SEATTLE – Washington State had just lost its final regular-season women’s soccer game to Washington 1-0 when WSU assistant coach Jon Harvey came up to his star forward, senior Morgan Weaver.
“He said, ‘Don’t worry, it’s no big deal. Just wait, we’re going to make it to the Final Four,’ ” Weaver recalled. “I said, ‘Oh, really?’ And then I said, ‘You’re right, we’re going to make it to the Final Four.’
“And, you know what, we did.”
They certainly did, surprising everyone but themselves along the way.
Next up is the College Cup with a 4 p.m. kickoff Fridayagainst No. 1 seed North Carolina (23-1-1), among the most storied programs in the country with its list of alums including soccer icons Mia Hamm and Kristine Lilly. The winner will play at 5:30 p.m. Sunday for the title.
But don’t expect the Cougars (16-6-1) to be intimidated. After opening the tournament with a 1-0 home win over Memphis, they traveled to top-seeded Virginia and pulled off the upset of the tournament.
Weaver had a goal and an assist to lead the Cougars to a 3-2 win.
“We felt like they thought they were better than us,” Weaver said. “They were the No. 1 seed, and I don’t know if they knew what was coming.”
Washington State followed that with a 3-0 win over West Virginia, then faced another tough task last week, traveling to No. 2 seed South Carolina. Mykiaa Minniss scored in overtime to give WSU its first College Cup berth.
A big crowd greeted the team at the airport when it arrived back home.
“I dreamed of this since I was a little kid, and being able to live the dream is pretty cool,” said Weaver of reaching the College Cup.
It is pretty heady stuff for a team that was 4-5-1 in its final 10 regular-season games and was sixth in the Pac-12, which has two other teams in the College Cup: Stanford and UCLA, who are playing in the other semifinal.
The tournament run is a fitting end to Weaver’s brilliant career at WSU. Her 42 goals are the second most in school history, and she has led the team in goals in each of her four seasons.
Weaver, who played at Curtis High School in University Place, had planned on playing at Washington. But she has five cousins who went to WSU, and her mother talked her into visiting the school.
“I fell in love and committed there,” Weaver said. “It’s a little bit cold here (in Pullman), but no matter what I feel like I’m home. When I visited UW, I didn’t feel home. And I came here and I felt right at home.”
Even though Weaver was a star at Curtis, scoring 97 goals in her career and 37 in her senior season, she did not expect to start right away at WSU.
She was wrong and was named Pac-12 Freshman of the Year. Weaver was third-team All-Pac-12 as a sophomore, was on the first team last year and the second team this season.
Weaver would like to play in the National Women’s Soccer League next year. She trained with the national U-23 team in the offseason and would love to represent the national team in the biggest competitions.
But none of her focus is on that yet. She and her teammates are ready for the next challenge, knowing they can forever change the perception of Washington State women’s soccer.
“We want people to know who we are and what we can do here,” she said. “Where we shouldn’t be the underdogs anymore – where they should be seeded and they should be ranked. We’ve never got that kind of respect.”
The Cougars might be underdogs, but they don’t feel that way.
“We’re confident, hungry and we have a ton of swagger, which I think is a good thing,” WSU coach Todd Shulenberger said. “Whether we’re the underdog or not, we’re extremely hungry and grateful at the same time to have this opportunity.”
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