November 8, 2018 2:44:13 PM
STARKVILLE -- Don't be alarmed Friday if you hear Courtney Robicheaux talking to herself.
The senior defender on the Mississippi State women's soccer likely won't be alone in repeating the mantra "it is just another game." Robicheaux and the rest of the Bulldogs have taken to using those words to calm them down and to slow them down as they finalize preparations to take on Lipscomb at 4 p.m. Friday in the first round of the NCAA tournament at the MSU Soccer Field.
"No matter what we're going to be ready to play (Friday)," Robicheaux said. "We're excited, anxious, and all of the emotions. We're looking forward to it."
Robicheaux said the seniors and upperclassmen started to use the phrase earlier in the week once MSU (9-6-2) learned Monday it had secured the program's first NCAA tournament appearance. The usual anxiety and excitement has accompanied the historic event and has added to the hype surrounding what will be the biggest match in the history of a program that started in 1995. MSU has had only seven winning seasons. This season's finish marked only the second time the Bulldogs have had back-to-back seasons with a winning record.
As a result, MSU has entered uncharted territory and might not know how to handle the intensity that is associated with a win-or-go-home match in the postseason.
Robicheaux, who is second on the team in minutes (1,507) to redshirt senior goalkeeper Rhylee DeCrane (1,566), said the Bulldogs will have to stick to playing their brand of high-pressure soccer.
"We can't make it anything more than (another game) because then we will get in our heads and the pressure will really be on," Robicheaux said. "We just have to go out and play like it is a normal game."
Robicheaux said the Bulldogs have taken to saying "it is just another game" almost every five minutes. She feels those words will help calm everybody's nerves and slow everyone down.
MSU coach Tom Anagnost hopes his players will be able to do that because he hasn't been pleased with his team's performance in training this week.
"(Thursday) was good. The last two days were not," Anagnost said. "I don't know (what to attribute it to). I wish I knew all of the answers. I am just dumbfounded. I thought we would be chomping at the bit and doing real well on Tuesday and Wednesday and we were not."
Anagnost said the training sessions Tuesday and Wednesday weren't like a game and weren't intense. He said the good news is the Bulldogs didn't play a game on those days. The bad news is he said he didn't have the same issue when he was head coach at Miami and Central Michigan and those programs were preparing for a match in the NCAA tournament.
Looking back to the regular season and to the last three days, Anagnost said he hopes his players "reflect" and "rehearse" from all of their experiences so they'll be able to do better against Lipscomb.
The ability to do that plays off something he said in September when the program was on the cusp of earning its first national ranking. At the time, Anagnost said, "What we have done is great, but what we have done is done. The only reflecting I want us to do is to eliminate some of the mistakes you have made in some of the other games. It is OK to make mistakes, but the best players and teams learn from them and make less and less of them."
Anagnost said his team's ability to learn from previous matches gives him confidence it will be ready to play Friday.
"All eyes are on the present," Anagnost said. "The only thing that matters will be 4 o'clock Friday and how we do. I expect us to be running on all cylinders.
"I have been here two seasons and we have played over 40 contests and I think there has been one bad half that it wasn't there for whatever reason. I don't expect that to happen (Friday)."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.