Three Questions For Women's Lacrosse

Lauren Hooker scored 3 goals in 4 games before missing the rest of 2013 due to injury. Can she provide that pop for Marquette as a redshirt freshman? - Maggie Casey/MarquetteImages.com

Women's lacrosse starts their season on Saturday on a road trip to face a very good Johns Hopkins team. Let's take a look at three questions about this year's squad.

1. Was Lauren Hooker that important?

Last year, Lauren Hooker played in Marquette first four games, starting two of them. She recorded three goals, with two of them coming in Marquette's first game in program history. She missed the rest of the season due to a leg injury.

Marquette's record with Lauren Hooker in the lineup: 2-2.

Marquette's record without Lauren Hooker in the lineup: 0-13.

Is this a gross oversimplification of things? Ok, maybe. Marquette's schedule got really tough really fast after those first four games. MU went on a three game west coast swing during Spring Break, and played a full Big East schedule which included games against six opponents that were ranked at the time of the game, including the last five games of the season. Odds are Marquette was going to lose those games, regardless of who took the field.

But #19 Rutgers barely escaped Valley Fields with a 9-4 win, and #8 Georgetown led by just four goals with 10 minutes to play in a 13-7 victory in the Valley. Young teams like Marquette sometimes don't have a lot of depth. Losing a talented scorer like Hooker can create a major hole in the lineup, and who can say what might have happened in those two contests had Hooker been available. We'll see if she can bounce back to form this season.

2. Can Claire Costanza do it again?

In my attempts to predict the Big East women's lacrosse awards, I promoted the inclusion of Marquette's Claire Costanza for the preseason all-conference team. The diminuitive attacker finished third in assists per game last year amongst players on teams that returned to the Big East this season. Let's say that again: A freshman on a first year program averaged more assists per game than all but two players on the rosters of Cincinnati, Connecticut, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Rutgers, and Villanova.

Heck, you can even make a case that Marquette should have won a third game last season. Costanza was disqualified in Marquette's first ever home game because she picked up her second yellow card with 14 minutes remaining. At the time that she was sent off, Marquette trailed Duquesne 9-7 and had scored the last two goals to make things interesting. The Dukes ended up with an 11-7 win, but with a talented passer like Costanza on the field, it seems that MU could have pulled off the comeback win.

In the second year of the program, other teams are going to be aware of what Costanza can do, especially with 14 repeat opponents on the schedule. Can she still be productive on offense with a target on her back?

3. How many wins are on the schedule?

Unlike men's lacrosse, women's lacrosse struggled in their first season of Division 1 action. Part of that was playing a full Big East schedule that had six ranked teams out of nine games, part of that was just being a brand new program. But the good news is that while we have to be prepared for men's lacrosse struggling to hit five wins again, it's certainly reasonable to think that head coach Meredith Black can win more games in her second season at the helm.

So, let's take a look at what we have then. Returning to the schedule from last season are both of the teams that MU defeated last year, Coastal Carolina and Detroit. The locations flip this year, with Marquette traveling to face the Titans and hosting the Chanticleers. It would seem to me that both are possibilities for wins again this year.

Also returning to the slate is fellow second year program Winthrop (a 17-7 loss in MU's first ever game), Duquesne (an 11-7 loss in MU's first ever home game), Harvard (an 18-4 loss in horribly frigid and windy conditions in the Valley) and USC (a 12-9 loss in So Cal). Of those four games, only Harvard is a road match. Harvard might be a strong test for MU again this year, and it's hard to tell if the loss to Winthrop had more to do with the Eagles being really good or Marquette going through their first ever game. Looking at the surface of it, MU definitely has a good chance to beat Duquesne and USC.

As far as Big East games go, that could be a long road to the end of the season. Yes, Syracuse, Notre Dame, and Loyola are all gone from the league now, but MU still went winless against their new conference mates last year, and the Irish remain on the schedule as a non-conference opponent. The Big East preseason poll doesn't put a lot of faith into the abilities of Cincinnati, so perhaps there's a chance for a win there. Marquette did have some success against the Bearcats in the exhibition schedule last fall, but they did also lose to UC by a final score of 14-5 last season. That match was in Cincinnati, and the return bout will be in Milwaukee this spring.

The chances to improve on last year's win total are in the schedule. It'll be up to Coach Black and her staff to find a way to draw the wins out of their team.

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