We begin the march to crown a Big East women's soccer champion today with two matches. Convienently, because DePaul refuses to install lights in their soccer facility, we get one afternoon game and one night game. The winners of today's game advance to Friday's semifinals in Omaha, where Creighton's Morrison Stadium will host the final two rounds of the tournament. St. John's and Georgetown are the #1 and #2 seeds respectively, and they've earned byes out of this round and will face the winners of today's games in the semifinals.
Both matches today are available on Fox Sports Go through the Big East Digital Network, as will be the case for Friday's doubleheader in Omaha. Fox Sports 1 will carry the women's soccer title game live on Sunday afternoon.
Match #1: #6 Providence at #3 DePaul
Providence's win over DePaul earlier this season may have been the match that decided the Big East regular season title. At 12-7-0 and 5-4-0 in league play, it's still surprising that the Friars found a way to beat the Blue Demons (12-3-4, 6-1-2 Big East). Mind you , the "way" they found was scoring a goal in the first few minutes of the game and then catching a lucky break to get an own goal as insurance before the half was over. The loss was the first for DePaul in league play since 2013, when they lost to St. John's in their regular season finale and also dropped a 2-0 decision to Marquette in the Big East title game that season.
Amazingly, both teams need the win here to prolong their NCAA tournament hopes. I don't think anyone's surprised to think that a middle of the road team like Providence would be on the outside looking in nor to find out that their RPI is drifting around down at #78 in the most recent update. What is surprising, though, is to see DePaul's RPI at 59. If you were filling a field of 64 entirely based just on RPI, the Blue Demons would be getting bounced from the field because of the automatic bids to the tournament. It's possible, even though it seems weird to say, that DePaul will need that tournament title and automatic bid to make sure that they reach the NCAAs for the third consecutive season.
The two names to keep an eye on here are PC's Catherine Zimmerman and DPU's Elise Wyatt. Zimmerman leads the Big East in shots this season, although her 112 attempts have only resulted in six goals. Meanwhile, Wyatt had the third most shots in the league with 71, but was much more productive. She finished second in the league in points and goals, with her 12 tallies tying a DePaul single season record. In her free time, Wyatt also managed to tie for ninth in the Big East in assists.
Match #2: #5 Marquette at #4 Butler
We find ourselves with an interesting situation with the two games in this year's quarterfinals: The two teams that are hosting the tournament matches lost to their respective visitor during the regular season meeting. DePaul falling at Providence might have been the most surprising result of the regular season (with Marquette losing at Seton Hall right behind that one), but Marquette's win over Butler was one of the more dissonant results you'll ever see.
While Marquette got the win on a goal from Darian Powell in that game on a bit of a ping-pong volley in front of the Butler net, the Bulldogs weren't able to capitalize on Marquette getting whistled for a season high 21 fouls in the match. Here's what's so odd about that: Marquette was the least foul prone team in the league at that point of the season, and even now, they're still averaging the second fewest fouls at 8.5 per match. How did they end up getting whistled for nearly three times that in a 90 minute stretch? The world may never know.
Powell is the only Golden Eagle in the top 10 in the league in goals this season with seven, while Butler has two players on the list. Halle Stelbasky has nine goals on the season, although she's only scored twice against Big East opponents. Senior midfielder Sophia Maccagnone has seven goals to sneak into the top 10 along with three other players who are tied with her and Powell.