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Blazers look to be reborn with NCAA tournament berth

Written by: Alex Tostado

VSU women’s soccer was given a second chance on Monday night.

Although VSU lost in the first round of the Gulf South Conference Tournament last Thursday, the team was granted a No. 4 seed in the South Region of the D-II NCAA Tournament.

Friday night the Blazers will matchup against the No. 5 seed, Florida Tech.

The team watched together as they saw their name enter the bracket, and cheers broke out. Head Coach Mel Heinz addressed the team immediately.

“This is where the mindset (of the team) needs to change,” Coach Heinz said. “Once again we (have) a winnable game. We need the mentality that we are going to score goals and we are going to take chances that we took in the Huntsville game.”

The Blazers lost four of their last eight matchups of the season, including the GSC tournament. The team went 6-0-3 before losing a game this season. The Blazers defeated FIT 3-0 in the second game of the season.

Coach Heinz questioned her team’s intensity after the selection show.

“What are you all thinking right now?” Coach Heinz asked her team. “Should we call (the tournament officials) and say, ‘hey, we want someone else’? Are we going to represent it right? Do you see where I’m at?”

Junior goalkeeper Olivia Mills is in agreement with her coach and is ready to get her team back on track this weekend for a deep run in the tournament.

After being eliminated in the first round of the GSC tournament for the second straight season, the team is avoiding being bounced from the national tournament for the second straight season.

“We have taken into account that this is exactly what happened last year,” Mills said. “I think it’s a little nostalgic and … remembering what it felt like … to not prove ourselves in the national tournament, it definitely builds a flame under our fire. We are definitely looking to prove that we are worthy to be in this tournament. We are looking forward to playing the defending national champion. We are expecting to put up a good fight against them and show people what we are made of.”

Coach Heinz expressed her feelings toward her team’s tournament berth and challenged her players to challenge themselves.

“I’m not asking you to work hard; I’m asking you to get it done,” Coach Heinz said. “I’m not asking you to go try; I’m asking you to go win. That’s what we need to do. We already know how to play, and we already have the talent. The talent has been here all year long … and we can win this game. Then we can take on West Florida, and we can win that game.”

Mills wants to get herself and her defense back to early season form.

“I think coming into this weekend we need to regroup even mentally, physically (and) emotionally, and we need to be completely invested in the game coming up this weekend,” Mills said. “We feel that we are ready, but we need to prove it on the field, so coming together as a team and staying focused and preparing for that is going to be crucial.”

The Blazers will play Friday night at 5:30 pm in Pensacola, Fla. If the team wins, they will play West Florida on Sunday afternoon in the same location.

This article was written by Alex Tostado.

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