Another Irish ending for women’s soccer

SoccerAfter riding the wave of six straight victories in what has been a Cinderella-story season for the Marquette women’s soccer team, it was once again the Notre Dame Fighting Irish — Marquette’s evil stepsister — that put an end to the Golden Eagles’ fairytale run by defeating them 2-1 in the Big East Championship Finals Sunday in Storrs, Conn.

“It was a real accomplishment to get as far as we did,” said sophomore forward Rachael Sloan, who scored the team’s lone goal against West Virginia in the semifinals, as well as the only Marquette goal against the Irish.

“We’re really happy. We worked really hard throughout the entire season to get where we were today.”

Where they were was a place the Golden Eagles had never been. In four previous seasons in the Big East, Marquette had never made it past the Big East Championship semifinal round — thanks in large part to that evil stepsister.

In the 2005-’06 season — Marquette’s first stint in the Big East — the team lost to Notre Dame, 3-0, in the semis. In the 2006-’07 season the game was a little closer, but the Irish still bested the Golden Eagles, 2-0, again in the semis. In 2007-’08, Marquette avoided the Irish but failed to pass Louisville in the quarterfinals. And finally last season, where despite a nine-save performance by then-freshman goalkeeper Natalie Kulla, Notre Dame was once again too much to handle. Result? A 2-0 letdown.

“We definitely felt that this year was our greatest chance to beat them,” Sloan said. “They’re not as good as they were last year, and we’re a little bit better than we were last year. So it was a perfect opportunity. We didn’t face them in the semis this year, which was good. We definitely went in thinking that we could win this game.”

Obviously a Big East Championship trophy would have fit splendidly next to the team’s newly procured Big East American Division Title trophy. But in soccer, as in all collegiate athletics, there is just one postseason that matters most — the NCAA Tournament.

“I think we are definitely proud of what we accomplished,” Kerry McBride said. “But we always want more.”

And with a run to the conference tournament finals, a top-25 national ranking, boatloads of respect and newly minted Big East Coach of the Year Markus Roeders, the Golden Eagles know they are in as good a place as ever to accomplish more.

“We’re eager,” Roeders said. “We don’t want to stop playing. We know the teams in the tournament. They are all good teams in the tournament. I think mentally, this is where we want to be. I don’t get the feeling they think they are done yet.”

So no, the glass slipper may not have fit for Marquette in the Big East Championship, but last night, as the Golden Eagles watched the 2009 NCAA Women’s College Cup selection show, they received their invite to the real dance, which starts with a match-up against Dayton.

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