Special to The Tuscaloosa News
It’s Alabama versus Clemson, again.
This time around, it’s not the two football programs squaring off.
The Alabama soccer team will face Clemson on Friday night in the first round of the NCAA women’s soccer tournament. This is only the third time in program history the Crimson Tide has reached college’s biggest stage.
No Alabama team has ever made it past the first round of the tournament. Coach Wes Hart is telling his team not to settle for just getting into the tournament. Instead, he wants the Crimson Tide to make some noise.
“We certainly celebrated on Monday once we got into the tournament, but once the night was over I told the girls that there’s more to go,” Hart said. “I don’t think anybody from the players to the coaching staff, are satisfied with the season so far. We all agree, there’s more we can do.”
With 13 freshmen on the team, three of whom start, there is no question the Crimson Tide boast a young squad going into the NCAA tournament. Will the stage be too big for all these freshman? Redshirt freshman Chloe Maize knows she will have butterflies before the match, but this is what the team has been training for all year.
“Being a freshman and it being my first year, this is a really special opportunity. I hope I can make the tournament the next three years as well,” Maize said. “We’ve already made a little bit of history by becoming the third Alabama team to make it, but that’s not enough for us.”
One player the team can lean on for advice is captain midfielder Celia Jimenez Delgado. She played for Spain in the 2015 FIFA World Cup. Having only been 19 when she competed in the World Cup, Delgado said she has grown to better understand the small things of the game.
“Coming from the World Cup I was a young 19-year-old, so it was more of going out there and competing,” Jimenez Delgado said. “I have learned a lot now about adopting a more technical and tactical style of play.”
Alabama vs. Clemson
When: 6 p.m., Friday, Nov. 10
Where: Clemson, S.C.
Records: Alabama 12-7-1, Clemson 9-5-3
Media: Livestats available on ncaa.com