Women’s soccer gears up for Big East three-peat

#18 Rachel Sloan. Photo by Ryan Glazier / Ryan.Glazier@Marquette.edu

Finishing the fall season at No. 12/9 Marquette women’s soccer certainly didn’t disappoint.

The postseason in the Big East and NCAA tournaments may not have played out the way the Golden Eagles had planned, but they now have the chance to prepare for next year’s competition, starting with spring matches.

The women are proud of their previous success, going undefeated in the Big East conference (11-0) and 16-5-3 during regular season, but they have “turned a new page,” coach Markus Roeders said.

The team lost eight seniors and is starting fresh with both new talent and veteran experience.

Senior forward Ashley Bares, who finished fall competition with five goals, third most on the team, and senior defender Lauren Thut, who lead the team in assists with 13 on the season, will both be big losses for the Golden Eagles.

“We had a great senior class, but at the same time, having done this for a while, we can’t worry about what happened last year,” Roeders said.

Roeders and the team are switching things up this spring.

Position changes will  play a role in how the team performs and one of the biggest challenges will be finding the consistency again, Roeders said.

“It’s all about just trying different things and exposing our players to different challenges and getting them comfortable at different levels,” he said.

The team will not be lacking when it comes to experience, however.

The team’s top scorer, freshman forward and midfielder Maegan Kelly and goalkeeper Natalie Kulla, who was named Big East Goalkeeper of the Year during the fall, will be returning for the Golden Eagles.

It would be nice to have the same season as she did during the fall but “what happens, happens,” Kelly said.

The women will face seven opponents throughout April. One of these teams, Notre Dame, the defending NCAA champion, will provide the challenge the women are looking for.

“Expect a very good game,” Kulla said. “Hopefully we’ll get a lot of our players in to play and experience a game like Notre Dame.”

Their first two games will take place April 2, against Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Loyola at Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Englemann Field.

The women will also face Wisconsin on April 17 at Valley Fields.

In their first game of the 2010-’11 season the team tied the Badgers 1-1. And again in the NCAA post-season tournament the two rivals tied at 2-2 with Marquette pulling away in penalty kicks.

Overall the team finished last spring with a 6-1-1 record and they are looking to capitalize on that according to Kelly and Kulla.

The women will also face Illinois, Northwestern and Big East rival DePaul throughout the rest of the spring.

After a long winter the team is excited to get the girls back together and start playing outside, Kelly said.

“Spring is obviously a little more relaxed, but it’s a time where you can really focus on your weaknesses and focus on technical issues,” Kulla said.