By Will Kennedy
Women’s soccer looked every bit the No. 3-ranked team in the nation last Tuesday as they steamrolled visiting Augsburg College 3-0 in the MIAC playoff semi-finals. The Scots will follow the proud tradition of many previous many Mac teams as they advance to tomorrow’s conference playoff title game, a rematch of last year’s championship against Concordia-Moorhead. However, this year, the Scots have already established a unique legacy by accomplishing something that none of their predecessors could: an undefeated regular season. Not even Macalester’s 1998 National Championship team, 23-1-0, could boast that feat. This news has Macalester fans and players thinking about a return to the national title. Macalester gave more credence to those thoughts with their playoff win on Tuesday, which likely guaranteed another NCAA tournament berth, regardless of Saturday’s outcome. More than that, said head coach John Leaney, the victory gave the Scots a little revenge. Entering the playoffs at 17-0-1, Macalester was well aware that their undefeated season was not flawless. Earlier this year, the Scots picked up a single tie game, in an away match at Augsburg.Mac’s dominating 3-0 performance against the Auggies wrapped up that episode neatly.With the victory “we avenged the only blemish on our almost perfect record,” Leaney said.True, the record is not quite perfect, but the Scots unbeaten season has nevertheless been a marvel to watch. In addition to defeating every team in the conference, Macalester has knocked off some of the country’s top schools, including defending national champion Wheaton College in a home field, 2-1 thriller.After beating a tough Trinity College opponent over Fall Break in San Antonio, the Scots themselves began to believe that they were the real deal, said veteran striker Katie Pastorius ’06. “We just really came together this year,” she said.Pastorius gives a lot of the team’s credit to the defense, but the Scots have been firing on all cylinders. Mac allowed only six goals all year, rating as the MIAC’s top defense, and is second in offense only to Concordia, tomorrow’s opponent. However, in the teams’ first meeting, it was the Scots who had the offensive fireworks, lighting up the Cobbers for a 5-1 victory. On paper and in the polls, the Scots appear to have the best shot at a national title since the team from 1998. Despite that similarity, Coach Leaney said, Mac’s NCAA campaign will not share many things with their champion forerunners. “They’re two very different squads,” he said. “[The 1998] team had a very stable lineup, but this year we have to switch a lot of players to cover for our weaknesses.” Frequent position shifts have meant that several Mac players lack consistent experience in any one place, Leaney added. However, the versatility that comes from this scenario does give Mac at least one advantage. “There’s no way for other teams to scout us,” Leaney said.Seven years ago Macalester entered the NCAA tournament-after burying virtually every opponent-as the No. 1 seed and a favorite to win the tournament. This year, despite their top ranking, the Scots have not established quite the same reputation. Despite the difference, Pastorius says that she and her teammates will not live in their predecessor’s shadow. “We plan on winning seven straight games,” she said. “We want to have a better record than the ’98 team.” With a win on Saturday Mac would likely find themselves among the nation’s elite awaiting a first round bye in the NCAA tournament. Coach Leaney seems pleased with the expectations the players have placed on themselves, however he is not taking anything for granted. “My job is to make sure we don’t look past the next game, he said. “After Saturday it’s win or go home.