Flip the switch.
It’s playoff time.
The Fort Lewis College women’s soccer team is after a deep postseason run once the NCAA Tournament rolls around, and the Skyhawks can set themselves up for that desired success with a Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference tournament championship.
A run to the title this weekend could push FLC to a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, which would keep the Skyhawks in Durango for the tournament’s opening weekend and give them a first-round bye. The Sweet 16 and Elite Eight are all but assured of taking place at Colorado Mines in Golden, also the site of the semifinals and finals of the RMAC Tournament this weekend.
But, for all that to happen, the third-seeded Skyhawks must first get past No. 6-seed UC-Colorado Springs at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday at Dirks Field in the first round. And while, on paper, that might seem a formality if you just look at both teams’ records, it’s anything but. The Mountain Lions came to Durango and walked out with a 2-0 victory Oct. 11, and they boast a pair of quality scorers in Agnes Arnadottir and Hannah Levett, who each have seven tallies this season.
The Skyhawks returned the favor with a 2-0 win Oct. 27 in Colorado Springs.
“They beat us at home,” FLC head coach Damian Clarke said Monday. “For us ... obviously when someone comes in your backyard and takes something from you, you’d like to think the next time it happens, you’ve got a little bit of grit in your teeth about it and a little more resolve.”
FLC’s resolve will be tested, as well as its depth. Leading scorer and RMAC Player of the Year Sam Weiss suffered a head injury Sunday, possibly a concussion, and the timetable for her return is uncertain, though she’s not expected to be available Wednesday.
And FLC goalkeeper Caitlyn Espinosa is fighting a nagging back injury and also has been out of town attending a funeral, leaving her status up in the air.
But its not as if FLC’s cupboard is barren. Emma Cannis has five goals this season, and players such as Alex Arellano, Shea Haycock, Courtney Riley and Megan Striedel will be counted on to pick up some of the scoring slack.
And in net, the Skyhawks will turn to the experienced hand of senior Amanda Raso if Espinosa can’t go. Raso has appeared in 43 games in her four years as a Skyhawk, including 39 starts.
“Definitely some injuries to negotiate, but we’ve got a good team, got a lot of good kids who obviously are champing at the bit for the opportunity to play,” Clarke said.
A win over UCCS would give FLC a return engagement Friday in Golden against No. 2-seed Metro State, which FLC beat 2-1 on Oct. 25. Two wins would give the Skyhawks a chance to achieve the first of their two remaining goals – an RMAC Tournament crown – and position them well for a run at the second – a national championship.
“This is a new season. I think we have a chance to still chase two of our goals,” Clarke said. “Obviously one of those being finding some kind of trophy.”