Appalachian State University’s women’s soccer team will take on their second Sun Belt Conference tournament in Atlanta, Georgia, on Nov. 4. The tournament will last anywhere from one to five days, depending on the performance of the Mountaineers game-by-game.
The team will go into the tournament ranked as the fourth seed and play their first game against University of Arkansas-Little Rock. App State hasn’t lost to the Trojans since joining the Sun Belt, boasting a 3-0 win over them in the 2014-15 season and a 1-1 tie against them this season.
“The better the seed we have, the better the first round will be for us,” senior forward Kebrina Keys said. “We’ve had a hard time winning the first round before so I think that if we have a good seed and do it after winning that first round, we’re golden from there.”
If the team wins their first game against UALR, they will move forward to play in the semifinals, and then move forward to the finals if they win that game as well.
With a 5-3-1 record for their Sun Belt Conference season, head coach Sarah Strickland expressed the key to the team’s success in the upcoming tournament.
“For the tournament we want to peak at the end, and I think last year we didn’t do that,” Strickland said. “Although we were playing great soccer at the end, we had a lot of injuries and we were trying to figure things out.”
Last season the Mountaineers ended their tournament after game one with a 0-1 loss against Georgia Southern University. On Friday, the team flipped the script and took down Georgia Southern during a home game with a final score of 1-0, their second to last game before the tournament.
“Since I’ve been here we have never won the first tournament game,” senior goalkeeper Megan Roberson said. “We’ve always lost it 1-0 and I think for us it’s going to be putting that first goal away in the first tournament game. I think once we put that first goal away, nothing is going to stop us from going forward.”
Roberson and Keys have both expressed how crucial it is to start the first game of the tournament different than usual in order to succeed. Like the players, Strickland also recognizes how a change in mentality and pace will help the team thrive in the upcoming tournament.
“The girls in this program love it so much they don’t want it to end,” Strickland said. “That last game, the fear of the finality of it all is real. This year we’re not going to play like it’s our last game, we’re going to play to compete and not to think about the finality of it all.”
With a new perspective on the tournament and a good seed entering the tournament, the Mountaineers hope to change their standard tournament play and get to the finals.
Story by: Jess Lyons, Senior Sports Reporter