By Daniel Wallace
For the first time this millennium, the Baylor soccer team will be competing in the NCAA tournament.
At 6 p.m. Saturday at Betty Lou Mays Field the Bears will host the Texas State Bobcats (14-5-1) in the first round of the tournament, marking the first time their season has extended past the Big 12 championship tournament since 1999.
All student tickets will be free compliments of Baylor athletics.
The 64-team bracket will consist of six rounds of single-elimination games and will eventually crown a national champion.
After finishing third in the Big 12 this season, Baylor (14-3-3) earned an at-large bid to the championship tournament.
The 2011 regular season was one of the most successful in program history, with the Bears winning the most games in a season since the 1998 squad had 15.
The Bobcats finished second in the Southland Conference during the regular season, but took the conference title for the fifth time in program history with a 1-0 win over Stephen F. Austin on Sunday.
Texas State is a familiar opponent for the Bears.
The two teams have played as recently as Sept. 9, when Baylor used two second-half goals to propel over the Bobcats in a 2-0 victory at Betty Lou Mays Field.
Head coach Marci Jobson said she does not necessarily think her team has an advantage because of how familiar it is with Texas State.
“I think it’s good that you at least have a little bit of a feel for them, but they have a feel for you too and we’ve played them in the spring,” she said. “We’ve played them a lot. They are a Texas team so they also have that in-state rivalry going on as well so there’s a lot more emotion behind the game versus somebody you don’t know.”
She also said the Bobcats are similar to the Bears in the sense that both teams are blue-collar, hard-working and hard-nosed teams.
Senior goalkeeper Courtney Seelhorst said the Bobcats are a team that has challenged the Bears in the past, and it has not always been smooth sailing when playing against Texas State.
“They are always a team we even struggle a little bit with,” she said. “They are a tough, feisty team. They always come out hard against us. It’s always just a tough-fought game when we play [them]. It’s definitely not something to take lightly and something we are definitely going to have to prepare for.”
Although the Bears will have to play 90 minutes of focused, sharp soccer like Jobson has been preaching all season, junior midfielder Hanna Gilmore said she believes the Bears will have one advantage.
She is ecstatic about being able to play on Betty Lou Mays Field another time this season and thinks the home-field advantage will be beneficial to the team.
She said she feels the crowd will allow the team to relax and will put the Bears in a better mental state going into the game.
“Our home crowd is awesome,” Gilmore said. “I know a bunch of our family will be able to come. It’s just kind of a relaxation for us. We haven’t done this ever. I’ve never been in this situation. So to have the first game at home it’s really cool just to be able to take a breath and be like, ‘all right, let’s go.’”
The Baylor soccer program, which began in 1996, has only made it to the NCAA tournament twice before, in 1998 and 1999.
The 2011 team brings an attitude of confidence and jubilation entering its first-round match-up.
The winner of the Baylor/Texas State game will play the winner of the North Carolina (11-5-1) and William & Mary (17-2-2) game on Nov. 18 in the Gainesville, Fla., Regional.