For the fourth year in a row, the Idaho soccer team has received an invitation to the WAC Tournament set to take place Friday in Las Cruces, N.M.
The road to the tournament has been an unsure one, this year, as the team had a rough start to the season losing all pre-conference matches and placing fifth in the WAC standings.
The only reason the Vandals now have the chance to be WAC champions and possibly play on the NCAA level is because fourth place, Grand Canyon, is ineligible for postseason play due to league stipulations on its entrance into the WAC.
“We’re there because we’re meant to be there and if we weren’t then we weren’t good enough to be there. But we are, so we’re going to take that with both hands (and) seize it as well as we can,” Idaho coach Pete Showler said.
Even as the final weekend of conference play ended, the Vandals place in the WAC Tournament was unsure and ultimately came down to Cal State-Bakersfield and its loss to New Mexico State.
Idaho was ahead of Cal State-Bakersfield in standings by only one win, so the fourth-place seed in the tournament came down to Cal State winning one more match last weekend than Idaho. Both teams lost their pair of matches giving Idaho the seed and tournament berth.
“There were a few times (when a tournament appearance was unsure) but we were always staying positive,” senior Chelsie Breen said. “We kind of got lucky but we made it, so we will do what we have to do when we’re there.”
This tournament will be the fourth for Breen who has played 80 games, the fourth most at Idaho. Breen has started in 79 of those matches.
In the first round of play set for 10:30 a.m., the Vandals play conference leader Seattle U for their third match up in a row. In the nine years Showler has coached at Idaho, he has never played a team three times in succession — until now.
“There is a lot of firsts and hopefully it will be the first time we beat them,” Showler said.
Idaho has never defeated Seattle in the six years the two teams have played. Seattle has outscored Idaho in the series 17-3 with four shutouts.
“We definitely know their strengths and weaknesses and we broke them down several times (Sunday), we just got to continue doing that and working on that more,” Breen said. “We scored in the first minute and shocked them so we’re just going to go out and destroy.”
If Idaho beats Seattle in the first round, it will move on to the final against the winner of Missouri-Kansas City and Utah Valley.
The winner of the championship round will be the WAC Champion and get an automatic spot in the NCAA Tournament which features the 64 best collegiate soccer teams in the nation.
“This program has never been to that level. For us as a program we take one game at a time, but the hope is we will be in the hat for next Monday’s draw and that is what we are pushing for,” Showler said.
Curtis Ginnetti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org