Coach Markus Roeders said it was tough to put into words how it felt to win a Big East Tournament championship. It’s hard to blame him.
For the first time since joining the Big East in 2005, Marquette can call itself regular season and tournament champion of the conference, following a 1-0 win over Georgetown Sunday afternoon in East Hartford, Conn.
“All the credit goes to the team, staff and everyone who made this possible,” Roeders said. “This was really a highlight weekend for not just our team but our program as a whole.”
The appearance in the tournament finals was the first since 2009, when the Golden Eagles fell to Notre Dame, its semifinal opponent this year.
It was senior defender Ally Miller, who on Thursday was named Big East Defensive Player of the Year, scoring the game-winner Friday against the Fighting Irish to put Marquette in the championship.
“With the departure of Kerry (McBride), I’ve had the opportunity to get on the end of more set pieces this year, and it was just a surreal moment,” Miller said of her goal Friday.
The shutout of Notre Dame was the 14th of the year for Marquette and just the fourth time the Fighting Irish were shut out.
The Golden Eagles then got their 15th shutout of the season in their most important game yet against Georgetown.
“We knew there wouldn’t be a lot of chances for either team on offense, so we had to be sure we didn’t give them many opportunities to score,” Miller said. “It was important for our defense to shut down some of the best offensive players in the conference.”
Junior forward Taylor Madigan scored the game-winner Sunday in the 87th minute off a perfect ball from senior forward Rachael Sloan. Madigan said she was just thinking about not wanting to go to overtime before scoring.
“Both teams had some really good opportunities, but for the last 20 minutes or so, we played really well,” Madigan said. “We just had a tremendous drive throughout the whole game.”
“The fact that we’re Big East champions hasn’t really sunk in yet,” she added.
Roeders said the contrast in styles between Notre Dame and Georgetown was tough to adjust to, but he was happy with how the team handled it.
“Notre Dame was a bit more set up to take advantage of set pieces and more direct in their play than Georgetown was,” Roeders said. “Georgetown was a bit more of a finesse team and we thought we may have a bit of fatigue with it being the second game of the weekend, but we had great focus throughout.”
Roeders also said it was important to take some time to reflect on the team’s accomplishments but that it will have to get ready for more soccer soon.
“The players have worked so very hard on getting to this point, and you really have to have a talented team to get to the pinnacle of the mountain top to win these game,” Roeders said. “Since the game ended, I told myself to let it sink in a little bit and enjoy it.”
Marquette will host Illinois State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Friday night at Valley Fields. The Redbirds, who are the champions from the Missouri Valley Conference, finished the regular season 13-4-2 and boast a win over Toledo.
Should the Golden Eagles get past Illinois State, a potential second round matchup with former Big East rival West Virginia awaits them in Provo, Utah, next weekend.