New kids on the block ready for NCAAs
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The Hawkeyes are the new kids on the block in the 2013 NCAA Tournament, but that doesn't mean the University of Iowa soccer team is just content with being among the 64 teams in the field.
"We got in and we're here, but we can win," junior Melanie Pickert says following Thursday's practice at Alumni Stadium. "Everyone has that mindset. We don't care what the name on the jersey is. We want to play hard and walk away with no regrets."
The Hawkeyes face No. 23 Notre Dame Nov. 15 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The game will begin at 6 p.m. CST and be streamed live at WatchND.tv.
The NCAA appearance is the first in Iowa history; it is the 21st-consecutive bid for the Fighting Irish.
Being in a new element, the Hawkeyes know the importance of tempering their excitement early in the contest.
"It's going to be important for us to have our heads on straight," says senior Ashley Catrell. "We'll definitely have jitters and excitement coming out to play in our first NCAA Tournament."
Pickert says the first 10 to 15 minutes of the match will be crucial, and the Hawkeyes need to focus on doing the little things right to get into the flow of the game.
"There's going to be a lot of energy," says Pickert, a second team All-Big Ten selection. "Getting those first touches on the ball, going into tackles hard, and energy from other players on our team will help a lot with the crowd."
Junior co-captain Caitlin Brown says the team has focused on channeling their emotions and using the excitement to their advantage.
"We've talked a lot about managing our emotions and managing the game in 10 minute chunks at a time," she says. "We'll try and take that energy and excitement and keep it at an appropriate level."
The Fighting Irish bring an 11-7-1 record into the first round matchup, with victories over No. 1 North Carolina (1-0) and No. 21 Maryland (5-0) and a 1-1 draw with No. 13 Wake Forest. Six of Notre Dame's seven losses came by a single goal, including four in double overtime.
"Notre Dame looks excellent on film," says UI head coach Ron Rainey. "We have to make sure we're moving our feet defensively, moving off the ball offensively and being technically clean through the game.
"We want to try to be as even-keeled as possible because there will be some highs and lows in the game, and we want to make sure we stay level-headed because excitement will be at a fever pitch."
Brown says the Hawkeyes will have to play one of their best games of the season against a talented Notre Dame squad.
"I have no doubt that we can play with them, but it's got to be one of our best games of the year," she says. "I am sure they're amped up to be in the tournament, as are we. We need to keep doing the things we do well and minimize our mistakes."
The Hawkeyes are new to the NCAA experience, but they are focusing on competing well.
"We're the new kids in town in this," says Rainey. "We want to work hard and play well."