One year ago today, Marquette released the 2012 women's soccer schedule. As of yet, we have not seen the 2013 schedule, but that's not going to stop us from taking a look at what Butler, Creighton, and Xavier bring to the table for this fall. These three teams will be providing some of the opposition to Marquette attempting to defend their 2012 Big East championship.
2012 Record: 12-5-4 (5-1-3 Atlantic 10)
2012 Leading Scorer: Freshman Sophia Maccagnone (11G, 2A)
2012 Leading Keeper: Junior Julie Burton (0.69 GAA, .823 SV%)
As you'll see in a few minutes (or right this second if you want to scroll down and then come back up), Butler had the best 2012 season out of the three new squads. This isn't terrific news for the strength of the conference, and to lend a little bit more of an ominous tone, Butler's own recap of their season ending loss to La Salle in the Atlantic 10 semifinals refers to their season as "historic." I read that as "screaming for a regression towards the mean." In any case, the Bulldogs are coming off of a season where they had the fewest losses in program history and allowed the fewest goals in program history as well.
The good news continues for Butler in the form of their leading scorer from last season. Maccagnone finished the season with the fifth most points in the Atlantic 10 and tied for second in goals. Even more impressive was Maccagnone's sense for the dramatic. Six of her team leading 11 goals ended up as game winning tallies for the Bulldogs, which was the most game winning goals by any player in the A10. Maccagnone was named A10 Rookie of the Week on three separate occasions, along with All-A10 Rookie Team honors and added All-A10 First Team spot on top of that. Maccagnone even managed a spot on the A10 All Tournament team, even though she didn't even register a point in the Bulldogs' two tournament matches. The Bulldogs got consistent contributions from youngsters, as two other BU players - keeper Mackenzie Hopkins and midfielder Randi Delong - picked up Rookie Of The Week honors during the season, and sophomore defender Kelly Mahoney was named Player Of The Week once and was named to the All-A10 Second Team.
Continuing with that thread, the Bulldogs were a young team overall. Of the five players to start all 21 of their matches, only one, defender Claire Milam, was a senior. The only other senior to see action in any of BU's games, forward Rachael Melendez, did play in all 21 matches and started 19 of them as well. Milam and Melendez only combined for a goal and an assist by the end of the season. Maccagnone (11), Mahoney (4), and sophomore forward Elise Kotsakis (3) were the only Butler players to find the back of the net on multiple occasions, but there were five other players who tallied goals and eight different Bulldogs registered helpers across the 2012 campaign, led by four from sophomore midfielder Stephanie Kaylor.
Butler is a bit of a mystery at keeper. While Burton finished third in the A10 in goals-against average last season, she only played in one of the Bulldogs' first seven matches and assumed the starting spot after an injury to Hopkins. It's unclear as to what kind of injury Hopkins suffered, so we don't know if she'll be be back in the form that allowed her to post clean sheets in four of the six matches she played in.
2012 Record: 3-13-3 (0-6-0 Missouri Valley)
2012 Leading Scorer: Senior Brittney Neumann (6G, 1A)
2012 Leading Keeper: Senior Katie Jo Swanson (1.56 GAA, .765 SV%)
Losing your leading scorer and a keeper that played every single minute off of a 3-13-3 team is probably not good. Only seven Bluejays played in all 19 contests, and only Swanson started all 19. Although, considering their record, that's probably not terribly surprising. Here's their three wins: South Dakota, South Dakota State, and Nebraska-Omaha. They scored half of their 18 goals on the season in those three games.
Let's try to find some optimism here. Of the 10 Creighton players who registered goals in the 2012 season, only three were seniors, and even better, five were freshmen, including Missouri Valley Conference All Freshman Team honorees midfielder Kaelyn Korte and defender/forward combo Jill Richgels. Korte also made the All-MVC Honorable Mention list, along with juniors Kelsey O'Donnell and Lauren Cigoranelli.
Oh, man, this is a struggle. Let's move on to Xavier.
2012 Record: 6-12-1 (1-8-0 Atlantic 10)
2012 Leading Scorer: Junior Mariah Whitaker (3G, 3A)
2012 Leading Keeper: Sophomore Katie Markesbery (1.60 GAA, .817 SV%)
Oh, man, this isn't much better. At least Creighton played in the MVC, so there aren't that many teams so the Bluejays had to accidentally get mentioned in the conference honors. There's nothing like that for the Musketeers. There's a grand total of zero Musketeers in the top 10 of any important offensive statistic from the Atlantic 10's 2012 season. Markesbery finished tops in the conference in saves, but that's usually a sign of "HOLY CRAP, they allowed a metric ton of shots." To draw a comparison, Markesbery made 134 saves on the season compared to the Big East's 2012 leader, Kristina Utley of Cincinnati, who stopped 125 shots as the Bearcats went 4-13-1.
Here's the good news: They lose just two rotation players of the 13 Musketeers who played in at least 18 of their 19 games. The departing seniors lost are defender Brooke Eberly and D/MF combo Leslie Twehues, although Eberly was second to Twehues in minutes played amongst XU's field players and Eberly's one missed game in 2012 was the only game that the pair had missed in their five combined seasons for the Musketeers.
I don't know how you want to look at the fact that Xavier finished the season on an eight match losing streak. On one hand, they were sitting at 6-4-1 at one point in the season. On the other hand, Big East soccer is probably going to be a tougher time for them than Atlantic 10 soccer was, and all eight of those losses to end the season were in conference play.