Michiganís Nicole Elmblad, left, Rachel Sheffer, Kim Barnes Aricoís daughter Emma (7), Sam Arnold and Jenny Ryan celebrate. (Elizabeth Conley/Detroit News)
Ann Arbor — Michigan first-year coach Kim Barnes Arico wants the Wolverines to experience what she did a year ago — the Sweet 16.
But first, the Wolverines must do something they haven't done since 2001: win a game in the NCAA Women's Tournament.
It didn't take long for Michigan to find out who its first-round opponent would be Monday, letting out a loud collective roar inside the Club at Crisler Center when its name came up as a No. 8 seed, traveling to California to play No. 9 seed Villanova (21-10) on Sunday night at Stanford.
The winner more than likely will face top-seeded Stanford, which plays No. 16 seed Tulsa.
"It was nice to be able to enjoy the rest of the night," Barnes Arico said of hearing Michigan's name early. "We felt we'd be in, but it gave us the chance to relax early on."
Michigan (21-10) earned its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2001 last season when it lost to Oklahoma on its home floor.
Ironically, Barnes Arico was coaching St. John's team at the same site, defeating Creighton, then Oklahoma to earn the program's first Sweet 16 spot.
"I know all about (Villanova)," Barnes Arico said. "It should be interesting. They use a unique style, like the Princeton men's team of old. They play five out and shoot threes like crazy."
Rachel Roberts (11 points, 62 threes) and Laure Burford (6.1, 51) have combined to make 113 3-pointers, each shooting 40 percent.
Barnes Arico believes Michigan will get a boost from playing in last year's NCAA Tournament.
"Anytime you have that experience it helps," she said. "We've relied on the senior class and their experience all year. They got a little taste of what it's all about last year. Now, we want to be successful once we get there."
This has been a season of firsts for Michigan:
Its' first victory over rival Michigan State in five years, ending a 12-game slide;
Its first victory at Big Ten tournament champion Purdue since 1998; and
Its first 20-win regular season.
Michigan has an experienced team, led by senior point guard Jenny Ryan (5.3 assists), 6-foot-1 senior center Rachel Sheffer, 6-0 senior forward Nya Jordan (7.7 rebounds) and 6-4 senior guard Katie Thompson (14.8 points, 107 threes), one of the premier 3-point shooters in the country (39.1 percent).
"We're real excited about the opportunity," Ryan said. "It's been our goal since summer. We're coming in with bigger goals, winning a (NCAA Tournament) game, doing things we haven't done before."
"I'm looking forward to going to California and getting out of the cold," said Sheffer, who added she wouldn't mind a showdown with Stanford.
Michigan vs. Villanova
Tip-off: 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Maples Pavilion, Stanford, Calif.
Records : No. 8 Michigan 21-10, No. 9 Villanova 21-10
Notable: This is Michigan's second consecutive trip to the NCAA Women's Tournament.