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Middle Tennessee To Face Arkansas State In SBC Soccer Championships

November 2, 2004 · MT Media Relations
MIAMI - Middle Tennessee will open play in the Aeropostale Sun Belt Belt Soccer Championships in a different position than it is accustomed Wednesday morning - as the No. 1 seed.

The Blue Raiders (12-4-1) will face No. 8 seed Arkansas State (5-13-1) at Florida International's University Park Wednesday at 9 a.m., looking for only its second win ever in the SBC Championships, but this year's squad believes it has the makings to do what no other Middle Tennessee team has ever done - win the league's automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.

"We are playing with a great deal of confidence right now and we know what our mission is," said Blue Raider senior forward Deb Brereton, who was named the SBC Player of the Week for the third time Monday. "We are not a cocky team, just a confident one, but you have to have confidence. We also realize that all eight teams enter the tournament with the same goal of reaching the NCAA Tournament."

Middle Tennessee beat Arkansas State, 9-0, in the regular-season meeting, but that was almost four weeks ago and the Lady Indians have shown improvement since that match. Blue Raider coach Aston Rhoden believes this year's tournament is wide open and any one of the eight teams could win the title.

"I think this is one of those seasons where the league is balanced and the tournament is wide open," Rhoden said. "I think our opponent, Arkansas State, is a very dangerous opponent. They have several good players and this game, by no means, will be easy for us. I like the way our team is playing but we also know we have to go play the game because no one gives you anything."

Middle Tennessee enters the tournament with an eight-game unbeaten streak, going 7-0-1 during that stretch, and it has won three straight overall since ending in a 0-0 draw at North Texas, Oct. 17

Brereton, who is No. 9 nationally in points per game at 2.36 and No. 14 in goals per game (0.93), leads the high-powered Blue Raider offense, which is No. 2 nationally in scoring, while senior forward Laura Miguez has furnished nine assists and five goals. The Blue Raiders have allowed just six goals during their eight-game unbeaten stretch, a credit to freshman keeper Jenny Manis and the strong defense provided by Jessica Northcutt, Sara Wohlhueter, Halley Dawe and Katy Rayburn.

Starting midfielders Claire Ward, Lisa-Marie Woods, Kaley Forrest and Holly Grogan also have been solid during the duration of the season.

Other first-round matches Wednesday, include No. 5 Western Kentucky against No. 4 Florida International; No. 7 South Alabama against No. 2 North Texas; and No. 6 UL-Lafayette against three-time defending champion Denver, the No. 3 seed.

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