SEC, three of which (Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Arkansas) Alabama has beaten this year. The majority of Alabama’s losses have come against top-tier SEC teams as well.
“The fact is that the majority of our losses were against top SEC opponents,” Hart said. “That coupled with the fact that a lot of our wins are against good SEC opponents, coupled with the fact that we finished seventh in one of the harder leagues in the country, I think all that plays into it.”
Although the Crimson Tide was gaining momentum with a four game winning streak entering the SEC tournament last week, it was eliminated by Missouri in the first round after losing 1-3. While the early SEC tournament loss may affect whether Alabama hosts or is away for the first round of the NCAA tournament, Hart does not believe it will impact the team getting selected.
“A win against Mizzou would’ve given us a higher likelihood to host a first round game,” Hart said. “But everything that I’ve heard and seen gives me every indication that we’ve done more than enough to earn a berth in the NCAA tournament.”
While earning an NCAA tournament berth would be an important step for this program, the Crimson Tide will spend no time reveling in its success if it is selected on Monday, according to Hart. Instead, it will begin preparation for its first opponent, hoping to be the first Alabama team to advance past the first round of the tournament.
Source:: The Crimson White Sports