Marquette Women’s Soccer: Unknown, yet familiar opponent awaits MU in Big East quarterfinals

Junior midfielder Taylor Madigan knows the team must win its Big East quarterfinal match Sunday to remove any doubt of an NCAA Tournament bid. Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.

The end of the regular season is just the beginning for the Marquette women’s soccer team.

Looking at the team’s record (13-2-2), there should be no doubt this team is headed for the NCAA Tournament no matter what happens during the Big East Tournament, which begins today.

But not so fast, say juniors Cara Jacobson and Taylor Madigan.

“We don’t want to go through a whole week of practice and then realize we aren’t in the NCAA Tournament,” Jacobson said. “There are never any guarantees with the NCAA committee. We didn’t have an incredible nonconference season, so I don’t think there are any guarantees.”

Madigan agreed.

“I don’t think we’re in any safe spot right now,” she said. “We just need to keep winning.”

The Golden Eagles host a quarterfinal match on Sunday against either Connecticut or Rutgers, who meet tonight in Storrs, Conn. The Huskies prevented a perfect Big East record for Marquette, earning a 1-1 draw with the Golden Eagles on Oct. 7.

Madigan and Jacobson wouldn’t admit to wanting the opportunity for revenge of playing Connecticut.

“I think we’d like to get a rematch with them (Connecticut), but Rutgers is a really good team too,” Jacobson said. “I think we know whoever we get will be a good game, and there won’t be any ‘gimmes’ getting to the final four.”

Despite training for three days without knowing who their opponent will be, the Golden Eagles have the familiarity of having played both of their possible opponents in the regular season, so they have some idea what to expect, no matter which team advances.

“If we didn’t play the two teams, I think it would be quite hard, scouting-wise,” Madigan said. “Since we played them, I think it will be fine. We all know how they play and how they adjust and we’ll play the same way no matter what.”

The Huskies played a difficult nonconference slate similar to Marquette, taking on North Carolina, Boston College and Santa Clara. Connecticut went 0-2-1 in those games and has won just one of its last five games.

The Huskies’ most impressive win was probably a double overtime victory at Villanova, which finished 5-4-1 in Big East play but failed in the majority of its chances against some of the Big East’s elite teams.

In games against Georgetown, Marquette, Notre Dame and South Florida, the top two seeds from each division, the Huskies are a combined 0-3-1 and were outscored 10-1.

They will likely have extra motivation to beat Marquette if they advance, however. The semifinals and championship game will be played on their home field.

“With UConn you have that element of it’s their chance to play here and go back home and play in the final four,” coach Markus Roeders said. “Those are underlying things we can’t really control, so we just have to wait and see.”

Rutgers seems to be rolling a bit, having won its last three matches by a combined score of 10-0, including a 3-0 win over Louisville. Marquette beat the Scarlet Knights on the road, 2-0 on Sept. 23, which began a three-match losing streak for Rutgers.

Much like Connecticut, Rutgers has struggled against the Big East’s top teams. In matches against Georgetown, South Florida, Notre Dame and Marquette, the Scarlet Knights are 1-2-1.

As has been the case all season, Rutgers has been led offensively by redshirt junior forward Jonelle Filigno, whose 14 goals rank second in the league behind Georgetown’s Daphne Corboz (16).

Filigno also averages 1.68 points per game and has scored seven game-winning goals.

The opponent doesn’t seem to matter to the players, however, as Marquette tries to exorcise some of its Big East Tournament demons, particularly after last year’s quarterfinal loss to Notre Dame at home.

“Having a whole week off last year before the NCAA Tournament wasn’t to our advantage,” Madigan said. “We would basically have two weeks of practice if we lose, so we’re ready to play as many games as we can.”