The Illinois State University soccer team has gotten accustomed to tremendous success and the winning culture the team has built up over the past few years. Tomorrow, the Redbirds will begin their campaign to defend its MVC Title as the MVC Tournament comes to Adelaide Street Field.
The MVC tournament stage is set as the No. 1 ISU Redbirds (13-5-0) will host the No. 5 Missouri State Bears (7-9-2) at 6 p.m. tomorrow. MSU defeated the No. 4 Northern Iowa Panthers 2-0 in its quarterfinals match last Sunday.
ISU began its undefeated conference play (6-0-0) this season with a 2-0 win against MSU (2-3-1) on Sept. 28. The Redbirds dominated the game offensively holding a 24-5 shot advantage with 16 shots on goal. A game with crisp passing and a fast paced offense, the Redbirds should have scored more, if not for the stellar play of MSU keeper Laura Ketzer. However, in MSUs win over UNI, it was junior goalkeeper Jessica Perry in net. Perry returned to goal for the first time since Sept. 12. She led the Bears to their first post-season shutout since 2008. It was her second of the season and eighth shutout in her career. No matter who will be in net for the Bears on Friday, the Redbirds will have to make sure to keep their shot total up and the pressure on the MSU defense.
On the defensive side of the ball, ISU will have to contain MSU forward Molly Huber and midfielder Molly Brewer, both of whom made the MVC All-Conference First Team. Huber set a program record during the win against UNI with her 13th goal of the season breaking the MSU single season school record. Gabbi McArtor, Sara Stankoskey and the rest of the Redbirds defense will have to limit the Bears shots and goalkeeper Aryn Newsom will need to bring her A-game. MVC Defensive Player of the Week Brooke Ksiazek, along with the rest of the other Redbird midfielders, will need to play the MSU passing lanes and come up with key interceptions to limit the Bears attack. Easier said than done the Redbirds will have to play a complete game against MSU in order to advance to the championship on Sunday.
Since its 8-0 victory over Idaho, ISU has had over a week to prepare and train for the playoffs. Head coach Drew Roff believes his team will be ready for whatever comes its way this weekend.
At this point of the year, our players know what their job is, Roff said. Training sessions this time of the year arent really long. We focus on being sharp and ready. The girls will need them to bring the intensity. It shouldnt be hard to motivate the team this week; its the post-season and we all know what that means. Especially with us having home field advantage, we have a target on our backs. Were going to prepare the best we can and hopefully well play our best match all year this weekend.
Second-seeded Evansville (10-5-3, 3-2-1) and third-seeded Drake (9-8-2, 2-2-2) will play in the other semi-final match at 3 p.m. Friday. The Redbirds defeated both Evansville and Drake 1-0, 2-0 respectively, during the regular season
If the Redbirds are successful against MSU, they will play the winner of the Evansville and Drake matchup at 1 p.m. Sunday in the MVC Championship match. The winner of the MVC Championship attains an automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament.
All MVC Tournament matches will be played at Adelaide Street Field and will be broadcast live on ESPN3. Tickets can be purchased online at www.goredbirds.com/tickets or can be picked up in-person at the Illinois State Athletics Ticket Office.