Stevie Siy is one of three Mavericks who speaks from experience when it comes to the NCAA tournament.
Siy was a freshman starter in 2017, when UNO outlasted Denver in penalty kicks to win the Summit League tournament, earning a spot in the NCAAs for the first time.
"Freshman year, I think we were so happy to be there. Our eyes were enormous," Siy said. "It felt like we just kind of lost our heads. That was enough for us to get there at that point."
UNO lost 2-0 to Florida International in the opening round of the 2017 tournament. Current Mavs Miguel Gomez and Ed Gordon were also on that team.
Siy wants this year's Mavs to learn from that. UNO (6-2-1) will play at No. 23 UNC Greensboro (9-2-2) in an opening-round match at 5 p.m. Thursday
"My message (to the team) this time is it's just another game," said the Omaha Central graduate who was named a first-team all-league defender this year. "They put their shoes on the same way we do. It's another chance to show the world."
Denver again played a role in UNO qualifying for the NCAAs. This time, it was very much connected to the pandemic-affected season.
The Pioneers were in the NCAA field as the Summit representative, but they weren't able to participate due to COVID-19 protocols. UNO finished second in the league standings, so it was selected to replace Denver.
Ironically, UNO never got the chance to play Denver this spring because of COVID-19.
"That was disappointing," Siy said. "It's one of those (games) you look forward to every year, and this year it was supposed to be twice."
The UNO-Denver games were canceled to end the regular season. The Mavs haven't played since April 3, but Siy said coach Bob Warming has worked this month to keep his team ready for a game.
"It's a mixture of pushing yourself to replicate that match level of fitness that you need and combining that with recovery ... making sure we get our legs back under us," Siy said.
UNO has shown an improved offense this season. The Mavs scored in every match while the defense has shut out four of its nine opponents.
Besides Siy, three other Mavs — Nil Ayats, Fitzroy Cummings and Hugo Kametani — were first-team All-Summit. Cummings also was named defensive player of the year and Kametani was newcomer of the year.
How to watch
Thursday’s match will be streamed live on ESPN3. Links to the broadcast and live stats can be found at OMavs.com.
DJ's Dugout in Aksarben Village will also show the game and in-game updates can be found on UNO's Twitter account @OmahaMSOC.