WILLIAMSBURG — The day after tasting defeat for the first time in seven weeks, William and Mary was given new life with an expected NCAA playoff bid.
As one of 14 at-large teams selected, the Tribe will host Duquesne Saturday at 3:30 p.m. The Dukes (8-3) clinched their first-ever postseason bid by winning the Northeast Conference.
This will be W&M’s first playoff postseason appearance since 2010, when it lost to Georgia Southern in the second round. William and Mary (8-3) came within one win of making the field in each of the last two seasons.
"We had won seven games for two years straight and come up short of the playoffs," Tribe coach Jimmye Laycock said. "This is something these guys really focused on this year.
"The team deserves it. We're a good team and played real consistently. We certainly didn't back in. We earned this bid, and now we look to move forward."
W&M finished the regular season Saturday with a 20-9 loss at Richmond, which cost it the outright conference championship. But Sunday's announcement, expected though it was, lifted some moods.
"Yesterday was disappointing," tailback Mikal Abdul-Saboor said. "Now we have a new season to play for. We just have to refocus this week and prepare even harder than we did any other week this season."
For the second year in a row, the CAA placed four in the tournament bracket. Richmond (8-3), the conference’s automatic qualifier, and James Madison (9-2) were awarded the Nos. 5 and 7 seeds and first-round byes.
Along with the Tribe, which dropped to No. 13 in the STATS poll, New Hampshire (7-4) was chosen as an at-large team.
If William and Mary beats Duquesne, it would get a rematch against Richmond in the second round at Robins Stadium. UR has won four straight against the Tribe.
The top eight seeds in the field are Jacksonville State, Illinois State, North Dakota State, McNeese State, James Madison, Portland State, Richmond and Charleston Southern.
After coming so close the last two seasons, finally making the playoffs was a big deal to the senior class.
“It means everything,” linebacker Luke Rhodes said. “What we’ve accomplished this season, it’s something we’ve prepared for my whole five years here. It will be our first experience as a team going to the playoffs. It’s really special and it’s something we’ll cherish.”