UWM hosts NCAA Tournament Nov. 12

The women’s soccer team watch the “NCAA Women’s Soccer Tournament Selection Show.”

The women’s soccer team gathered Monday to watch the “NCAA Women’s Soccer Tournament Selection Show.” They play the team’s first-ever NCAA Tournament home game Saturday, 7 p.m., against Illinois.

The Horizon League Champion Panthers have been making soccer history at UWM all season long. Monday night the team announced another historic first. The Panthers will make their ninth NCAA Tournament appearance Saturday, Nov. 12, against Illinois State – the first NCAA Tournament home game in the team’s 28-year history.

Tickets for the 7 p.m. game are $8/adults, $6/seniors and youth, $5/students.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling. I can’t even explain it,” senior midfielder Makenzie Gillaspie says of the team’s first opportunity to play an NCAA tournament game on Laura Moynihan Field at Engelmann Stadium. “The fact that it’s never happened before in school history makes it even more exciting.”

The No. 15 Panthers (18-2) know the Illinois State Redbirds (13-5) well. The Redbirds dealt the Panthers one of only two losses this season: a 3-1 defeat on Oct. 23.

The rematch was announced just one day after the Panthers dominated Wright State, 5-1, to win their fourth-straight Horizon League title. The “NCAA Women’s Soccer Tournament Selection Show” streamed live in the UWM Pavilion at 3:30 p.m. Monday, as coaches and athletes from across UWM’s 15 Division I sports teams joined Chancellor Michael R. Lovell and Director of Athletics Rick Costello for the announcement.

There was pizza. A big screen was set up in the room. The crowd listened intently as crosstown rival Marquette received its match-up, but otherwise chatted animatedly throughout the broadcast. Cheering and applause – “I wanted to play them!” shouted one team member – followed the announcement of Milwaukee’s Illinois State game.

Panthers Head Coach Michael Moynihan says the team knows what needs to be done in preparation for Saturday night’s contest.

“Illinois State, for women’s soccer, is a very dynamic team – an attacking team. The first time we played them, they were all over us in the first 10 minutes.”

This week will be spent in intense practice, as Moynihan says the team will focus on shoring up any potential weak spots – being ready to take advantage of conversion opportunities and getting the game off to a very early, very strong start.

“Illinois State has been scoring like crazy,” says Moynihan. “Blowing out teams, good teams, since they beat us.”

“I’m glad we have a week of practice ahead of us,” says Gillaspie.

She’s looking forward to a second chance to defeat the Redbirds, and a history-making opportunity to show a Milwaukee home crowd what NCAA Tournament play looks like.

“We’re hoping to draw a big crowd Saturday. There’s nothing like playing at home.”

Tickets for Saturday’s game may be purchased during regular business hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday in the lobby of the Athletics Pavilion, 3409 N. Downer Ave. For more information, contact the ticket office at (414) 229-5886 or uwmtix@uwm.edu.