Road to NCAA soccer tournament goes straight through Martin
Posted: Friday, November 2, 2012 12:00 pm
By RANDY CAVIN
UT Martin’s women’s soccer team is a perfect 5-0 against Ohio Valley Conference opponents at home this season. The Skyhawks hope to make it 7-0 by Sunday afternoon.
The Skyhawks won the right to host the OVC soccer tournament, which begins today, by winning the regular season conference title outright for the first time in school history. UTM finished the regular season 8-1-1 in conference play and 11-5-3 overall.
UTM won seven home games overall this season to go with only one loss and that was to Vanderbilt to begin the season. Head coach Phil McNamara hopes the home field advantage holds out for at least two more games.
“We’ve played well at home this year, and we’ve really played well the past few games as we’re on a good run going into the tournament,” McNamara said. “We are delighted for the first time in our history to be the No. 1 seed and winning the regular season outright for the first time. This is the second time we have won the regular season, but the first time we have won it outright.”
The Skyhawks made to the NCAA tournament last season by winning the OVC tournament. UTM was the No. 3 seed and had to win three games to make the NCAA. Generally, the OVC gets only one bid for the NCAA tournament, so McNamara knows the importance of winning the league’s postseason event.
“A couple of teams in the conference have had schedules that are good enough to put them in the tournament, but none of us have grabbed enough wins in those schedules,” McNamara said.
The Skyhawks are one of those teams. UTM played Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Purdue extremely tough but came out on the short end of those games. UTM fought to a 0-0 draw against Butler and lost by three to Arkansas State.
The Skyhawks have prided themselves all season on their defense and have recorded nine shutouts, five coming in the last six games. The offense has come on as of late, scoring nine goals in the last two games.
Junior Abi Sanvee scored the hat trick in UTM’s 6-0 verdict over Tennessee Tech on Sunday to clinch the OVC title. Sanvee played as a starter in that match, something she is not used to doing. McNamara switched up the lineup on Sunday’s game to send a message to his players.
“It’s tournament week, and I wanted to send a message to the girls that no spot is safe,” the UTM head coach said. “We need to have the ones playing the best out there, and we need everybody playing at their best.
“We’ve got to win at this point to keep playing, so we need to be at our best.”
UTM will play the winner of today’s first round game between Southeast Missouri State, the No. 4 seed, and Belmont, the No. 5 seed. The Skyhawks beat SEMO 1-0 in the regular season and tied Belmont 1-1.
“That should be a great first round game between SEMO and Belmont,” McNamara said. “I am not sure who will win the game. It is an interesting one.”
SEMO and Belmont will play at 4 p.m., followed by Eastern Kentucky against Southern Illinois at 7 p.m. The winner of the second game will play No. 2 seed Austin Peay on Friday at 7 p.m. UTM will at 4 p.m. on Friday.
McNamara said at this stage of the season the team is very upbeat and so is the all-around attitude.
“I think after the SIU-E loss a few weeks ago, there has been an excellent attitude and a commitment to excellence,” McNamara said. “I think that shows in our results.”
The championship game will be played at 1 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is free to all games. Published in The WCP 11.1.12