By Francesca Maietta | Reporter
Baylor soccer is set to face Abilene Christian University to start the NCAA Tournament at 7:30 pm Saturday at Betty Lou Mays Field.
The Bears lost to West Virginia on Sunday in the Big 12 Tournament finals, but that didn’t stop them from receiving a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Since they got such high seeding they could host the first three games and maybe more, depending on the outcome. This is the fifth time Baylor has had the opportunity to host the opening round of the tournament.
The Bears defeated the Wildcats 2-0 in the season-opening game on Aug. 16 at Betty Lou Mays Field. Senior midfielder Julie James said she is ready to bring her ‘A-game’ regardless of the opponent.
“I feel pretty good,” James said. “I know we’ve played [ACU] before but I don’t really remember too much about that game, to be honest. Anything can happen in a tournament. Any team will show up and play just as hard so we have to be as ready for them as anyone else.”
The Bears earned the program’s highest-ever seed and earned back-to-back postseason bids for the third time. Baylor head coach Paul Jobson said he won’t make changes going into the NCAA Championship as he thinks the team’s persistence is key.
“We’re consistent,” Jobson said. “Our mentality doesn’t change. I think we’ve been successful this year because of our mentality and I think when you’ve had success you continue what you’ve been doing to continue the success that you’ve had, so nothing changes.”
Senior forward Jackie Crowther said she is appreciative of her team and of being able to play the tournament at home.
“It’s definitely a really exciting time just to be here,” Crowther said. “Especially coming such a long way being at our senior year where we’re at now. Our season would have been over this time two years ago. So it’s really exciting just to kind of see where we’re going and just to continue playing with this team, just having one more game together. So grateful to be playing on Betty Lou [Mays Field] as much as we can and it’s definitely just awesome to have our home environment, our routine and kind of just be able to be comfortable where we’re at.”
If the Bears defeat ACU, they will play the winner of Vanderbilt and Murray State next weekend. If Baylor were to win in the second round, it would face either Virginia, Texas Tech, Monmouth or Princeton at Betty Lou Mays Field for a chance to go to the Elite 8 for the second straight year.