Wave of emotion as Mavericks make Division II playoffs

Leilani Wiernicki and the Colorado Mesa soccer team earned a spot in the Division II tournament, announced Monday.

One by one, names of schools popped into their places on the big screen.

Colorado School of Mines.

“OK, we knew Mines would be the top seed,” Colorado Mesa University women’s soccer coach Erin Sharpe told her team, gathered Monday evening in a conference room in the Maverick Center to see if a runner-up spot in the RMAC tournament would be enough to get the Mavericks into the NCAA Division II playoffs.

Metro State.

Sharpe glanced nervously around the room, knowing the final couple of spots in the six-team Central Region soccer tournament were going to be a close call among Metro, CMU and Winona State.

Minnesota State-Mankato.

Then, Fort Lewis, a solid No. 2 seed.

Regis at No. 3.

Then, nothing. The volume on the big screen in the conference room wasn’t working, so the Mavericks squirmed in their seats for what seemed to be an interminable amount of time as the sixth and final spot on the bracket stayed unfilled.

Suddenly, up popped the name they were hoping for, and shrieks filled the room. Sharpe got a hug from men’s coach Josh Pittman and blinked back tears as she high-fived assistant coach Eric Anderson.

Senior Sara Islas couldn’t hold back the tears, and neither could most of her teammates.

“When Metro came up first, all of our hearts just dropped,” senior Kelly Parkhurst said as Sharpe tried to inform her team of the week’s schedule over the Mavericks’ giggles and chatter.

“We’ve been waiting all day, our nerves couldn’t have gotten much higher. It’s even more exciting to be the last one.”

And, as is the way things are done these days, cellphones were quickly pulled out of pockets and thumbs flew over keypads, texting friends and family the news.

Facebook statuses were soon to read “In NCAA playoffs.”

“I was freaking out,” junior midfielder Kelci Crispe said. “I’m not ready for the season to be over yet; we have more to give.”

The Mavericks (10-7-4) are the No. 6 seed and play Regis (14-5-0) on Friday in Durango. The winner plays Fort Lewis (14-2-4) on Sunday to reach the Central Region finals on Nov. 18.

In the top half of the bracket, played in Golden, Metro State (11-6-1) faces the only non-RMAC team in the field, Mankato (16-2-3), with that winner playing the Orediggers (15-2-3).

“As long as I didn’t see Winona, then I knew we were OK,” Sharpe said. “When Metro came up, my heart skipped a little bit of a beat and then they leave that very last spot.

“Do you think it was on purpose that they had that delay for the sixth spot? Add a little drama? There was definitely a delay, it wasn’t just me, right?

“At that point, I knew it was us or Winona. Again, I was cautiously optimistic, I had a good feeling.”

The Mavs don’t mind playing Regis only one week after beating the Rangers in the first round of the RMAC tournament.

Mesa is 2-1 against Regis this season but will once again be the underdog.

“It’s an advantage to us, even knowing we’re 2-1 in that series, we’re still the underdogs, still in that position,” Sharpe said. “We like to prove people wrong. Having a little bit of a chip on our shoulders is a good thing.”


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