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Seeman: This just in, these gals can play

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Amid the hardwood floor and the 70s posters celebrating Marquette’s golden basketball age in the Union Sports Annex, the women’s soccer team occupied three tables yesterday afternoon, downing wings, pizza and soda.

All chewing ceased when the NCAA women’s soccer tournament selection show started. The players sat, eyes affixed unblinkingly to the televisions, waiting to see where they’d be slotted in the bracket.

The players and coach Markus Roeders tried not to get their hopes up after rough treatment from the selection committee last year, even though they had every reason to be optimistic.

It’s a closely guarded secret around campus, but I’m going to let you all in on it. Get in here a little closer. I don’t want anyone else to hear this. Ready?

This team just turned in one of the best regular seasons of any team in any sport in Marquette history.

Who’d have thought? Well, anyone who watched the team last year, for starters.

They’ve seen as much magic in the last two seasons as you’ll see during a weekend in Vegas.

In 2009, the women took home the Big East Conference regular season championship with a 7-2-2 conference record, including a seven-game unbeaten streak to close the regular season and victories in their first two Big East tournament games.

Roeders took home some hardware as well, earning coach of the year honors in the conference.

The 2009 campaign was great. 2010 was even better.

The Golden Eagles had an unblemished record in regular season Big East play. Eleven wins. No losses. No ties.

They didn’t impress with dazzling displays of scoring from a spectacular striker. Instead, Marquette relied on a suffocating back line, led by Big East Defensive Player of the Year Kerry McBride, and Big East Goalkeeper of the Year, the indomitable Natalie Kulla.

Opponents only fired off 7.2 shots per game this fall and scored a scant 17 goals in 21 games this season. Kulla kept nine clean sheets, adding to her school-record 31 career shutouts.

“She’s the pillar we need in the back to anchor the defense,” Roeders said.

As for the coach, he took home his second consecutive Big East Coach of the Year award.

Senior midfielder Rosie Malone-Povolny said his ability to create such a strong sense of camaraderie between his players is what separates her coach from the rest of the Big East’s shot callers. Julia Victor, another senior midfielder, said the feeling of family and selflessness between players helped carry them to success.

Unfortunately and embarrassingly, not many people have seen the team in action, myself included.

Now that they know where they stand — as a three-seed with two potential home games at Valley Fields forthcoming — Marquette Nation has no excuse. The electricity usually reserved for the Bradley Center needs to be turned up in the Valley on Friday night when the Golden Eagles take on the Central Michigan Chippewas.

The strength of the defense can only go up when it has a loud cheering section behind it.

And if they beat the Chips, an even bigger game with even more fan appeal awaits. Marquette would play one of its two in-state rivals, Wisconsin or Wisconsin-Milwaukee, which would contribute even more to the festive atmosphere the coach and players want at their games.

They’re heading into the NCAA tournament on a losing note, falling in the semifinals of the Big East Tournament, but Malone-Povolny thinks that taste of defeat will keep the team motivated against having it introduced again any time soon.

And as long as they keep winning, the Marquette fan base better keep watching.

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