Although the NCAA Tournament is all too familiar territory for the Marquette women’s soccer team, the Golden Eagles didn’t feel any less satisfied in their 3-0 win over Illinois State Friday night.
Seeded No. 4 in its region, Marquette scored less than four minutes into the match through a goal by senior forward Lisa Philbin, and it didn’t look back. In the 27th minute, the Golden Eagles went up 2-0 when senior defender Ally Miller sent in a bullet from about 25 yards out. Sophomore midfielder Mary Luba punched in the team’s third and final goal with 21:30 remaining in the second half.
Marquette’s unbeaten streak has now reached 15 matches. The Golden Eagles advance to the second round of the tournament for the third straight year and will play Princeton in Provo, Utah, Thursday at 4 p.m.
“We’re elated to have won the game,” coach Markus Roeders said. “I thought we came out really strong. At this time of year, you look forward to winning and moving forward.”
The Golden Eagles used precise ball movement in the first half against a seemingly fatigued Redbirds team to jump out to a quick lead. Illinois State, however, felt a sudden sense of urgency opening the second half and managed to up its aggressiveness on the offensive end.
A shot heading for the top corner of the goal in the 55th minute was swatted away just in time by freshman goalkeeper Amanda Engel. Roeders was not surprised at how gritty the Redbirds played coming out of intermission.
“They’re a dangerous team,” he said. “They’ve had a fantastic season. They won their conference and they’ve been in some big matches. We’ve seen them before, although it was in the spring, but they’re always dangerous to score a goal. I don’t think you could have expected anything less.”
Miller said that in first round games the underdog team will be doing everything it can to pull an upset. After Illinois State’s lackadaisical first half, she was expecting their play to elevate as the match progressed.
“It’s not a guarantee that you’re going to win,” Miller said. “Every team wants to come out and play like they have nothing to lose. It’s the end of their season, so everybody’s going to come out with a fight. It’s never going to be something that’s handed to us. We’re going to have to work hard and hopefully keep it going.”
Friday’s shutout marks the team’s 16th of the season, the most in the nation. It also marked the first time the Redbirds have been shut out this season. Roeders said he has been impressed with the defense from the start of the year.
“When you have 16 shutouts, you’re going to end up winning a lot of games if you score goals,” Roeders said. “That’s what we’ve been doing, and 17-2-2 speaks for itself. I think our defense is outstanding, and it showcases our strengths on both ends of the field.”
With the way Marquette has been performing all season, there’s almost certainly an increasing sense of pressure for the Golden Eagles to continue to play well, especially on a national stage like the NCAA Tournament. Philbin said she wants the squad to play its game as well as possible and focus less on the teams targeting them as they advance in the bracket.
“There’s always an X on your back when you’re doing well,” Philbin said. “We haven’t lost in a long time. So there’s always pressure, but I think our biggest pressure is playing our game. If we can play our game for 90 minutes, then we’re very satisfied.”