Redbirds Open NCAA Tournament at Louisville, Saturday
Nov. 15, 2013
NORMAL, Ill. - The Missouri Valley Conference-champion Illinois State soccer team (14-6-0, 6-0-0 MVC) will begin play in the NCAA Tournament with a first-round match at Louisville (12-5-1, 8-1-0 American Athletic Conference), Saturday at 12 p.m., CT.
The Redbirds punched their ticket to a third-straight NCAA Tournament with Sunday's 5-0 MVC Tournament championship match victory over Indiana State. Freshman Hannah Leinert recorded a hat trick in the match and five goals in the tournament on her way to MVP honors. The victory increased ISU's winning streak to a program-record nine games, and equaled the program-record for wins in a season, with 14.
No team from the MVC, including Illinois State, which has gone 0-4, has ever won a NCAA Tournament game. Head coach Drew Roff is making his fourth trip to the tournament, and believes that this team's combination of experience, talent and confidence has it primed for a quality performance.
"When you look at our results in the league, us having a couple 15-goal scorers and the road that we took to get where we are as far as the level of competition, a lot of things point to us having a good day on Saturday," Roff said. "Whether that is a win or loss, that obviously remains to be seen, but going in to this game, I feel like we are more prepared than we ever have been in the past to be successful."
One of the main strengths of the Redbirds heading into Saturday's match is experience in the postseason setting. ISU has five players who have started in two NCAA Tournament matches and 10 who have played in at least one. Senior Anna Stinson will be making her third-straight NCAA Tournament start, and believes that experience will prove vital.
"I think that is so important," Stinson said of the team's postseason familiarity. "Almost every person besides our freshmen has been to the NCAA Tournament before and played in a game. Personally, it's a big step, because the first couple of times you are in those games, it's really nerve-wracking. You are really worried about playing well in that type of situation. This year, everybody knows that we are going to be able to do it, so that is not even a thought in our heads anymore."
Scouting the CardinalsThe Cardinals will not have played in nearly two weeks when taking the field for Saturday's match, most-recently dropping a 2-1 decision to Memphis, Nov. 3, in the quarterfinals of the AAC Tournament. U of L finished second in the AAC during the regular-season, falling only to league-champion Central Florida.
An explosive offense has led the Cardinals all season. Louisville averages 2.61 goals per game, eighth best nationally, and is paced by the combination of seniors Charlyn Corral (37 points, 13 goals, 11 assists) and Christine Exeter (29 points, nine goals, 11 assists). Corral was named the AAC's Midfielder of the Year, while Exeter earned Offensive Player of the Year accolades. Junior Casey Whitfield (18 points, six goals, six assists) and All-AAC Second Team choice Erin Yenney (14 points, six goals, two assists) provide additional offensive firepower.
Anchoring the Cardinals' defense, a unit that gives up 1.67 goals per game, are seniors Chelsea Hunter and Rachel Melhado. Each has started all 18 games this season and at least 64 in their careers. Freshman Paige Brown has seen the majority of playing time in goal for the Cardinals, but classmate Taylor Smith made her first start of the season in U of L's last game.
"Louisville two pretty special attacking players [Corral and Exeter], Roff said. "They have several players who are dangerous, but those two really stand out from what I have seen.
"We need to make sure that those players are not running free and having a bunch of chances. If we can slow them down a little bit and defend well, I think we can create a few chances of our own."
Illinois State and Louisville have never met in women's soccer. The Redbirds are 0-2 all-time against American Athletic Conference foes, losing to Central Florida and South Florida in 2008.
NCAA Tournament Notes
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