Wednesday, November 2, 2016

With a bye into the semifinals, DePaul eyes its second BIG EAST Tournament crown

                          Photo Credit: Steve Woltmann/DePaul Athletics

The end of last season's script was not how the DePaul women's soccer team wanted to go out.

A 1-0 quarterfinal loss to Providence at Wish Field cut short its 2015 BIG EAST Tournament championship hopes, but DePaul, (10-6-2, 7-2-0 BIG EAST) gets another crack as regular season co-champions, as the semifinals loom on Friday afternoon against No. 3-seeded Georgetown at Shaw Field in Washington, D.C.

Despite the 4-1 win on Oct. 23 at Georgetown, DePaul coach Erin Chastain knows the records will not matter as playoff soccer ratchets up the intensity to another level.

"In playoff soccer, every team will step up and give everything they have, recognizing it could be the last game together," Chastain said.

With DePaul lacking depth all season due to a small roster, the return of midfielder Kelli Hubly will be a welcomed sight for the Blue Demons in Friday's match.

"We are not a deep team, so not having to play that quarterfinal game is important especially with [Kelli Hubly] out in the last game at Marquette," Chastain said. "The bye will give her extra time to heal going into Friday."

DePaul's road to the conference tournament did come with a bump in the road as it started 1-4-2 and things looked bleak.

Things began to turn after a 3-1 road win at Western Michigan on Sept. 16, as it served as a springboard to a school record seven-game winning streak.

Chastain admitted the losses of Elise Wyatt, Alex Godinez, Brianna Ryce and Sarah Gorden to graduation affected the Blue Demons more than originally thought.

"Some things didn't go our way early on because we were trying to replace key players from last season," Chastain said. 

"For the first 3-4 weeks of the season Alexa [Ben] was in and out of games and that also factored in the slow start. Once our group got from that tough road stretch, we knew we could still produce great results this season and credit to them for sticking to the process."

In her final year of eligibility, defender Taylor Schissler has risen to the occasion with a career-high six goals this season. Schissler's impact has rubbed on everyone, including Chastain.

"[Taylor] has been outstanding and came in fit and motivated for her senior year and got us going," Chastain said. "She always believed in our team and inspired our group with her impactful performances and goals."

Midfielder Abby Reed stands one goal out from matching her career-high of 12 in 2014, but Chastain believes she is focused on making everyone else better.

"I think Abby is solely focused on having a really good performance by keeping possession of the ball and setting the tone for our team," Chastain said.

Although Chastain wants to accomplish bigger goals this season, embracing each game at a time has helped, instead of looking ahead, given one more loss will end any conference and/or NCAA Tournament hopes.

"We are trying not to get to far ahead of ourselves and focus on having a really good performance against Georgetown on Friday. The goal is to win the conference tournament, so I think we recognize it is one game and one play at time."

BIG EAST Tournament schedule (All Times ET):

Nov. 4- Semifinal 1- No. 4 St. John's vs No. 1 Marquette, 11:30 a.m. (BEDN/Fox Sports GO)

Nov. 4- Semifinal 2- No. 3 Georgetown vs No. 2 DePaul, Approx. 2 p.m. (BEDN/Fox Sports GO)

Nov. 6- Championship Game- St. John's/Marquette winner vs Georgetown/DePaul winner, 1 p.m. (FS1)

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