UPLAND, Ind. – After a regular season in which the Trojans finished 8-8-2 and 4-4-1 in Crossroads League play, head coach Scott Stan and the women's soccer team will enter Saturday's opening round of the Crossroads League Tournament holding the No. 6 seed. Taylor will travel to Indianapolis to take on No. 3 seed Marian in a 4:00 p.m. start.
Taylor and Marian met back on September 29, where the Knights came away with a 1-0 win on their home pitch. Marian took advantage of a two-on-one break, scoring just two minutes into the contest. Following the goal, the two teams combined for 12 shots the remainder of the game, but neither could find the back of the net.
"Marian is a very good team who will challenge us in every position," said Stan. "However, if we come out ready and don't give up an early goal, we will be able to win this game. We plan on pressing more this time and looking to get more shots from close in rather than relying on long range shooting."
Marian's lone goal in the regular season matchup came from Logan Bowling. Bowling currently leads the team in points (23) and is tied for most goals on the team with 10. The Knights' Kellie Cavanaugh also stands at 10 goals on the season and leads the team in shots (68) and shots on goal (33).
In net for Marian, two players have seen playing time. Madeline Weber holds a 3-1 record while in goal and carries a 1.04 goals against average. Melissa Sturgill, however, has seen the most time at goalie for Marian, posting an 8-5 record and tallying 69 saves on the season.
The Trojans will enter Saturday's match coming off three-straight contests against top-20 opponents. Over the three-game stretch Taylor has played its best soccer of the year. The Trojans went toe-to-toe with No. 7 Spring Arbor on October 17, but eventually fell 6-4. Four days later, TU went on the road and defeated No. 18 Mt. Vernon Nazarene 1-0, before concluding the season with a 1-1 tie against No. 10 Grace last Saturday.
"I think we are playing better every game and peaking at the right time, stated Stan. "We have played an extremely hard schedule this year as shown by our opponents having a record of 165 wins, 116 losses, and 22 ties."
Freshman Lauren Engelkes has continued to improve this season after battling injuries earlier in the year. The Michigan native recently was named the Crossroads League Defensive Player of the Week after allowing just one goal and posting 13 saves in 200 minutes of play against two top-20 teams. Engelkes has recorded 53 saves on the season and holds a 1.47 goals against average entering the league tournament.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Trojans have seen balanced production from a number of players. Junior Shelbi Lowe leads the team in goals (6), points (17), shots (66) and shots on goal (37). After scoring two goals in the match against Spring Arbor, sophomore Nikki Zaino is closely behind in goals, netting five on the season. Sophomore Hadlee Yescott has also posted five goals on the season, while the team's second leading shot taker, sophomore Megan Kammer, has contributed three goals.
The winner of Saturday's showdown will advance to take on either No. 5 seed Indiana Wesleyan or No. 4 Saint Francis on Saturday, November 7. The winner of the Crossroads League Tournament will receive an automatic bid into the NAIA Women's Soccer National Tournament, which will begin on Saturday, November 21.
"Our expectations going into Saturday is to play selflessly and strive to win," added Stan. "Our goal is to be playing in the league semi-finals for the fourth year in a row."
You can check out the Crossroads League Tournament Central page, tournament bracket and Marian's live coverage of the game by clicking on the links above.