Fresh off making the playoffs for the first time in program history, the North Central women's soccer team faces its toughest test of the season.
The team clinched the fourth and final CCIW playoff spot last week and will travel to Augustana to play the top-seeded Vikings on Wednesday night.
"The idea, especially for this part of the season, you win or go home," Cardinals coach Bonnie Young said. "You have to go into it with that mentality, it's all or nothing."
Despite the numbers there are many positives working in North Central's favor. While they lost the regular-season matchup, the Cardinals' seemed to control the game after the first 10 minutes. The star of that game, just like much of the season, was junior Hope Stayer. The forward who led the team in goals and points throughout the season netted both goals for North Central in its 3-2 loss. Stayer said she believes the team can build off of their momentum and be a real threat to win the program's first playoff game.
"This year when we came back, it showed that we can defeat them," Stayer said of Augustana. "We are the same skill level as them, our team will come out with a lot more confidence this time."
Augustana's defense could be the key to the game for North Central. Stayer said last game the defense gave her space to work, something she said she prefers.
The team's confidence in Stayer is always high, Young said, but for North Central to pull off the upset both player and coach know they will need a team effort.
Benedictine: After earning a share of the Northern Athletics Conference championship last week, the Benedictine women's volleyball team rolled through its first opponent in the conference tournament Tuesday night. With the No. 2 seed in the tournament, the Eagles took down Wisconsin Lutheran 3-0, moving on to a semifinal matchup against Dominican.
The ability to set up its defense was key, coach Jennifer Wildes said.
With their defense in place, the Eagles controlled the pace of the game, something they had talked about before the game, Wildes said. The team was led by the net presence of Candice Cuppini and Nicole Adams. The two combined for 21 kills and 6 blocks.
Wildes said the team's focus has already moved on to Thursday's game against Dominican, but that's as far as they would look. The Eagles' only conference loss came to top-seeded Edgewood, but with the possible rematch looming there can be no distractions for Benedictine.
For continued success Wildes said the team needs to focus on playing the same style that got it this far.
"We have to play to our strengths," Wildes said. "The last time we played Dominican it was a great match. We need to keep doing what we have done to get us to this point."