This afternoon, Loyola women's soccer coach Katherine Remy Vettori will lace up her lucky sneakers - the worn blue Nikes with the yellow swoosh - and lead the streaking Greyhounds into NCAA tournament play.
Loyola, which hasn't lost in 14 games, takes on West Virginia (9-6-6) in first-round College Cup action at 3 p.m. in Winston-Salem, N.C. The Greyhounds (15-4-2) have gone undefeated for two months, since Vettori changed her game shoes.
"I won't switch now," said the second-year coach, whose team used three successive comeback victories to win the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament.
"They're resilient," Vettori said of the Greyhounds, nearly half of whom are freshmen. 'I'm very proud of their fight."
It's the seventh trip to the NCAAs for Loyola, which has gone 12-0-2 since a 5-0 loss to Eastern Michigan on Sept. 13. Ten of Loyola's victories have been by one goal, and the team is 3-0 in overtime games.
"We've had a good run," said forward Theresa Ferraina, the MAAC Offensive Player of the Year. "We were down by two goals in the [conference] championship game and beat Niagara, 3-2.
"We don't give up, and that persistence will carry us far."
Heather Cooke leads the defense. Goalie Danielle Ippolito and midfielder Gianna Mangione, the MAAC tournament Most Valuable Player, are first-year players who've made an impact.
Loyola is winless in six trips to the 64-team tournament and meets a West Virginia squad that surrendered just 13 goals all season. The schools have met twice, both in NCAA play.
The winner will play Sunday against the winner of Wake Forest-Kennesaw State. The top seed in its bracket, Wake Forest defeated Loyola, 2-1, in a regular-season game in August.
"It's clear that we're the underdog," Ferraina said, "but what a great opportunity to show people what our team is truly capable of."
In another first-round game, Maryland (12-5-2) hosts Monmouth (15-4-1) at Ludwig Field in College Park at 5 p.m.