The No. 3-seeded Harper College women's soccer team travels to Joliet on Tuesday to take on No. 2 seed Joliet Junior College in Region IV tournament play at 3 p.m.
"Joliet is the toughest team in the region for us to play against," said Harper coach Dwayne Cruz.
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The Wolves won both conference games between the teams this season, 4-2 and 6-0.
But a pair of Harper attackers, freshman forward Mitshi Ishioka and midfield/forward Weslie Iza (Fremd), missed the first game in August. And another former Fremd field player, sophomore midfielder Bree Nishibun, will be back from injury for this contest.
In the 6-0 loss, the Hawks (4-10) were also without goalie Monica Hinderer. Having his starting keeper in the lineup helps put Cruz's mind at ease.
"I'm really confident in Monica," he said.
The Wolves' defense should be prepared to see a lot of long balls served up top as Harper tries to put pressure on Joliet's back line.
Joliet, meanwhile, fields a very talented attacking group with an abundance of speed.
Cruz has faith in his own backline, led by Devan Swank, but is wary of all that Joliet athleticism.
"If we make a mistake (defensively)," said Cruz, "they could hurt us."
Caila Bender (Hoffman Estates) and Nishibun will be counted on to lead the Harper attack.
"I think (we) have four of the best forwards in the region," said Cruz. "If our forwards do their job we will beat anybody."
The winner advances to Saturday's NJCAA Region IV championship game against either Triton College or the tournament's top seed, College of DuPage.