This week the Virginia women’s soccer team makes its 16th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance when it travels to Penn State for the opening weekend of play. The Cavaliers meet St. John’s in a first round matchup on Friday at 5 p.m. Virginiasports.com caught up with senior forward Jess Rostedt to preview the tournament.
Question: You travel to Penn State this week to open the NCAA Tournament. How excited are you to start the tournament to begin?
Rostedt: We are really excited. This tournament is like a whole new season for us. We have a clean slate and all 64 teams come in on the same level. Recently, we have really started to sync together as a team and have been playing some of our best soccer of the season. We can’t wait to play on Friday.
Question: This season, you had to have a strong performance during the late part of the season in order to make the tournament. Does the fact that you had to struggle to qualify make you appreciate playing in the NCAA Tournament more this year?
Rostedt: It definitely does. It is a great honor to play in the NCAA Tournament. There are over 300 teams that want to be in the field and we are one of the 64 selected for it. You have to earn you place and this year made us realize how hard it is to be one of those 64 teams.
Question: Coach Swanson has talked recently that the team has had to play in “postseason mode” for the past few weeks to make the tournament. With the success you had late in the season, does that give you a lot of confidence heading into the NCAA Tournament?
Rostedt: It does because it shows that we can play under pressure. We can play well when we know we need to get a result. The past few weeks have shown that we can handle that situation. In the NCAA Tournament, you know it is win or your season is over, and that is the same mindset we have had to have for the second half of the season. Because we were able to get some results against some tough opponents in order to make the tournament, we are confident we can keep playing at that level in the tournament.
Question: You opened the season at Penn State. Do you think it helps to play in the NCAA Tournament at a venue you are familiar with?
Rostedt: It definitely helps. We have played on the field and know what to expect. It won’t seem new for us to play there. It should be an interesting match against St. John’s because we aren’t familiar with them. We haven’t played them before. We played a couple Big East teams this year (West Virginia and Seton Hall), so we know how good that conference is.
Question: You have scored five career NCAA Tournament goals, tied for the second most in school history. What has been your key to success at performing well on college soccer’s biggest stage?
Rostedt: I just try to play like it is any other game. I try to go out and have fun and not think too much or overanalyze the game. If you play your hardest each game, then you can have success whether it is regular season or the tournament.
Question: As a senior, how excited are you to cap your career with a successful run in the NCAA Tournament.
Rostedt: I am really excited. We are in a good position with our bracket. It will be challenging, but we have shown this season that we are able to play with anyone and can rise to the occasion against tough competition. I am anxious to get going and see how far we can go.