Marquette women's soccer starts their path to a fifth straight regular season Big East title and second straight Big East tournament title this weekend in Oregon. The Golden Eagles are ranked #14 in the country by Top Drawer Soccer, #14 by the NSCAA, and #13 by Soccer America. MU was the Big East coaches' choice to win the league, while Maegan Kelly, Taylor Madigan, and Emily Jacobson were all named to the preseason all-conference team. Kelly led the team in scoring last year with 29 points on eight goals and 13 assists, while Madigan had the team lead in goals with nine. Sophomore Amanda Engel is the likely starter in net tonight after starting MU's last 17 games in the 2012 season, posting a goals against average of 0.42 and a save percentage of .840.
Marquette is looking to wash the taste of a 5-1 exhibition loss to Wisconsin out of their mouths with the opening weekend trip to Portland. With that said, the box score that Wisconsin posted shows six freshman making their debuts in a MU kit and a total of eight players who didn't play in the 2012 postseason seeing action for the Golden Eagles. In addition to that, 2012 regulars Mary Luba and Elizabeth Bollinger didn't see the pitch. It's almost a given that head coach Markus Roeders will tighten up his rotations now that the games count, but it remains to be seen what changes he will make.
Game 1: At #20/22 University of Portland Pilots (0-0)
This is quite the opening test for the Golden Eagles. The Pilots finished 2012 with a record of 11-5-5 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament for the thirteenth (!) consecutive season. They lost just three players off that team, although one of them was Kendall Johnson, the West Coast Conference's Defender Of The Year. On top of that, Merlo Field seats over 4,800 people, and the Pilots drew over 4,000 people on four occasions last year, including their opener against #4 North Carolina. I think it's a safe bet that this opener between two ranked teams might do pretty good at the ticket office as well.
Portland returns three players named to the all-WCC first and second teams in 2012, including the conference's leading scorer, Amanda Frisbie, and nine starters overall. In an odd change, Frisbie has made the switch to playing defense this year. Even with the alteration, Frisbie was still named to the WCC preseason all conference team along with defensive minded midfielder Michelle Cruz. Somehow I get the impression that the Pilots might be hard to score against.
Their recruiting class is in tip top shape as well, as they add a US Women's National U-20 Team member and two players from the USWNT U-18 team. We can expect to see senior goalkeeper Erin Dees in net for the Pilots after posting a goals-against average of 1.22 in 2012.
Game 2: At Portland State Vikings (0-0)
Portland State is a bit of a question mark. The Vikings won their third Big Sky regular season title in four years in 2012, but they lost seven starters from that team, including their top four goal scorers. PSU is left with just seven juniors and seniors combined on the roster with 20 freshmen and sophomores. With that said, Portland State is a co-favorite to win the Big Sky again this season, tying with Idaho State in the coaches' polling, even though ISU earned four first place votes and PSU had just one.
Cory Bianchini is the leading returning scorer for the Vikings with three goals and an assist in 2012. This match will be their home opener after a roadie against Oregon to open the season tonight, so we'll have an idea who PSU wants to go with in net between two redshirt sophomores, Caitlin Plese and Angela Haluska. They played an exhibition match against Portland back on August 17th, falling 1-0 after a 73rd minute goal by UP freshman Danica Evans.