Seminoles will provide stern test

It has been a season to remember for the Marquette women’s soccer team, and if the players have anything to say about it, there is no way it will end this weekend in Tallahassee, Fla.

“We still have some unfinished business to take care of, even though we’ve made it this far,” senior forward Ashley Bares said.

The beginning of that unfinished business starts Saturday at noon against No. 11 Florida State in the Round of 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

The Seminoles (15-5-1 overall) are the second seed in Marquette’s bracket and have been nearly unstoppable this season.

Sunday, Florida State beat South Florida — which knocked Marquette out of the Big East Tournament in the semifinals — 2-1 to improve to 9-1-1 at home this season.

However, the Golden Eagles (16-4-3 overall) are used to being the underdogs, and return to that role after taking a few games off as the “favorites” in the Big East and first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament.

“It’s impressive what Florida State has done this year,” sophomore defender Ally Miller said. “They’re really good, but we’re pretty good too. It’s going to be a great game.”

Marquette got to this position after a thrilling penalty kick victory (5-4) against Wisconsin-Madison on Sunday, when the teams were tied 2-2 after regulation and two overtime periods.

The Golden Eagles had defeated Central Michigan, 1-0, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Friday night.

The Atlantic Coast Conference, which Florida State plays in, has been arguably the toughest and most rugged of any conference in college soccer this season.

The Seminoles finished 7-2-1 in conference play, with their only losses coming on the road against North Carolina and Maryland, both of which are No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament.

The ACC boasts five teams in the Sweet 16, while the Big East has a record four teams advancing, including Marquette.

“They’ve played an incredibly difficult schedule and will no doubt be a tough out for any team,” coach Markus Roeders said. “We’re lucky enough to get a chance to be that team, and hopefully we will.”

Florida State’s other three losses came on the road against Auburn in double overtime, a team Marquette handled easily early in the season, at home against Florida in overtime and against Wake Forest in the first round of the ACC tournament in Cary, N.C.

This is Florida State’s sixth consecutive trip to the round of 16, while it is just the second time Marquette has done so in its history.

“Certainly winning NCAA Tournament games is something we strive for, and if you look at FSU, they have had consistently excellent teams for a number of years now,” Roeders said. “That’s something we are working towards, and we’re almost there.”

In its 2-1 win over South Florida, Florida State outshot the Bulls 12-5, including 6-2 in the shots-on-goal category. The victory improved the Seminoles to 29-9-2 all-time in their NCAA tournament history.

The team is also 20-1 all-time at home in NCAA tournament play.

All these factors might lead to the Golden Eagles being overlooked, but that’s just how they like it.

“We’re the underdog once again, and that’s perfectly fine with us,” Bares said. “We’ll just continue proving people wrong until we can’t play anymore.”