Tourney Appearance Better Than A Night For The Seniors
Nov. 9, 2006
by Marty Mishow ~ Southeast Missourian
But Southeast's surprising run to the NCAA tournament has erased any disappointment the team's lone seniors might have felt on Oct. 27 when heavy rain wiped out what was to have been a celebration of their four-year college careers.
"I'll take this one over senior night any time," Wuellner said. Said Huber: "This is definitely a lot better."
Wuellner and Huber will try to extend their careers even further Friday when the Redhawks (10-7-2) play 15th-ranked Illinois (14-7) at 5 p.m. at Hermann Stadium on the campus of St. Louis University.
St. Louis (14-3-2) and Drake (12-5-2) will meet in the other first-round game of the subregional at 7:30 p.m.
Friday's opening-round winners square off at 1 p.m. Sunday for the right to advance in the 64-team tournament.
"What an awesome way to end our careers," Wuellner said. "I couldn't have asked for a better way to end it."
Wuellner, a defender, and Huber, a midfielder, have both been key contributors at Southeast the past four years.
Wuellner, who is from the Chicago area, has started since her freshman season, when she made third-team all-Ohio Valley Conference.
Wuellner was second-team all-OVC this year as the Redhawks won the conference tournament to advance to the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history. She was selected to the OVC's all-tournament team.
Huber, a St. Louis native, contributed off the bench her first two seasons at Southeast before starting much of the last two years.
"This is the ideal way for our two seniors to go out," Southeast coach Heather Nelson said. "And the fact it's in basically their backyard, and the matchup against Illinois, makes it even better."
Wuellner said plenty of her family will make the roughly four-hour drive from the Chicago area to St. Louis for today's game.
In addition, she competed with and against some of the Illinois players during high school and on club teams.
"It's not that far, so I'll have a lot of people there," Wuellner said. "And I know some of the girls who play for Illinois."
For Huber, playing an NCAA tournament game in her hometown was more than she could have anticipated. Ditto for the many other St. Louis-area natives on Southeast's roster.
"I was so pumped when I saw that. Everybody was," she said. "It's amazing."
In addition to contributing on the field for the Redhawks, Wuellner and Huber have excelled in the classroom as Southeast Scholar Athletes and members of the OVC Honor Roll.
"They've been very solid for us and they've also been great young ladies," Nelson said. "I think Jessi has been one of the best pure athletes in the history of our program."
Wuellner and Huber hope to help the Redhawks make even more program history, which would happen if they upset Illinois.
Nelson doesn't think it's out of the question, even though the Illini are a No. 3 seed -- 16 of the 64 teams are seeded -- meaning they are considered among the top 12 squads in the field.
"We know they are a very good team," Nelson said. "But our team has played its best under pressure. I feel like we certainly have an opportunity to have a good result."
Southeast and Illinois have played one time, the Illini winning 2-0 in Cape Girardeau in 2004.
The teams have faced one common opponent this year as both dropped 2-1 decisions at St. Louis.
While Southeast is making its first NCAA tournament appearance, Illinois has qualified six of the past seven years, including four straight. The Illini's best result was reaching the Elite Eight in 2004.