"We're obviously excited to be able to host one of the best conferences in the country, I would say, and this conference championship. By being able to play against Penn State it's actually a tremendous opportunity for our players to play one of the best teams in the country. They're on a power rating index that is about fourth in the country, Penn State is. They're led by just a great All-American senior midfielder Joanna Lohman, who is really a key to their game and one of their inspirational leaders. So our game plan is kind of funny in that we need to, against a great team like this, sort of absorb, pack it in, withdraw in, and then whack it out and then counter attack. It's kind of a neat environment for our players to get in and that's what we have to do to win the game. We can't go out and play a team of this caliber straight up. When you're trying to win a championship that's how we have to play. And last year, what gives us all the incentive in the world, is that Illinois matched up against Penn State in the first round of the Big Tens, and we were there and we watched Illinois beat them after going down 3-0. Also in our conference just this last Wednesday Michigan beat Notre Dame, who was undefeated this year. Those are very inspirational kind of things that happen in women's soccer. It's interesting with our team this year, we're certainly led by out senior captains. Jenny Kundert is our leading goal-scorer this year with seven goals, but we've really kind of been led some what by some younger kids. One of our top players this year is Kara Kabellis from Illinois that's one of our center key midfielders. Her matched up with Molly Meuer in the center midfield as our captain has really made us an improved team. We've really finished strong this year. I don't know against Penn State if it will put us in a tournament, certainly if we win it I would guarantee the selection committee would put us into the NCAAs. At this point in time four teams in the Big Ten—Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan State and Michigan—all have four wins. Last year they selected six teams to the tournament, so we're sort of in this on the bubble right now. Obviously a win would be tremendous for our kids, but what were all about is the mentality of this game knowing that we can beat Penn State. Purdue beat Penn State this year and it has obviously been done so handle a little bit of their direct play, their physical play, and much like the game of basketball we have to work the clock in this one. We have to frustrate and slow things up so any time there is goal kick, were going to take an extra 10 seconds. We're going to score first and that will add to the frustration, so that's kind of a neat thing is to be able to host this team of this caliber. And really the other teams looking to win it outright I think are Purdue and Illinois have the next two chances I think to kind of come through. Illinois hosts Michigan State in the first game at 10:30 (a.m.) on Thursday. Purdue will play Indiana and I think one of those two teams will meet us in the final. That's our plan."
Coach, you've obviously won your last three games, including that big win against Minnesota to get you in the tournament. Do you feel like your carrying a lot of momentum into here, perhaps playing the best you've played all year?
"Well, we sort of repeated that last year too. Momentum at the end of a season is real critical. Making sure that we're playing to our strengths and you use all that other time to prepare what you feel are getting the players in the right positions. Ever since we've moved Molly Meuer up out of a defensive centerback role and put her into the center of midfield…she's a warrior and she has helped us in that key area of the field. Another kid, Jess Ring steps into the back and becomes one of the key players in our team right now. That helps at the end of a season and that helps our kids' confidence going into these last couple of games, there's not doubt about that. Plus scoring some goals and winning some games always helps."
Where does Jenny Kundert rank among the players you've had and how good could she have been if she hadn't been injured several times?
"I think that with those kind of injuries slowing her down
it has definitely hurt our team this year. Without having Amy Vermeulen as
another player in our goal-scoring machine somewhat has slowed Jenny down a
little, because they play off each other so well. Jenny, this season in
particular because of the injuries and just the slowness of her thigh coming
back, she hasn't been able to what I would say she showed earlier in her career,
which is just to be two and three and slam it in the back of the net. Against
Kansas she showed she can do that. Against Northwestern she scored a great free
kick game-winner. She just hasn't been able to do really what she specializes in
which is 1 v 1 play. Partly, because people know about her so it's usually 1 v
2, but she's helped lead us in a little bit of other ways and just kind of
emotionally she helps pick the team up and she's a fierce competitor.
Fortunately some other kids have picked it up, Katie Lindenmuth and Kara
Kabellis, a sophomore and a freshman, have kind of fed off of what we needed to
do as far as the team and actually Molly Meuer as well. Kundert's one of the top
players in the Big Ten and she still is."