Drake players Erin Jarvis (left) and Danielle Oswald (right) wait anxiously to find out what team they will play in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
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Drake University will play Saint Louis University in the first round of the NCAA Women's Soccer Tournament this Friday at Robert R. Hermann Stadium in Saint Louis, Mo.
Illinois, which was seeded No. 3 in the 64-team field, will play Southeast Missouri State in the other first-round contest. The winners will meet in a second-round match scheduled for Sunday.
"We always knew this was possible when we started the program here and the kind of players we recruited were the ones who were going to help get us an NCAA bid," said fifth-year coach Drake coach Corbin Stone. "The last couple years we've come close. I don't think people know how difficult it is to make the tournament.
"I'm happy for our players. I'm excited to stay in the Midwest and play close to Drake. Saint Louis is a formidable opponent. It should be a good match."
The Bulldogs earned an automatic qualifying bid for the NCAA Tournament after beating Evansville, 1-0, in overtime in the championship of the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Sunday in Omaha, Neb. It was the 100th match in the school history of women's soccer at Drake.
Drake will enter the NCAA Tournament with a 12-5-2 record, riding a season-best six-match winning streak that includes five shutouts. The Bulldogs have outscored their opponents, 11-2, during the winning streak.
Drake is one of nine teams to appear for the first time in the NCAA Tournament.
"I'm so excited for our team," said Drake Athletic Director Sandy Hatfield Clubb. "I'm really proud of the players, the coaching staff and their accomplishments throughout the season."
Drake has won its last three matches by identical 1-0 scores, beating Indiana State, Missouri State and Evansville — although the latter two matches occurred in one overtime.
"We are really excited about playing a good team," said Drake junior forward Danielle Oswald (Dubuque, Iowa), who was named the MVC Defensive Player of the Year. "I'm sure coach is going to get us ready. We are going to go out there and play the best we can."
Saint Louis, which owns a 14-3-2 record, advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year after beating Fordham, 2-1, to win the Atlantic 10 Tournament.
Illinois, which is 14-7 overall, was ranked No. 17 before falling to Penn State, 3-1, in the championship of the Big Ten Conference Tournament.
Southeast Missouri State also will be making its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament after receiving an automatic berth by beating Morehead State, 2-0, in the championship of the Ohio Valley Tournament Sunday.
The four No. 1 seeds include the University of North Carolina, Notre Dame, Santa Clara and the University of Texas.
The 25th annual NCAA Division I Women's College Cup will be played Dec. 1 and 3 at SAS Soccer Park in Cary, N.C..
Nine teams are making their first appearance in the tournament and include: Columbia, Drake, Grambling State, Louisville, McNeese State, Niagara, Old Dominion, Southeast Missouri State and Toledo.