They’ve dreamed about December for months. Finally it is here. But it’s not the North Pole that’s on their minds. It’s North Carolina.
The Carnegie Mellon University women’s soccer team is in Greensboro, North Carolina, for the NCAA Division III Championship. CMU will play top-ranked Messiah College of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, in the national semifinals at 11 a.m. on Friday. The winner advances to Saturday’s championship game at 2:30 p.m. Both will be streamed live by the NCAA.
The 25th ranked Tartans are the first women’s team in Carnegie Mellon history to reach the semifinals of an NCAA tournament. No team in school history has ever won a national title.
"I am unbelievably excited to be going to the Final Four,” said Taylor Cammarata, a junior midfielder studying statistics and machine learning. "This is something everyone dreams of but few actually achieve. We’ve worked very hard this past year, and especially this past week, to make this dream a reality.”
"It’s never just about the wins and losses. It’s about being part of something special - part of our Tartan Family.”
- Head Coach Yon Struble
The Tartans traveled to Greensboro on Wednesday following a spirited, snowy send-off on campus. They’ll hold their final practice of the year Thursday morning, then get their first look at the championship venue during a walk-through at UNC-Greensboro Soccer Stadium. The day also includes a visit to a local elementary school and a Final Four awards banquet.
"We always stress the importance of enjoying the experience,” said Head Coach Yon Struble. "It’s never just about the wins and losses. It’s about being part of something special - part of our Tartan Family.”
"My emotions are all over the place,” said first-year forward Helena Spencer, whose six goals and one assist rank third on the team in scoring. "I’m excited because we’re the first team to make it this far and we have a chance to win a national title. I’m also sad because this is our last week together as a team. I’m nervous - a good nervous - because I know how many people are supporting us. I want to do my best for all of them and my team.”
Carnegie Mellon hasn’t allowed a goal in 11 of its 21 games this season. That includes four shutouts to begin the NCAA tournament. Now they face a Messiah team that beat the Tartans 3-0 in mid-September and has made the national semifinals 13 times in school history. In 24 games in 2019, they’ve only lost once.
"I’m so proud of how hard our team has worked to get to the playoffs. Everyone has such passion and desire to be here, and we feel it on the field every time we play,” said Maddy Lui, a sophomore defender majoring in mechanical engineering. " This experience is going to be so amazing and unforgettable. All of us are trying to live in the moment, taking it day by day and experiencing the joy of being in the Final Four.”