The slate is clean and new opportunities have arisen for the Michigan women”s soccer team (7-2 Big Ten, 12-7-1 overall) now that it has earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament.
After their selection was announced Monday afternoon, the Wolverines went to work immediately to prepare for a game against Marquette (8-2 Conference USA, 16-5 overall) tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m.
Marquette is the host team for Michigan, Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Dartmouth for the first two rounds of the tournament. Marquette finished as the runner-up in Conference USA to Cincinnati, much like Michigan finished second in the Big Ten to Penn State. The similar finishes of Michigan and Marquette left some of the Wolverines wondering why they didn”t get a chance to host tournament games.
“Anytime you don”t get a home site, it”s always a disappointment,” assistant coach Scott Forrester said. “You have a special comfort zone sleeping in your own bed and having the home crowd cheering for you.”
But the Wolverines have to move on. Marquette is a quick team led by Kate Gordon, whose nine goals are tops on the team. Much of Michigan”s defensive focus is to stop Gordon, and the Wolverines have a chance to be successful. Michigan”s defense has been a strong point all season, holding 11 opponents scoreless.
“Kate Gordon is very similar to Abby Crumpton on our team,” Forrester said. “If you are able to stop her offensive attack then you have effectively caused a problem for the other coach.”
Forrester went on to say that Marquette is “just as tough as any Big Ten team.”
Forrester could certainly be right, since Marquette defeated Illinois 3-1 earlier this season. Illinois was a thorn in Michigan”s paw all year, defeating the Wolverines in the regular season 2-1 and knocking them out of the Big Ten Tournament by the same score.
When asked about the game plan against the winner of the Wisconsin-Milwaukee-Dartmouth game, Michigan”s coaches refused to comment. They said that they are only looking one game at a time right now.
But should Michigan beat Marquette, the second-round game won”t be any easier. Dartmouth (5-1-1 Ivy League, 9-4-1 overall) has a trio of juniors who have produced under pressure this year. Mary McVeigh, Annie Gibson and Laura Ashley have eight game winners out of 16 total goals on the season.
The other possibility if Michigan moves on to the second round is a game against Wisconsin-Milwaukee. These two teams met last season at the Varsity Soccer Field, with Michigan winning 3-2.
This season the Panthers became the second team in NCAA women”s soccer history to shut out every opponent in league play. The first team to do that was Notre Dame in 1993.
A record like that would make many teams nervous. But since this is the NCAA Tournament, there”s no telling how far the Wolverines could go.
“No matter what the record, tournament time is a whole other season,” Forrester said.