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Previewing The 2014 Big East Women's Soccer Semifinals

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We're down to the final four as they convene in New York for a doubleheader.

Will the return of Ashley Handwork to the Marquette lineup help send the Golden Eagles to their third straight Big East title game?
Will the return of Ashley Handwork to the Marquette lineup help send the Golden Eagles to their third straight Big East title game?
Maggie Bean/MarquetteImages.com

The 2014 Big East women's soccer tournament semifinals features the undefeated regular season champions, the 2013 champions looking to redeem their off-kilter season, the hosting team as the #3 seed, and the Big East's Offensive Player of the Year.  That's pretty much all you can ask for a four pack of teams searching for a tournament title, really.

Both matches are at Belson Stadium on the campus of St. John's University in Jamaica, NY.  The Big East Digital Network will carry both games, and the second match will take place about 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first match.

#1 DePaul vs #4 Marquette

When: Friday, November 7, 2014, at 4:00pm Central
Audio/Visual: Big East Digital Network, plus live stats.
Previous Meeting: DePaul won at Marquette, 3-2 (2OT)

It's a rematch of last year's championship game in this year's semifinals.  A year ago, Marquette pelted DePaul's Alejandria Godinez with 13 shots on the way to a 2-0 win for their second straight tournament title.  Earlier this season, Marquette played their backup keeper at striker for 15 minutes and still forced DePaul to overtime after rallying from a 2-0 hole. MU was also without two of their usual four starting defenders, as Haley Fritzlen, the hero of the quarterfinal match against Providence, was still out after getting headbutted against Georgetown and Erin Holland was down for the year with a nasty injury that has her in a full leg brace.

The possible difference in this game could come in the play of the goalkeepers.  No one's going to confuse what Marquette's Amanda Engel did this season as a great season, or even on par with her first two years in the MU net.  But on her way to winning two straight Big East tournaments, Engel has never - AND THE ROCK MEANS NEVER - allowed a goal.  Marquette as a team has only given up one goal in six matches counting Tuesday's quarterfinal, and that was with Sofie Schunk in net while Marquette had a 4-0 lead on Connecticut in 2012.  Meanwhile, over on DePaul's side of the field, Godinez was the best keeper in the entire Big East in 2013, and she finished the 2014 regular season with the best goals-against average in the league.

Marquette will attempt to counter DePaul's one-two-three scoring punch of Abby Reed, Elise Wyatt, and Alexa Ben (1st, 3rd, and 4th most goals in the Big East) with a mixture of talent.  Darian Powell has scored five goals since the start of October, and Ashley Handwork, who scored four goals a year ago, is back in the lineup after missing most of this season with a hamstring injury.  Mary Luba leads the team with 16 points on six goals and four assists, while Liz Bartels and Jacie Jermier have both contributed double digit points to the scoresheet.

#2 Georgetown vs #3 St. John's

When: Friday, November 7, 2014, at 6:30pm Central
Audio/Visual: Big East Digital Network, plus live stats.
Previous Meeting: St. John's won at Georgetown, 1-0

A year ago, both of these teams traveled to Milwaukee for the Big East tournament semifinals, but neither side made it to the title game.  The Red Storm was victimized by goals from Marquette's Maegan Kelly and Mary Luba, while DePaul snuck past the #2 seeded Hoyas on a 68th minute goal from senior Erin Pekovitch.  I do mean "snuck past" as Georgetown outshot DePaul 26-2 in the match, but it didn't make a difference in the back of the net.

Georgetown returns a vast majority of the major players from that squad, but because DePaul is even better than they were last year, the Hoyas ended up with the #2 seed again this season.  Most importantly, they still retain the services of the Big East's Offensive Player of the Year, Daphne Corboz.  The senior midfielder is easily one of the best players in Georgetown history, if not Big East history, but she and her fellow seniors are still looking for their first Big East tournament title.  In fact, they have just one title game appearance to their credit, when they lost 1-0 to Marquette in 2012.

The Hoyas are 8-1-3 in their last 12 games, with the lone loss coming at the hands (feet?) of the Red Storm.  They wrapped up their regular season with an 8-0 pounding of Seton Hall and have been waiting to play since that bloodletting ended.  St. John's, on the other side, had to get past Villanova on Tuesday night in order to revel in their home field advantage as the Big East tournament location was predetermined.  It didn't have to be like that, but the Johnnies lost 3-0 to DePaul in the regular season finale in a game that could have made St. John's the regular season champions had they picked up the win.

With eight goals and two assists, Rachel Daly is clearly St. John's main offensive threat.  No one else has more than three goals, but that might have more to do with their roster situation.  Only seven players have played in all 19 of their matches, with five of them, including 2014 Goalkeeper of the Year Diana Poulin starting in all 19.  If the Red Storm get their best 11 on the field, they could pull the "upset" of the Hoyas and head to Sunday's championship match.