Women’s soccer draws WVU in semis

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Senior forward Becky Ryan and the Eagles brace for WVU, looking to avenge the 1-0 loss earlier this season.

There have been some impressive achievements accomplished by the Marquette women’s soccer team this season.

For the first time ever, the Golden Eagles won the Big East American Division. Goalkeeper Natalie Kulla set the school record for shutouts with 14 and has not allowed a goal in over 670 straight minutes. The team has gone unbeaten in its last eight matches and carries that momentum into the Final Four of the Big East Tournament.

“It’s really exciting to be back in the Final Four,” senior defender Allison McBride said. “It never gets old. I’ve been there before, but it’s a hard thing to do, and I’m really happy for this team.”

The Golden Eagles defeated Villanova 1-0 last Sunday and have a chance to accomplish another goal as they head to Storrs, Conn., for the semifinals.

Last year, the Golden Eagles bowed out to No. 1 seed Notre Dame in the semifinals, but for the first time in three years, Marquette will avoid playing the Fighting Irish in the semifinal round.

This time, the Golden Eagles match up against the West Virginia Mountaineers Friday, an opponent Marquette has never defeated.

“It’s going to be a tough match,” coach Markus Roeders said. “We’ve never beaten them and haven’t competed against them well in the past couple years, so it will be a fight.”

On Sept. 24, in Morgantown, W.Va., the Mountaineers defeated the Golden Eagles 1-0 on a goal in the 87th minute ­­—  a game that could have gone either way.

Senior forward Becky Ryan said Marquette has improved since then and is ready for another shot at West Virginia.

“We just want to win really badly,” Ryan said. “We haven’t beaten them in five years, and we were the better team when we went out there in September.”

In the conference tournament quarterfinals, the Mountaineers stunned No. 9-ranked Rutgers 1-0. Again they showed their ability to score late goals, as freshman Caralee Keppler netted the game-winner in the 86th minute.

Marquette is ranked No. 12 in the country according to Soccer America, and will be West Virginia’s seventh game against a nationally ranked opponent this season. The Mountaineers are 3-1-2 in those games with wins over then-No. 5 Penn State and then-No. 11 St. John’s.

“We know they’re a good team but our mindset is that West Virginia is a must-win game,” McBride said. “We have every confidence in the world that we can win the game.”

Sunday’s game looks destined to be a defensive battle. Neither team is known for its dangerous scoring ability, but both defensive units have been outstanding to this point. Each team has allowed just two goals in its past eight games.

Kulla has given up just 10 goals all season and opposing goalkeeper Kerri Butler has 11 shutouts and 12 goals against in 20 starts.

Roeders is confident in his team’s ability to compete and said they’ll be ready for Friday’s contest.

“It’s going to take a big effort on our part to get a good result,” Roeders said. “We’ll be prepared for them, though.

“Winner moves on, loser goes home, so we want to keep being on that winning track.”