Mountaineers seek revenge after MU ended its Big East title hopes last year

Preseason polls, in essence, mean nothing. If you simply take what the Big East coaches said, the Marquette-West Virginia women’s soccer game tonight at Valley Fields will crown the champion of the American Division, and the winner of that game will be Marquette.

History, however, would suggest otherwise. Before the Golden Eagles’ 1-0 victory over the Mountaineers in last season’s Big East Tournament Semifinals, Marquette failed to beat West Virginia in each of the five previous times the two teams played.

The Mountaineers beat Marquette, 1-0, in the regular season last year, but the Golden Eagles’ 1-0 win in the conference tournament gave the team confidence that it could compete with a top team like West Virginia.

“It’s always a good battle with them,” senior forward Ashley Bares said. “It’s always very competitive and it will be nice to get to play them at home and hopefully start off a difficult part of our schedule on the right foot.”

Difficult is an understatement. Following the game tonight, Marquette will not play another game at Valley Fields until Oct. 15, with road games at Pittsburgh, Villanova, Georgetown, Connecticut and Providence.

Marquette’s road nonconference schedule has the team in great shape to win in difficult environments, but winning on the road in any conference is difficult – much less one like the rugged Big East.

“It’s a different mindset on the road, you have that extra time to focus,” junior goalkeeper Natalie Kulla said. “I think sometimes we play better on the road for some reason.”

Difficult matches away from home against teams like Ohio State, Brigham Young and San Diego (neutral site) will help any team mature quickly, but coach Markus Roeders thinks the team is really going to benefit from a difficult nonconference slate.

“The freshmen, it’s all new to them so they have no other experience with it being a different way,” Roeders said. “And the upperclassmen, well they’re in a good position too because they know what to expect with games in difficult venues.”

West Virginia will be coming in on the brink of its most impressive win this season, a stunning 1-0 shutout of No. 5 Virginia on Sunday at home. While the Mountaineers have the win over the Cavaliers on their record, they don’t have a signature road victory and will be looking to do so tonight.

It will, however, be the Mountaineers’ first Big East conference game, after a scheduled home game against Pittsburgh last Wednesday was postponed due to heavy rain and lightning. There may be some added pressure for West Virginia to keep pace with Marquette, but Roeders isn’t thinking like that.

“We just need to put together 90 full minutes of soccer,” Roeders said. “The first game last year (against West Virginia), we didn’t and we lost. The next game, we played great and we won.”

Despite the confidence West Virginia will no doubt have, Golden Eagle fans can take solace in the fact that Roeders predicts success tonight.

“If everything aligns, I think it will be 2-1, Marquette,” Roeders said with a smile.