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Arizona soccer to host Denver in first round of NCAA Tournament

Photo courtesy Arizona Athletics

The Arizona Wildcats will host Denver in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday at 7 p.m. MST, it was announced Monday.

The winner will play Louisville or No. 2 seed Tennessee in the second round, likely in Knoxville.

“We need to play Arizona soccer, which is high press and communicate and be willing to do whatever it takes to win,” said UA goalkeeper Lainey Burdett.

The Wildcats enter the postseason with a 12-5-2 record, including a 5-4-2 mark in the ultra-competitive Pac-12. They beat ASU on Friday to cap the regular season, which all but sealed their right to host the first round.

Arizona has won four of five entering the tourney. Their 12 regular-season wins are tied for the second-most in program history. They are 9-1-2 at home this year.

“Last year when we played against TCU here we had people all along the sideline, so I’m excited about that,” said midfielder Kennedy Kieneker.

Denver is 13-5-2 and went 7-1 in the Summit League. They have won 10 of their last 11 games.

“They typically play Pac-12 teams really tight and it will be a tough game for us,” said UA coach Tony Amato. “We’ll have to be ready for it.”

This is the second straight year and fourth time in the last five years the Wildcats have reached the NCAA Tournament.

“It just shows how when we really want something, we go after it,” Kieneker said.

It is also just the third time Arizona has hosted a postseason game. The Wildcats hosted the first round last year, beating TCU before falling to Florida State in the Round of 32 in Palo Alto.

“You don’t these moments for granted,” Burdett said. “At this point there’s no room for error so you want to get as far as you can and that shows too that going into each year anything can happen. The tournament is not a (guaranteed) thing every year so you just want to do the best you can at all times.”

Arizona will begin game prep Monday. Star freshman Brooke Wilson is set to practice for the first time since breaking her leg in early September.

She had three goals and an assist in seven games before the injury. If she plays in the postseason it will likely be in a limited role.

“The drive is all there. Everyone wants it. All the freshmen are all tapped in and I think that’s rare,” Kieneker said. “We all want it really bad.”

This story will be updated.