Top 10 Panthers take home field in NCAA tournament

Women's soccer

Milwaukee forward Sarah Hagen (center) is second in the nation in goals per game and points per game.

The UWM women’s soccer team has three favorite numbers, in very particular order:

No. 1, No. 10 and No. 12.

These numbers represent the highest rankings in the team’s 28-year history. The Milwaukee Panthers boast an 11-1 record to back up their buzz among soccer insiders and NCAA sources nationwide.

Women's Soccer

There’s been a lot of celebrating at UWM’s Laura Moynihan Field this season. The Panthers are ranked No. 12 nationally, with an 11-1 record. See for yourself at games this week: Wednesday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.

In the team’s NCAA Division I Ratings Percentage Index debut last week (RPI – an equation that informs tournament selections and seeds), they placed 10th in the country. When ranked nationally, the Panthers can boast a 16-5-1 all-time record.

The National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) has ranked the Panthers the No. 1 team in the region for five consecutive weeks. After weeks at No. 14, the NSCAA just bumped the Panthers to No. 12 nationally. Soccer America has ranked them No. 12 for several weeks.

“It’s not often that any of the teams in the state get ranked in the top 20 in the country,” says head coach Michael Moynihan. “It’s something that the whole university can be excited about and I think the local soccer community can be proud of.

“A lot of our players come from the area and the more attention we receive and the higher we get profiled, the more it says about the community we come from, the school we come from and the support we get.”

The 30-player squad begins a two-game home stand tonight on Laura Moynihan Field at Engelmann Stadium. Milwaukee takes on Valparaiso at 7 p.m. tonight, and Youngstown State at 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 9. Tonight’s game will be broadcast on Time Warner Sports 32, but in tape delay. Admission is $5/adults and $3 seniors/youth.

What to watch for this home stand:

  • 2011 three-time Horizon League Player of the Week Sarah Hagen (junior, Peck School of the Arts), as she expands her totals of 15 goals and 34 points. That makes her second in the nation in goals per game and points per game. She’s scored the winning goal in five consecutive games.
  • Headers, assists and related surprises from midfielder Helen Steinhauser (junior, College of Letters & Science) and midfielder/forward Keara “Canada” Thompson (senior, College of Letters & Science). Thompson is tied in the Horizon League for assists and is tied for sixth in the nation, overall.
  • Possibly a seventh (or eighth?) shutout this season from goalkeeper Jamie Forbes (junior, School of Information Studies), with strong support from what soccer insiders consider to be the strongest defensive lineup in the Horizon League.
  • Take in some game-day reading on midfielder Helen Steinhauser’s soccer blog:

Coach Moynihan says crowds at the newly named Laura Moynihan Field are helping the team set another record – regular-season attendance.

“We’ve had some unbelievable crowds. I keep hearing from more and more people who have attended games this year about how exciting the atmosphere is, and I think we play attractive soccer. So when you get in that environment – the close confines and the big crowds – it’s a lot of fun.”

The team needs it, he adds, as they look for more big wins and a surge in the national rankings, and prepare for what they believe could be a record-setting Panthers post-season.

“We’re all in it together and hopefully we can share in the good times and enjoy them all together,” Moynihan says. “Let’s keep spreading the word, get even bigger crowds and set some serious records.”