Confident Grizzlies making NCAA tournament debut against Arcadia

The Franklin College women’s soccer team didn’t just come into this season hoping to make the NCAA Division III Tournament. The Grizzlies came in expecting to.

After falling one win short of an automatic bid in 2015 and 2016, Franklin clinched its first postseason spot by beating Mount St. Joseph in the HCAC tourney final last weekend.

“For this team, it’s not so much of a surprise that we’re in the NCAA Tournament,” first-year head coach Cristin Allen said.

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“I think it was a matter of time for them, and now I think we’re at a moment where we have a lot of confidence built up because of the past few games, and we feel prepared; we feel ready.”

The Grizzlies (14-4) are traveling to Pittsburgh to face Arcadia in a first-round game at Carnegie Mellon Saturday night.

Should they win, they’ll face either Farmingdale State or the host team, the eighth-ranked Tartans, on Sunday evening.

Facing off against such tough competition might have seemed more daunting in the past for Franklin, but the previous coaching staff, anticipating that the program would be making this leap forward sooner than later, beefed up the nonconference schedule for this season.

Though it left some early blemishes on the record — the Grizzlies started 1-3 — that early gauntlet has the players feeling more self-assured heading into this weekend.

“We’ve competed at that level before, so that definitely helps with the nerves,” said junior Maddie Fleet, whose 25 goals rank her fifth nationally in Division III. “Right now, it’s just excitement to continue our season, and then continuing our season against quality teams makes it even more exciting for me.”

Allen said that the Grizzlies have had a chance to look over a little bit of film on Arcadia but adds that she doesn’t worry as much about the opponent.

If Franklin plays the way it’s capable of, she believes, the results will take care of themselves.

“Our theme all year long has not been so much how we’re going to stop them,” Allen stated. “It’s been how they’re going to stop us.”

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Ryan O'Leary is sports editor for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at roleary@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2715.