A selection celebration

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Painful anxiety hung in the air at the Union Sports Annex, but it was soon replaced by jubilation. A chorus of cheers filled the room when the Marquette women’s soccer team’s NCAA tournament draw appeared on ESPNU Monday afternoon.

The No. 12/9 Golden Eagles seemed destined to host an NCAA regional, but some players still felt a sense of intense relief once the bracket finally flashed onto the screen.

“It’s nerve-wracking until you know for sure,” senior midfielder Rosie Malone-Povolny said. “Our coaches were telling about the thousands of possible draws, so it’s a relief to see our name up there.”

Marquette learned they would host Central Michigan Friday night as a three seed in the first round. Perhaps more intriguing, however, is the matchup that would occur should they reach the second round.

In-state rivals Wisconsin-Madison and Wisconsin-Milwaukee will face off just before Marquette’s game Friday night. Marquette would be slotted to play the winner of that match if it gets past Central Michigan.

The prospect of such a high stakes rivalry game at Valley Fields certainly raises excitement, but defeating the Chippewas is the first order of business.

Central Michigan is coming off its second consecutive Mid-American Conference title and has some history as a dangerous underdog in the NCAAs.

In last year’s tournament, the Chippewas knocked out then-No. 24 Purdue before falling to No. 5 Notre Dame in the second round.

CMU is led offensively by top scorer Laura Twidle, who has tallied eight goals this season. They are anchored by solid goalkeeping — starter Shay Mannino has posted a 13-2-1 record this year.

Big East Coach of the Year Markus Roeders knows his Golden Eagles must not look past their first opponent and must focus on each individual game.

“Basically, our mindset is that we’ve got opponent number one, and if we get past opponent number one, we then worry about opponent number two,” Roeders said. “A game against Wisconsin or Milwaukee would certainly be a great battle, though.”

Stanford, the No. 1 overall seed, and South Florida, a team Marquette has become all too familiar with, also lurk in the Golden Eagles’ bracket.

Marquette was knocked out of the Big East tournament by the Bulls in the semifinal round, but looks to live and learn from the experience should the two teams meet again.

“We can’t be afraid to lose,” senior forward Julia Victor said. “That was our problem against USF, and we just need to calm down in games like that and play the way we know we can play.”

Women’s soccer will have to compete with the men’s basketball game against Prairie View A&M for attendance Friday night.

The team still hopes the greater importance of its game and its status as arguably the best team on campus will lead to a packed Valley Fields. Roeders hopes students will bring an atmosphere of excitement and electricity to both weekend games should the Golden Eagles prevail in the first round.

“In 2005, when Marquette played Wisconsin and Milwaukee played Dartmouth in the first round of the tournament, the home crowd provided an exciting environment,” Roeders said. “We hope that people in the state who love soccer and supporters of our program can help create a great festival atmosphere on Friday night.”

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