DePaul Ready for its Moment on the NCAA Tournament Stage
Nov. 15, 2013
CHICAGO - Whether it was the karma from Ashleigh Goddard's relentless RPI calculations of the NCAA tournament field or Kylie Nordness seemingly in the middle of every dangerous situation or sophomore Alex Godinez's fairy-tale season---the moment is here.
After patiently assembling the pieces and staying true to the process of building a winning program, coach Erin Chastain will lead the DePaul Blue Demons (13-5-2) onto the Armstrong Stadium pitch Saturday night for their NCAA tournament opener at Indiana (14-6-1).
When the whistle is blown at 7 p.m. Eastern Time, the best defense in the BIG EAST Conference will look to stymie a Hoosiers attack that set a school record outscoring opponents 42-27 and features Lisa Nouanesengsy with 11 goals along with Rebecca Candler and Abby Smith with five goals and eight assists apiece.
Way back in August, six DePaul seniors told Chastain they were going to make this a memorable run and that they wanted to leave behind a lasting legacy for others to match and one day surpass. They wanted to leave an indelible mark in the history of women's soccer in Lincoln Park.
The moment is now, as a successful result in Bloomington, Ind. will be the first NCAA Championship victory in program history.
After winning the Conference USA title, the 2003 Blue Demons came up short in a 2-1 loss against Purdue in their NCAA opener.
Keeping the zero has been the hallmark of DePaul soccer this season as BIG EAST Goalkeeper of the Year Alejandria Godinez has tied a school record with nine shutouts. While she gets the stat, everyone else also deserves a pat on the back.
"It's great to have a team with a defensive mentality at all times," said Nordness, an All-BIG EAST First Team defender. "The higher up on the field you start defending, the better chance you have to create an attack.
"If you win high on the field, then you can go at their defenders. You put your team in a good spot to get a goal or make a dangerous play.
"If one or two players are not doing their job defending anywhere on the field, the other team is just going to be coming at us. That's why it takes a whole team to play defense like we do."
There have been times when Rebekah Roller was seemingly on her last legs when an opposing player began making a run. The thought of letting down her teammates would ignite one more adrenaline rush.
"There are times in a game when midfielders like me, Amber Paul, Ash (Goddard) or Gini Yost are dead-tired," Roller said. "I don't know if I can make the sprint when someone is making a run at our back line. Ash and I and whoever is in there with us will look at one another---`OK, I'm going to do this for you.'
"All I wanted this year was to take this DePaul team to the NCAA tournament, and now I couldn't be any happier."
When Goddard arrived at DePaul from London four years ago, she knew nothing about the NCAA.
"My first year, I realized how big the NCAA is and I've wanted to be in the tournament ever since," Goddard said. "The last two years I've been a bit obsessive about RPI.
"This year, the lower our RPI got, the more obsessed I got. I started calculating other teams and what we had to do each week.
"Every Monday at 5 p.m. when I got to my job at Triple-A (Athletics Academic Advising), I'd check our RPI and text everyone."
Godinez has gone from back-up to best in the BIG EAST in a season that has the feel of Hollywood.
There was understandable concern when standout junior keeper Megan Pyrz went down with a season-ending injury in the preseason. Godinez had played in all of five games in her freshman season.
Earlier in the season, Godinez led the nation in save percentage and she comes into the Indiana match No. 2 in save percentage, No. 9 in saves and No. 26 in goals-against average.
All of that means nothing when you gets beat on a play. That happened in last week's 1-0 BIG EAST Championship semifinal win at Georgetown.
"At the Georgetown BIG EAST semifinal, their forward shot the ball past me," Godinez said. "I looked over and froze up. It was past me and headed right to the goal.
"Then I saw Rachel Pitman's foot come up above her head and stop the shot. Somebody is always there to cover your back."
The Blue Demons unleashed a loud roar at the BIG EAST Awards Banquet when Godinez's name was called.
"She is so invested in our team and in every single person on the team," Chastain said. "She is such a humble kid and gets along with everybody.
"You could tell from our team's reaction how happy everyone was when Alex won the BIG EAST Goalkeeper of the Year award and how endearing she is to this team."
The moment has come for DePaul to make a little more history.
"We have a wonderful foundation of kids who all follow the leadership of the seniors," Chastain said. "We have players in pre-med, education, those who want to coach---and they will all be so well-prepared. They all want to achieve.
"I'm so proud of where the program was and where it's come. Every year, it seems like we continue to grow. Everything is a process, and you can't skip steps. You have to be patient with the process.
"We're following the lead of women's basketball and softball---two amazing programs with a ton of NCAA tournament success. We are finally on board with them and hopefully some other programs at DePaul will follow us."
Just as Chastain is ready to emulate the NCAA success of women's basketball coach Doug Bruno and softball coach Eugene Lenti.
"I think the critics are saying we're not supposed to win on Saturday," Chastain said. "Our team has a nice underdog mentality. I think they will rise to the occasion."