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Marquette Women’s Soccer: First round of NCAA Tournament at the Valley

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The women's soccer team celebrates its first round draw during the NCAA Tournament selection party Monday. Photo by Elise Krivit/elise.krivit@marquette.edu

The Marquette women’s soccer team (17-3-0) will host Toledo (14-6-2) Saturday evening in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, marking the second consecutive season the Golden Eagles will host the Mid-American Conference champion in the first round.

Last season, Marquette defeated Central Michigan 1-0, before knocking off Wisconsin 5-4 in penalty kicks and then falling to Florida State, 3-0 on the road in the Sweet 16.

The Golden Eagles hosted a viewing party at the Union Sports Annex and had an estimated 60 people show up to support the team as the field of 64 was announced via a live web cast from NCAA.com.

While not a lot is known yet about the Rockets, the fact that the team will host an NCAA Tournament game is critical, according to coach Markus Roeders.

“I don’t think you can ever take for granted that we’re in (the tournament), and that we’re one of 34 at-large teams who made it,” Roeders said. “I think that speaks volumes for what the team has done this year.”

After limping through its nonconference schedule at 2-5-1, Toledo stormed through its conference slate, going 9-1-1 in league play before beating Western Michigan 1-0 on Sunday in the conference championship game.

Marquette and Toledo share only one common opponent this season: Louisville. Toledo tied Louisville 1-1 on Aug. 26, and the Golden Eagles won 1-0 on Sept. 30.

While the team knew it would be in the NCAA Tournament, there were just a few anxious moments before it saw its name called.

“There’s a ton of anticipation, especially because we weren’t in the final four of the Big East tournament,” junior forward Lisa Philbin said. “We literally had no idea what to expect. We didn’t know who we would play. We weren’t even sure that we would play at home.”

The process of gathering scouting reports and watching film on Toledo will begin immediately, giving the team ample time to prepare for a changed format in the NCAA Tournament this year.

In previous years, the highest seeded team hosted two games the first weekend, whereas this year, Marquette is guaranteed just one home game.

“I’m just happy that we get a home game, and hopefully we’ll make it far enough where we get another one,” senior defender Kerry McBride said. “As of right now, it’s just exciting to be in the tournament and play at least one more game.”

Should Marquette advance past Toledo, and the bracket hold to form, the Golden Eagles will travel to Winston-Salem, N.C., next weekend and play the winner of No. 4 seed Penn State or Army. Wake Forest is the No. 1 seed in Marquette’s region, and will take on Oakland this weekend, before hosting the winner of Harvard against Boston in the other side of the bracket.

For now, however, the focus is on Toledo and the opportunity to play at Valley Fields, where the team is 19-1 since the start of last year.

“I actually know Toledo and (coach) Brad Evans pretty well, and we know how strong they can be,” Roeders said. “We’ve just got to prepare ourselves for one match, and from there we’ll move on.”

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