It wasn’t necessarily the matchup it was expecting, but Marquette will take on Princeton this afternoon in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Provo, Utah, at 4 p.m.
Marquette knocked off Illinois State, 3-0 last Friday and advanced to the second round for the third straight year.
The Tigers upset host West Virginia last Saturday and have now won 12 straight games, including an undefeated Ivy League slate. Princeton is currently 14-3-1 overall.
“Any time you go into Morgantown and beat West Virginia, which was something we never did when they were in the Big East, you better have the light on and be alert,” coach Markus Roeders said. “This is the time of the year where we have to throw all of our eggs in one basket, and we can’t afford to overlook Princeton.”
Senior forward Jen Hoy has scored 18 goals and was named the Ivy League Player of the Year. She paired with sophomore midfielder Lauren Lazo, who has 10 goals and five assists, to lead a potent Tigers attack. Seven of Lazo’s goals came during league play.
Princeton has played a difficult schedule, losing to Wake Forest and UCLA earlier in the year before blowing past its competition during league play. The Tigers outscored Ivy League members 20-7 in just seven games and have only been shut out once in 18 games.
“I’d compare Hoy to Rachael Sloan in terms of her speed and quickness, and Lazo is an attacking midfielder who is very disciplined,” Roeders said. “The whole team is very smart, and not too much is going to surprise them.”
Marquette plays in the first of two games today, with host BYU taking on Auburn in the second matchup. The Cougars are one of four No. 1 teams in the NCAA Tournament, along with Stanford, Penn State and Florida State.
Even if BYU loses tonight and Marquette wins, the Golden Eagles will play in Provo on Saturday against Auburn.
Playing at South Field is not a new experience for some of the older members of the team. Marquette traveled there in 2010, a game the Golden Eagles lost 2-1.
That’s a good thing, because the Cougars’ home field is one of the toughest venues for opposing teams to come away from with a victory. Senior midfielder Rachel Brown recalls the game in 2010 and said the crowd was loud except when she scored.
“I remember scoring late in the game and the crowd was silent, but beyond that, it was a hostile place to play,” Brown said.
BYU drew more than 3,300 people four times last season and regularly draws at least 2,000 fans.
“It’s kind of the thing to do out there,” Roeders said. “It’s a mixture of a very talented team and a tough venue that make it very tough to win there. But we play a neutral opponent first and we need to focus on them, which we will.”
One player who hasn’t played in Provo is freshman goalkeeper Amanda Engel, but she said the altitude in Utah could be to her advantage.
“Being from Colorado, I’m obviously used to being around environments where it’s tougher to breathe and be conditioned properly,” Engel said. “I think we’re one of the best conditioned teams in the country, so that may help us out.”
Marquette has a chance to advance to the program’s first-ever Elite Eight, and that isn’t going unnoticed by Roeders.
“We’ve been knocking on the door for the last few years, and ultimately you need to step through it, but right now we just need to get past Thursday,” Roeders said.