The UE women’s soccer program will host this year’s Missouri Valley Conference championship. Due to a league rule change this year, however, there’s no guarantee the Aces participate in it.
Host schools previously gained automatic entry into the six-team field, which leaves one of the MVC’s seven members out of the three-round, single-elimination tournament. Last year, for instance, Creighton went 0-6 in league play during the regular season but made the field over Missouri State because the tournament site was Omaha, Neb.
Missing the postseason altogether likely isn’t a concern for UE, which returns its top three goal scorers — Stephanie Thompson, Abby Springer and Kayla Smith — as well as goalkeeper Simone Busby from a team that won last year’s regular-season MVC title.
“Not that we need more incentive, but obviously we’ve got to play well in enough in the conference to get a spot in the tournament,” said Aces coach Krista McKendree.
The six-team MVC tournament plays its opening rounds at campus sites before the semifinals move to UE’s Arad McCutchan Stadium on Nov. 8. The championship, broadcast last year by Fox Sports Midwest, will be played Nov. 10.
Although McCutchan Stadium is an aging facility, the Aces have had no problem fielding tournaments there in the past.
UE has hosted the women’s soccer tournament three other times, most recently in 2007, as well as the men’s championship three times and last in 2008. McCutchan Stadium has also been the site of 12 NCAA tournament matches, in all making UE’s soccer stadium home to more postseason matches than any MVC school.
“The athletic department takes care of most of it,” McKendree said. “We’ve done it so often that they’re not reinventing the wheel so to speak. They have a plan and might tweak on it here or there. I don’t want to say it’s not time intensive because the behind-the-scenes work of getting hotels and (awards) banquet stuff takes the most coordination.”
There won’t be much profit for UE in hosting a tournament in a non-revenue sport, but all games in the past were broadcast on the MVC’s “Valley Live” web channel. The championship is a regional TV broadcast.
In addition to the three women’s championship weekend games, McKendree said the men’s soccer program is planning a home game for the weekend too.
“The hope is we can create an environment that will be enjoyable for all teams, not just our team, as well as the local youth organizations and getting people to want to come out and watch high-level soccer for the whole weekend,” she said. “It needs to be something where the teams and players feel like people care and want to support the things that are going on.”