Redbird Soccer Opens NCAA Tournament at No. 4-Seed Marquette Friday
Nov. 8, 2012
NORMAL, Ill. - No team from the Missouri Valley Conference has ever won a match in the NCAA Tournament, a trend the Illinois State soccer team (13-4-2, 4-2-0 MVC) will attempt to change against the fourth-seeded and 12th-ranked Marquette Golden Eagles (16-2-2, 9-0-1 BIG EAST), Friday at 7 p.m., at Valley Fields in Milwaukee. The Redbirds will be playing in the field of 64 for the second-straight season, third time in the last four years and fourth time overall.
“I think our team will rise to the challenge,” head coach Drew Roff said. “They like to be tested and challenged. It’s going to take a great effort and everybody playing, not a perfect game by any means, but to our best and at a high level that can be maintained. It’s a great challenge. It is not easy when you get to this point, but that is what makes it fun.”
The Redbirds earned their spot in the field of 64 by winning the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament title with a 5-1 victory over Indiana State on Sunday. Two-time MVC Player of the Year Rachel Tejada scored a goal and tallied two assists in the title match, on her way to tournament Most Valuable Player honors. ISU comes into the match having won five straight, and 10 out of their last 12.
The No. 4-seed Golden Eagles enter the match on six-game winning and 14-game unbeaten streaks, which include Sunday’s 1-0 BIG EAST Tournament title match win over No. 13 Georgetown. Marquette is making its 11th NCAA Tournament appearance all-time, and program-best fifth straight.
The Golden Eagles feature a balanced attack, as 14 players have contributed to a 2.65 goals per game average, the sixth-best nationally. Maegan Kelly and Taylor Madigan are tied for the team lead with eight goals, while Kelly ranks fourth nationally with 12 assists.
Marquette’s back line is anchored by 2012 BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year Ally Miller. Miller and the other Marquette defenders have allowed just three goals in BIG EAST play, and 12 all season. Freshman Amanda Engel took over in goal part way through the season, earning All-BIG EAST Third Team and All-BIG EAST Rookie Team honors in the process. The Golden Eagles have recorded the nation’s most shutouts, 15, including in 11 out of the last 13 matches.
“There’s no question that Marquette is very athletic, fit and aggressive. We have to match that physical aspect of the game, but we also have to be mentally locked in the entire match,” Roff said. “We can’t have those 10 or 15-minute stretches where we are not winning the ball in the midfield or tracking runs, because teams like Marquette will punish you for that. We have to be locked in mentally and play a very smart game.”
The Redbirds and Golden Eagles have never met previously, while Illinois State has only played DePaul and South Florida from the BIG EAST Conference. The Redbirds hold a 4-2 mark against the Blue Demons, defeating them 4-3 in 2011, while ISU lost its only meeting against USF, 3-2, in 2008.
The winner of West Virginia and Princeton awaits either the Redbirds or the Golden Eagles next weekend.
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