The BGSU women's soccer team cheers while watching the NCAA tournament selection show in Monday in Bowling Green.
Blade/Rebecca Benson Enlarge
BOWLING GREEN — The inherent fun of a 64-team tournament lies with the underdogs.
With 63 games to decide a champion, it becomes an inevitability at least a few teams will defy conventional wisdom and win a game they were not supposed to win.
Bowling Green would like to become one of them Friday.
The BGSU women’s soccer team opens the NCAA tournament at No. 22 Penn State, one of the top programs in the country. The Falcons are a sizable underdog against the Nittany Lions, who almost never lose this early in the tournament, sporting a 19-1 record in the NCAA first round since 1998.
Outside of Wood County, almost nobody will pick BG to win, and that’s just fine with the them.
“You know what, let them expect that, right?” Falcons forward Erica Hubert said. “It’s the easiest bet to do. Honestly, it just makes it easier on us. I mean, there’s no pressure, so we’ve just got to stick to who we are.”
The Mid-American Conference champion Falcons (14-4-3) are playing in their first NCAA tournament since 2005. The Nittany Lions (15-5-1) have not missed the postseason since 1994, a span that includes five College Cup appearances and the 2015 national championship.
Penn State lost to eventual national champion Stanford in a quarterfinal last season.
Despite being a clear underdog, Bowling Green has no plans for major changes. The Falcons found success this season with their 3-4-3 formation and a noticeable bond between players, and they see no reason to deviate now.
“I think as long as we go in and play our game and follow our game plan, and do what we know and what we usually do in games, we can actually go there and put up a really good fight and potentially have an upset,” defender Maureen Kennedy said.
Coach Matt Fannon told his players at the MAC championship to enjoy the moment, and BG plans to do the same at Penn State, where everyone on the roster will play in the tournament for the first time.
“At the end of the day it’s a result [and] at the end of the day it’s a game, but this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” midfielder Chelsee Washington said. “It’s amazing. We’ve all worked so hard to get here, and we’re going to soak it all in and just play our hardest.”
Fannon said the Falcons don’t necessarily have the best players, but that team chemistry has been their driving force.
There is no doubting Penn State’s talent, yet BG plans to be itself and see what happens come 6 p.m. Friday.
“And that’s the thing, because the truth is, while I believe our women are the best and obviously we won, I’m not sure we’ve necessarily got all the best players,” Fannon said. “We’re certainly not going to go up to Penn State and believe however many national team players from however many countries are not as good as ours.
“But it’s about the team on the day, and we hope it can be us.”
Guidelines: Please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language decent. Comments that violate these standards, or our privacy statement or visitor's agreement, are subject to being removed and commenters are subject to being banned. To post comments, you must be a registered user on toledoblade.com. To find out more, please visit the FAQ.