After a productively slow offensive season, the Boilermakers finished in eighth place in the Big Ten Conference and will play No. 1 seed University of Wisconsin on Sunday in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.
"There's definitely a fire," said sophomore goalie Marisa Bova, who thinks the team is being overlooked. "In the beginning of the year, we obviously strive to be top four, but how we did in conference didn't give us that spot. We're ready to bring it against Wisconsin and show that we deserve to be there."
The Boilermakers (7-8-3, 3-6-2 Big Ten) have seen Wisconsin (14-2-2, 10-0-1 Big Ten) once before and lost by only one goal.
"They're a very well balanced team," head coach Drew Roff said. "Out here, we played them tough, and it was a very competitive game. It'll be fun to see how we stack up. A chance at a team that beat you earlier in the season is always something you look forward to."
The Boilermakers are certainly looking forward to this matchup, as well as other potential revenge games that could take place in this bracket. While the Boilers could end up playing Iowa in the second round, a team that they have already defeated, every other team in the tournament has prevailed over the Boilermakers. The margin, though, has never been more than one goal.
"A lot of teams are very similar talent-wise, and every team is disciplined," Roff said. "It's about showing up on a particular day, and it usually comes down to a couple moments here or there."
Purdue let up only one goal to both Wisconsin and second-seed Rutgers, the latter being in overtime. While the defense continually keeps the team in games, the Boilermaker offense has been less than efficient.
“We went on a scoring drought midway though the Big Ten season," Roff said. “We still don’t have a veteran-dominated team, so I figured there’d still be some growing pains, and that is what happened.”
After a 2-1 loss to Michigan in September, the Boilermakers went two weeks without scoring a goal. After finally scoring in a 2-1 loss to fourth-seed Penn State, it was almost another two weeks before they secured their third and final Big Ten victory over Indiana on Sunday. Even with such a stagnant offense, the Boilermakers have stayed in every game thanks to the defensive core and most noticeably, Bova.
“There’s definitely pressure," Bova said on playing for such a defense-reliant team. "If I make a mistake, it ends in a goal, but if another position makes a mistake, it doesn't always end up like that.”
Bova is not too worried though and has faith in the Boiler back line.
“I have great players in front of me. That might take that pressure off," Bova said.
That back line consists of sophomore defenders Julia Ware, Grace Walsh and Skylurr Patrick, and freshman Sydney Sparks.
"I think everyone's gonna bring it," Bova said. "Each one of them brings something different."
With the defense continuing to play well, it is only a matter of time before the offense clicks.
"We know what we've got to do," Bova said. “I think the opportunities going forward in the attack are gonna come.”
Roff remains confident in the offense's ability to deliver.
“I’ve seen some definite improvements in how they play together," Roff said. "We belong in the top eight, and now we have an opportunity to make some noise in the tournament, and it's a great challenge.”