Lady Buffs aim for berth in regional final

By Michelle Pope
STAR STAFF
mpope@starhq.com

   The Lady Buffs' soccer team definitely has the ball rolling this season. After winning the AAC Conference Tournament, they plowed through the regional quarterfinal with a win over Tennessee Wesleyan, and are now at Bethel College in McKenzie, TN to try to kick through the semifinal and final championship rounds.
   If the Milligan ladies are able to turn aside the 7th nationally ranked Bethel today, they will match wits with Union College and Virginia Intermont Saturday in a battle to see who will advance to the NAIA national championship in California.
   Head women's soccer coach David Dixon is hoping for the best. "Coming off of the conference championship last week, we played really well."
   The way the regional tournament is set up, the Lady Buffs will have a chance to play the teams that have beaten them in the regular season. "We'll have a chance to right that wrong," Dixon said.
   Will the fact that the Lady Buffs are facing opponents that have trampled their spirits once be a deterrent or an advantage? Dixon is optimistic that it will be an advantage to Milligan.
   "It can work both ways," he said Thursday night. "In some ways it will make them (the opponent) relax, and on the reverse, it gets us to dig down deep and make a comeback."
   "I tell the girls that in the playoffs, everyone is 0-0. It's a great momentum builder - the fact that we go after teams that have beaten us," he added.
   The Lady Buffs' coach knows that the battle will not be an easy one. The Milligan girls are coming straight out of the regional championship with only two days of rest before the trip to the semifinals. Bethel, on the other hand, has had an entire week to prepare both physically and mentally.
   "They have a good team," Dixon said. "They have dangerous players in the attack." However, he feels that the fact that they just beat Tennessee Wesleyan, the only team they have lost to in the last six games of the regular season, will prove to be an advantage. "It's given them confidence."
   If Milligan wins all three games this weekend, they'll have to leave almost immediately for the national championship which will take place on Nov. 19.
   "We won't have much turnaround," Dixon said. "The winner this weekend will have to get on a plane to California. They'll have a day of travel and two days of practice, but everyone will be in the same situation except the host team."
   Whatever this weekend's outcome may be, Dixon is pleased with the way the season has gone. "This has been a great run," he said. "We've struggled with injuries and played a super tough schedule."