Women’s Soccer aims for greatness

Evolving. That was the word that senior midfielder Julia Victor used to describe the 2010 Marquette women’s soccer team, one that enters the campaign predicted to win the American Division of the Big East Conference.

“We’re almost there,” Victor said. “We’re very different than we were last year, even last spring, and we’re very close to where we want to be, but we have to keep working.”

While the team may be different, expectations are extremely high for the most talented team at Marquette this fall. Last year’s Golden Eagles were slighted with a road game in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, despite winning its division, and lost in penalty kicks to Dayton.

The team finished with a 15-5-3 overall record and a ranking as high as No. 10 in the nation in Soccer America’s final poll.

Head coach Markus Roeders was named the Big East Coach of the Year for the third time in 15 seasons at Marquette, while forward Rachael Sloan earned the soccer team’s first-ever All-Big East First Team honors. Sloan was also named to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America’s All-Northeast Region Second Team.

To begin this season, Sloan and junior goalkeeper Natalie Kulla were recognized by the conference, garnering First Team All-Big East honors.

Roeders said that while expectations are high for the team, it’s easy to get complacent and let the achievements from last year distract the team.

“We’re going to be playing with a bit of a target on our back, because we have been able to fly under the radar the last few years,” Roeders said. “That won’t be the case this year.”

The Golden Eagles begin the Big East portion of the season with six of its first seven games on the road, with the lone home match coming Sept. 23 against West Virginia.

The Mountaineers, as well as Connecticut, are expected to be Marquette’s toughest challenges for the top slot in the American Division this season. The Golden Eagles received 108 points in the Big East preseason poll, while the Mountaineers and Huskies received 106 and 103, respectively.

After going nearly a month without a home game, the Golden Eagles return to Valley Fields for home games in its final four contests, as they prepare for what will likely be another shot at the NCAA Tournament and beyond.

Making it past the first round of the tournament was a goal that senior forward Ashley Bares cited in making this a successful final season.

“Definitely a Sweet 16 appearance is something that I’ve always wanted,” Bares said. “That would be awesome, and I think the team thinks the same.

“We just want to push it and go as far as we can,” Bares said.

While the team has a core group of players that every team in the Big East has gotten to know over the past few years, you can bet that the team will rely more on its underclassmen to provide help as well.

As an example, freshman forward Maegan Kelly was named the Big East rookie of the Week, playing a key role in the Marquette’s 3-0 victory over Auburn Friday night, where she scored her first collegiate goal.

If the team expects to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, it will have to beat NCAA-quality teams along the way, which the Big East has plenty.

The Golden Eagles will take on No. 14 San Diego Friday night in the Minnesota Gold Classic in Minneapolis, followed by a contest Sunday morning against the UC-Santa Barbara Gauchos.