UTM confident about Big Blue road trip
Posted: Wednesday, November 7, 2012 12:00 pm
By RANDY CAVIN
UT Martin women’s soccer team won the Ohio Valley Conference Soccer Tournament on Sunday and an automatic berth to the NCAA Women’s Soccer Championship and a chance to win the College Cup.
The Skyhawks discovered on Monday during the selection show they will be facing Kentucky on Friday at 6 p.m. at the UK Soccer Complex.
The Wildcats are no stranger to the NCAA soccer tournament, having been in it eight times. Kentucky has yet to post a victory in the tournament, however, and sports a 0-7-1 record. The Wildcats made the field last year and were beaten by Washington State 4-2 on penalty kicks.
The Skyhawks will be making their second consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament. Last year, UTM fell to unbeaten and third ranked Memphis 7-0.
UTM and Kentucky have played four common opponents in the regular season, Kentucky 4-0 and UTM 1-2-1 in those matches. Kentucky beat both Vanderbilt and Mississippi State 3-0, Southeast Missouri 1-0 and Eastern Kentucky 2-1.
The Skyhawks lost to Vandy 2-0 and Mississippi State 3-2, tied SEMO 1-1 and beat EKU 3-0. UTM also beat SEMO 1-0 in the OVC tournament semifinals. So, the Skyhawks are no stranger to playing Southeastern Conference teams.
“I think we have had better results against those common opponents even though they have a better winning record against those opponents,” head coach Phil McNamara said. “We are pleased with our draw. We are going to go there with a lot of confidence. We are coming off a great finish to the season, and I think the tie is a bit of a banana skin for Kentucky.”
McNamara said he is thrilled to be playing against the Wildcats and believes it will be a great game between the two teams.
“We are excited,” McNamara said. “I think Kentucky will be excited to have us, and I think it will be a great game.”
The Skyhawks have been on a roll as of late — particularly with defense. UTM has won seven consecutive games, including two in the OVC tournament, and has allowed only one goal during that span while posting six shutouts.
Sophomore midfielder Lucy Pater has been an important part of UTM’s unrelenting defense over that span. She gives credit to her teammates whose job it to keep the opposing team away from the net so OVC tournament MVP Mariah Klenke does not have to work as hard blocking shots at the goal.
“Mary Thompson, Amy Maksimowicz, Ashley Reveiz and Mariah Klenke are all back there, and we are playing really well together and working really hard,” Pater said. “Mariah, I love her. She saved us and played incredible. She deserves every award she has gotten this season.”
Pater is no stranger to the Wildcats. She went on a recruiting visit to Kentucky when she was in high school and most of her family lives in Lexington. She is very happy to be playing Kentucky and in front her family. But she says there is a bit of a family rivalry there.
“I am really excited,” Pater said. “My whole family lives in Lexington, and I have always wanted to play them because it is kind of like a family rivalry. Being as competitive as we are here, it is really exciting. We have a lot of girls on the team from Tennessee, so it is close enough that our support system can follow us.”
If the Skyhawks can get a win against the Wildcats, they will play the winner between No. 3 seed UCLA and Wisconsin. It only gets tougher from there. No. 1-ranked Stanford is also in the same bracket.
A possible trip out west is very appealing to Pater, who would love nothing more than to get that win over the Wildcats and possibly travel to take on UCLA. With three players on the team from Arizona and one from California, the prospects of playing in front of UTM fans out west has Pater looking forward to that chance.
“If we went to UCLA, hopefully that would be close enough for all of their family to get out to have a big crowd waiting there for us and show some Martin love,” Pater said.
The Skyhawks enter the tournament with a lot of firsts for the program. UTM won the program’s first ever outright OVC regular season title, posted the program’s best winning percentage ever at .690, and broke the school record for OVC wins with eight. The Skyhawks current seven-game winning streak is the longest in the school’s history, broke the single-season record for points with 125 and assists with 35.
Saphyra Coombs-James is the first ever Skyhawk to be named OVC Freshman of the Year. UTM also led the OVC in shots (345), points (125) and assists (35).
UTM goes into the tournament with an 11-5-3 regular season record. Kentucky enters the tournament with a 13-6-1 regular season record. Published in The WCP 11.6.12