After winning 16 games this season, Marquette had the luxury of enjoying the NCAA Selection Show on Monday afternoon.
“Last year we were all sitting in the locker room in quiet,” junior midfielder Eric Pothast said. “This season it’s a whole different story.”
After missing out on last season’s NCAA Tournament despite winning the Big East Blue Division championship, Marquette is in the field of 48 this season, and is the No. 7 overall seed. It will host the winner of Western Illinois and Northwestern on Sunday at Valley Fields at 4 p.m.
This is only the second time in program history the Golden Eagles made the field, with the first coming in 1997, when they lost to Bowling Green at Valley Fields.
Coach Louis Bennett’s team will be able to host at least one game in the NCAA Tournament, and if it wins on Sunday, it will get to host another. After winning a combined 17 games in his first five seasons at Marquette, Bennett has won 25 in the past two.
“We had small steps, but every step has been forward,” Bennett said. “I believe in the third year I said it was like an iceberg, and there was a lot under the surface, but not too much above the surface. What’s underneath is now poking out and is now significant.”
The Golden Eagles were the ninth seeded team announced and throughout the selection show got a better idea of what seed they may end up getting.
“I was pretty confident we’d be getting a bye,” redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Charlie Lyon said. “I didn’t know where we were going to be placed, but as the numbers kept rolling on, I was thinking ‘seven,’ and that’s where we ended up.”
Attendance of the team’s matches has increased throughout the season, highlighted by the 1,353 that packed Valley Fields for the visit of then No. 2 Connecticut on October 6th. For Bennett, this is a way to reward those who have been present to support the team this season.
“We started to see a lot of the community coming out, and a lot of the student base growing and growing, and this is what they deserve,” Bennett said. “They will have the opportunity to see an NCAA Tournament game at Valley Fields.”
Marquette has already played Western Illinois this season at Valley Fields, beating them 3-0 back on September 8th. The Leathernecks won the Summit League Tournament and finished the regular season with a 7-8-4 overall record. The Northwestern Wildcats were co-Big Ten regular season champions and finished the season 11-5-4.
“I think it’s good because we’ve seen them in person, but no matter who we get – Western or Northwestern – we’re going to be prepared,” Lyon said. “We’re going to do our homework on them, and we’ll be ready for the game.”
According to Bennett, now the team’s third part of the season has started, with the first two being regular season play and the Big East Tournament. Its focus will be on getting to the Final Four in Hoover, Ala., and becoming national champions.
“We’re in it to win it. We’ve always said that,” Bennett said. “We’ve never done anything just to be happy to be there right from the first day I got on campus.”
“From here, a whole new chapter of our season starts,” Pothast said. “All the guys on our team are really excited about the opportunity. Our end goal is to get to Hoover, and just thinking about it, there’s a very realistic chance that dream can become a reality.”