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SPORTS: Oklahoma State University

Cowgirl Soccer Earns NCAA Bid

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STILLWATER, Oklahoma -

Oklahoma State was awarded an at-large bid to the 2013 NCAA Women's Soccer Championship and will host Arkansas in a first-round game Friday at 7 p.m. in Stillwater, it was announced by the NCAA today.

OSU will be making the eighth NCAA tourney appearance in program history. The Cowgirls' first berth came in 2003, and they made six-straight trips from 2006-11.

Coach Colin Carmichael's squad, which lost in the finals of the Big 12 Soccer Championship last weekend, is 9-6-6 on the season.

"It's a great feeling after last year – we took a little dip last year with so many young players, but those same young players have really turned a corner and seem to be peaking at the right time," Carmichael said. "We played great in the Big 12 Tournament, which is what go us in (the NCAA Tournament), and we're really excited to be in the field."

OSU is 9-4-4 all time in the NCAA Women's Soccer Championship, with the .647 winning percentage ranking as the ninth best in NCAA tourney history among teams that have played at least 15 games. The Cowgirls have advanced to at least the second round in each of their last six NCAA trips, including back-to-back Elite Eight appearances in 2010 and 2011.

Friday's match will mark the eighth NCAA Soccer Championship contest OSU has hosted at the Cowgirl Soccer Complex. OSU previously hosted NCAA games in 2010 and 2011 and was 6-1-0

OSU is 4-0-0 all time against Arkansas. The last meeting came in 2011 in Fayetteville, Ark., with the Cowgirls claiming a 4-0 victory.

"It's unbelievable," Carmichael said of his team hosting a first-round game. "It's an advantage for sure. It certainly doesn't guarantee a win, but not having to get back on the road and travel is great. And to get to play in front of our fans again in the NCAA Tournament, what a thrill for this young team; it should be a great atmosphere.

"And we're excited to play Arkansas. We know they're a very strong team, very athletic, very good on set plays, and it's just going to be a very even contest, I would imagine."

OSU's 24-player roster includes just six upperclassmen, and only four Cowgirls — senior Kristen Kelley and juniors Miriam Rhinehart, George Christie and Rosa Medina — have played in an NCAA Tournament game. Of OSU's regular starting 11, nine are either freshmen or sophomores.

But Carmichael doesn't believe that postseason inexperience will hinder his squad.

"We tell them it will be very similar to the Big 12 Tournament," Carmichael said. "Most of those kids had only played one Big 12 Tournament game, and they were able to go out and beat Texas and Texas Tech and play really well in the final. I don't think they'll be too anxious or nervous given the fact that we've played so well against three quality teams down the stretch. We'll just emphasize that we need to keep doing the same things that we did at the Big 12 Tournament."

If OSU defeats Arkansas, the Cowgirls would advance to play the UCF-St. John's winner on Nov. 22.

Cowgirl Player Quotes on NCAA Championship selection

Sophomore defender Delaney Kiely

"I'm very excited for all of this. We've come a long way this season for a really young team. As of two weeks ago, we weren't even looking at sitting down to watch to see if we were in it. Because of our performances last week it gave us a chance. I think everyone is really excited. And we get to play here, which is a huge advantage."

"We looked at the predictions so I had kind of an idea that we would maybe get a bid. And then just talking to Colin (Carmichael) who has been through this a lot, just how sure he was about it. Seeing him and how hyped up he was I figured there was a good chance we were in — I wasn't too worried about it."

"I was a freshman last year and didn't really know how it all worked. It was horrible losing in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament (in 2012), and I felt worse yesterday when we lost in the (Big 12) finals (to West Virginia). I hate losing. But I'm glad we get another go at it right now and thankful for the second chance we're gonna have."

Junior defender/midfielder Miriam Rhinehart

"It feels really good because the past couple of weeks we weren't even looking like we were getting into the Big 12 Tournament, we were just trying our hardest to get there. Returning back feels a lot better. We lost in the Elite Eight (in 2011), and it's nice to get back and have another go at it and get to try and win the whole thing."

"It's a great feeling to be playing at home. It really makes it a lot easier for our team to dig in deep and play for our fans."

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