Redbirds Open NCAA Tournament at No. 15 Milwaukee
Nov. 11, 2011
MILWAUKEE, Wis. - Two of the nation's top goal-scoring teams will be on the same pitch Saturday evening at Engelmann Stadium, when Illinois State travels to No. 15 Milwaukee for the opening round of the NCAA Tournament at 7 p.m. CST.
The Redbirds (13-5-0) rank third in the country with a 3.11 goals per game average, while the Panthers are sixth at 2.70 goals per game. Freshman Rachel Tejada leads ISU's prolific offensive attack with 51 points in 21 goals and nine assists. The Missouri Valley Conference Most Valuable Player established a new Illinois State and Valley record for goals in a season, by scoring her 21st in the championship match of the State Farm MVC Tournament. Tejada enters Saturday's match ranked third in the nation in points per game (2.83) and goals per game (1.167).
Senior Jessica Carlson and sophomore Kyla Cross have also played key roles in the Redbirds' record-setting season. Carlson has recorded a single-season record 10 assists to go along with seven goals and Cross has netted eight goals on the year, including four in the Valley Tournament to earn tournament MVP honors. Sophomore Anna Stinson, an All-MVC First Team selection, ranks fourth on the team with 19 points on five goals and nine assists.
ISU is currently on a seven-match winning streak and has outscored opponents, 31-4, in that span. As a team, Illinois State has set new single-season records for goals (56), assists (46) and points (158) and its 13 wins are the most since 2001 and on shy of a program record.
Milwaukee (18-2-0) is making its fourth-straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament and ninth overall. The Panthers will be looking to avenge one of its two regular-season losses, as the Redbirds defeated UWM, 3-1, at Adelaide Street in their finale non-conference match (Oct. 27). Milwaukee earned the Horizon League's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament with a convincing, 5-1, win over Wright State in the conference tournament championship match for its fourth-consecutive league tournament title.
Three-time Horizon League Player of the Year Sarah Hagen leads the Panthers' offensive attack with 56 points on 24 goals and eight assists. Hagen leads the country in points per game (2.95), goals per game (1.263) and game-winning goals (10). Keara Thompson leads the team and ranks 11th in the country with 11 assists and is one of eleven players that have combined for the Panthers' 54 goals this season. Jamie Forbes, the Horizon League Co-Defensive Player of the Year and Goalkeeper of the Year, leads the Milwaukee defense with 10 shutouts, a 0.626 goals against average and a .854 save percentage.
Milwaukee leads the all-time series, 6-3-2, and is 4-1-1 in the series on its home pitch. With its win over the then-No. 10 Panthers earlier this season, Illinois State notched its first-ever victory over a team ranked in the national top ten. The three goals scored by ISU was also the most given up by Milwaukee in a game this season.
The winner of Saturday's opening round will advance to face the winner of Tennessee/Ohio State on Friday, Nov. 18. The highest remaining seed in Illinois State's four-team bracket will host the second-round match, with No. 1 seed Duke being the prohibitive favorite.
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