The camera phones were on. The hopes were high. The nerves were real.
The Master’s University women’s soccer team congregated inside its locker room Monday morning to watch the NAIA tournament selection show, and one reveal after another seemingly sunk the Mustangs’ chances and sent heart rates skyrocketing.
“We were just waiting, waiting, waiting,” said senior Kellian Ahearn.
“We went crazy,” she said.
Master’s, the nation’s 15th-ranked team, will host Olivet Nazarene University on Saturday at 11 a.m. in the NAIA National Championship Opening Round after earning an at-large berth. A win would send the Mustangs (14-5-1) to Alabama for the NAIA’s final 16 for the first time since 2014.
This year’s seniors were freshmen back then. It was an experience they wanted to afford this year’s frosh, and an experience Ahearn believed the squad earned after beating four teams in the nation’s top 25.
“I’m really proud of this team. I think we deserve to be in this spot,” said Ahearn, who admitted to being nervous Monday because a handful of upsets over the weekend threatened TMU’s odds of landing an at-large berth.
Lewis was optimistic. He believed enough conference tournaments across the country had played out in favor of the Mustangs, who had dealt No. 6 Keiser University from Florida its only regular-season loss earlier this year.
Still, Master’s had to sweat it out. Lewis facilitated a group chat for those TMU players who wanted a running update on their playoff chances after losing to No. 9 Westmont College in the semifinals of the GSAC tournament last week.
“Some girls were completely nervous and didn’t want to know,” Lewis said.
Monday was met instead with fist pumps and yells inside TMU’s locker room, not far from Reese Field, where the Mustangs will take on Illinois-based Olivet Nazarene University (13-6-1).
Olivet came in No. 23 in the latest NAIA coaches’ poll. It was 26th in Modified Ratings Percentage Index.
The Mustangs were 12th in MRPI and, Monday, among the nation’s happiest teams.
TMU XC heads to national championships
Fresh off winning dual GSAC titles earlier this month, the Mustang men’s and women’s cross country teams will compete in the NAIA Cross Country National Championships on Saturday at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site in Vancouver, Washington.
The Mustang men come in ranked No. 10 in the latest NAIA coaches’ top 25. The women are No. 8.
Visit GoMustangs.com on Saturday evening for recaps of the action.