For the fourth straight year, there will be soccer in November at Ashland University.
The No. 2-seed AU women's soccer team will welcome No 7-seed Walsh to Ferguson Field on Tuesday (Nov. 1) at 3 p.m. in the quarterfinals of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament.
"I like our matchup," said Ashland head coach Danny Krispinsky. "But that doesn't make it any easier of a game. It was a heck of a game the first time we played them. And I think it's going to be a close game the entire way again."
In their only meeting this season on Sept. 25, the Eagles (10-2-4 overall, 7-2-2 GLIAC) beat the Cavaliers (9-5-4, 4-4-3), 3-2, in comeback fashion. Ashland went into halftime down 2-0 and scored three unanswered goals in the second half to win the match. It was the second time the Eagles had come back from down two goals to win a game since Krispinsky took over in 2013.
"That game was a learning tool for sure," Krispinsky said. "We realized things that we did well and things that we didn't do well. I'm sure it's something they're going to learn from as well and make adjustments just like we have. We have to play our game. We have to be in an attack mindset."
If Ashland defeats Walsh, it will play the winner of No. 3-seed Michigan Tech (6-2-3, 10-3-3) and No. 6-seed Ferris State (4-3-4, 6-7-4) on Friday (Nov. 4). During the regular season, the Eagles beat the Huskies, 2-0, on Oct. 21 in Houghton, Mich., and tied the Bulldogs in a scoreless effort in Big Rapids, Mich., on Sept. 30.
"It's not going to do us any good right now looking ahead," Krispinsky said. "We know what it would look like if we advance, but right now we're focused on Walsh because that's really all we're guaranteed. It's tournament time. Every team you're going to face is a good quality team."
The Eagles have won at least one GLIAC Tournament game in each of the past three seasons, making it to the semifinals in 2013 and 2014, and making it to the finals last season. Grand Valley State has won every GLIAC women's soccer tournament since it began in 2007, but Ashland was crowned regular-season champion from 1997-2004.
"All eight teams in the tournament are deserving," Krispinsky said. "And each team poses a different problem. With Grand Valley, they pose a whole different set of problems for everybody. But we've played them quite a few times over the last couple years, and I think what we can do is learn from those experiences if we're able to face them again."
In the event that the Eagles win and No. 1-seed Grand Valley State (16-1-1, 11-0) loses to No. 8-seed Northern Michigan (4-9-4, 3-4-4) in that quarterfinal matchup, Ashland will host the semifinals and the championship game, which takes place on Sunday (Nov. 6). No. 4-seed Ohio Dominican (6-6-5, 5-3-3) and No. 5 seed Northwood (8-7-1, 5-5-1) complete the GLIAC Tournament quarterfinal field.
"I think something that this team has that the previous teams I've coached haven't had is that experience in a tournament setting," Krispinsky said. "Of course last year, we made it to the finals. So we know what it takes."
The Eagles have recorded 10 shutouts in 2016, their most since 2004. And they've also got their hearts set on doing something else for the first time since 2004 - making the NCAA playoffs.
"This tournament is going to have everything to do with our playoff chances," Krispinsky said. "The committee is going to look at how teams are performing at the end of the year."
In the first two Midwest Region rankings, which were released on Oct. 19 and Wednesday (Oct. 26), Ashland came in at No. 5 and No. 4, respectively. The final poll is released Wednesday (Nov. 2), and the official NCAA playoffs selection show is Nov. 7. The top six teams in the region make the playoffs.
"The most important thing is focusing on Tuesday and taking care of business," Krispinsky said. "The NCAA tournament will take care of itself if we continue to focus on each game that we have ahead of us."