Huddled in front of a TV in the southeast corner of McKale Center, the Arizona Wildcats waited anxiously to learn their postseason fate Monday.
But as the NCAA Tournament bracket was unveiled, that nervousness quickly turned into elation.
The Wildcats got the result they expected.
Arizona will host TCU in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday at 7 p.m. MST.
“We’re extremely excited,” said UA midfielder Gabi Stoian. “This is what we wanted from the beginning of the season. To make the tournament and host a game in front of our own fans is the best it can get.”
The Wildcats went 10-4-4 overall and 7-2-2 in the Pac-12 in the regular season, finishing in fourth place in the conference and becoming the first team in program history to win more than six Pac-12 games in a season.
This is Arizona’s fifth NCAA Tournament appearance, with the last being in 2015, and it’s the first time UA has reached the tournament three times in a four-year span.
This is also just the second time Arizona has hosted an NCAA Tournament game, with the last instance being in 2015 when UA beat Northern Colorado on its way to an eventual Sweet 16.
“It’s just one step after another that we’re checking off the list that we wanted to accomplish here,” said senior forward Charlotte Brascia, whose senior class is the first to reach to tournament three times.
Arizona enters the tournament playing its best soccer, going unbeaten in its last seven matches (5-0-2), including a three-game winning streak to end the regular season.
The Wildcats have not lost since Oct. 5.
“I really like where we’re at,” head coach Tony Amato said. “I think we’ve gotten better and better as the year has gone on. We’re just now hitting our stride.”
TCU is 12-6-3 overall and finished 6-2-1 in the Big 12, good for third place.
Arizona and TCU had two mutual opponents during the regular season: Colorado and Oklahoma.
The Wildcats drew Colorado in Boulder and beat Oklahoma 2-0 in Norman. TCU lost 1-0 in Boulder and beat Oklahoma 2-0 in Fort Worth.
Aside from that, Arizona’s coaches and players don’t know much, if anything, about the Horned Frogs.
“I know their coach, I played against them when I was at my last school (Stephen F. Austin) but every year is different and I haven’t spent any time watching them play this year,” Amato said. “But we’ll do that and we’ll come up with a gameplan and be in a good spot by Friday.”
If Arizona beats TCU, it will likely head to Palo Alto, Calif. to face either Ole Miss or fourth-seeded Florida State in the Round of 32.
Having traversed the arduous Pac-12 conference all season, the Wildcats should be well-prepared for whatever is thrown their way.
“It’s one of the best leagues in the country,” Stoian said, “so going in we’re pretty confident.”