Being a part of a team that is playing in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Soccer National Championship is not new to Davy Phillips but standing on the sidelines during the game will be.
Phillips is in his first year as an assistant coach with the Baker men's soccer team as it makes its first national tournament appearance since 2004. This is Phillips' first time in the national tournament as a coach, but he played in the previous three national tournaments in which Baker appeared.
Senior Matt Hamilton said Phillips has brought passion to the team this year.
None of the players on this team have made it to the national championship tournament, so having coaches with experience at the tournament will be beneficial.
"I think having national tournament experience around us will help us," junior Matt Germain said.
Baker first qualified for the tournament in 2002, Phillips' sophomore year, and it was the first time in school history. This was the start of a three-year tournament span for the Wildcats. Baker has yet to win a game in the national tournament, with a record of 0-2-1, but the team looks to change that this year.
"It's an exciting brand of soccer we've got going on," Phillips said. "We're definitely peaking and playing some of the best soccer of the year."
Phillips said the balance of this team is much better than when he played. The team did not have the attack players this team has, and this team's ability to score is much greater. He said out of the four teams he's been a part of, this one has the best chance of going the farthest.
This will be the Wildcats' first home game since senior night Oct. 25, and the team has a chance to get its first national tournament win in school history at home.
"It'd be amazing," Hamilton said. "We'd make history and solidify ourselves as being one of the best teams in Baker history."
Baker has played a schedule that has included games against the defending national champion Azusa Pacific University, who didn't reach the tournament this year, and Oklahoma City and Southern Nazarene universities, which are both in the national championship tournament.
"We firmly believe we've seen it all this year," Phillips said.
For the seniors on the team, this is their one and only chance for a national title.
"I couldn't be happier for this group," Phillips said.
The Wildcats became the Heart of America Athletic Conference champions by winning three straight road games. Baker first beat Lindenwood University, then won against MidAmerica Nazarene University before beating Graceland University in the title game. Baker will now host Park University in the first round at 7 p.m. Saturday.
"We're hitting our stride at the right time," Germain said.