COLUMBIA — Four flat screen televisions perched upon the walls of a banquet room in the back of D. Rowe's restaurant held their fate.
The Missouri women's soccer team, gathered here Monday for the NCAA Division I tournament bracket release show, watched intently as the selected teams were announced.
There was a murmur throughout the room when Colorado, the team MU defeated to win its first-ever Big 12 Conference tournament title on Sunday, appeared. There was a hushed silence when Kansas, the Tigers' biggest rivals, were shown.
And there was jubilation when Missouri, seeded No. 4 in the North Carolina bracket, was shown in the last portion of the bracket.
"I thought a four seed was justice," Missouri soccer coach Bryan Blitz said. "I thought we'd played like that."
The Tigers host the University of Evansville (Ind.) on Friday for their first game of the tournament. The Purple Aces are in the NCAA tournament for the first time in seven years. Evansville earned an automatic berth after winning the Missouri Valley Conference tournament championship. The other first-round game in Columbia pits Illinois against Memphis. The time of the games is to be determined. The winners will play on Sunday afternoon.
"It's great when you get to host," Blitz said. "You get to be in your own bed and play on your own field."
Midfielder Mo Redmond, who scored the winning goal in the Big 12 Championship, agrees.
"It's exciting for us, because our team is built for this field," she said. "And we'll have our fans there to help cheer us on to get to the Sweet 16."
Defense figures to be a big key in how far the Tigers advance. Volunteer coach Candace Chapman, who played on the 2008 Canadian Olympic team, has worked closely with the unit all season.
"They've become sharper and progressed over the season," she said. "We're in much better shape and we've gained toughness."
Blitz had similar sentiments.
"Last year, we peaked too early," Blitz said of his squad that lost in the second round to eventual-champion University of Southern California. "This year, we're peaking at exactly the right time. It's going to be a war."