SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah women’s soccer team pretty much knew it was assured of receiving a NCAA tournament berth after an excellent 11-3-5 regular season. But getting to host a first-round game was icing on the cake.
The Utes will be playing in their second NCAA Tournament in the past 10 years as they’ll play host to Texas Tech Saturday at 1 p.m. at Ute Field.
“We’re really excited to be playing and being at home is a big bonus for us,” said Utah coach Rich Manning. “The team has always had the attitude this year of next game up and whoever it is and wherever it is, let’s get after it. I know they’re excited to be at home.”
The Utes, who finished in fourth place at 6-1-4 in Pac-12 play, were led this year by sophomore Hailey Skolmoski, who has 13 of the Utes’ 26 goals this season.
“We’re all super excited,” Skolmoski said. “I remember watching the selection show last year as a team after such a disappointing season and we all said, ‘that’s where we want to be – one of the teams that’s on the screen.’ We put in a lot of hard work and effort to get here, so we’re all really excited.”
Senior forward Katie Rogers is one of a handful of players, who played on the last Ute team that made the NCAAs, in 2013, when the Utes lost to Texas A&M on the road 1-0.
“My heart is happy right now,” Rogers said. “To be able to see your team’s name up there, there’s no better feeling than that. I was a freshman (in 2013) and to get back is even better. That is awesome just to be on our turf and to bring our own home energy to the game is going to be really fun.”
Manning said Texas Tech, which comes in with a 9-8-2 record, has “definitely been a national-level team” with five straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament, counting this year.
“They have some tournament experience and they have an excellent coach,” Manning added. “I’m sure it will be a tough tournament game as we would expect.”
The two schools have two common opponents this year. The Utes beat Arizona 2-1, while the Red Raiders tied the Wildcats 2-2. Utah tied Cal, while Texas Tech lost to the Golden Bears 4-0.
The Utes will play the winner of Florida State-Samford next week, probably at USC, the No. 2 seed in the region if the Trojans win their game against Eastern Washington.