It's not overstating things to say that this season can turn on this weekend trip to the East Coast. Marquette currently sits in a four way tie for third place in the Big East. As things tend to go with just two games played, everyone in the league is either 2-0 (Louisville & Connecticut), 0-2 (Rutgers & Cincinnati) or 1-1 (everyone else). With a seven game league schedule, we'll be through the midway point of the slate by Sunday night, and we might be able to start to figure things out about the Big East tournament. The top four teams will qualify for the event hosted by Georgetown on the first weekend of May, and with one win already in the books, Marquette is still very clearly still in the running for one of those slots.
For that to happen, Marquette has to have their offense and defense moving in the same direction. Last Saturday, Marquette went scoreless for the final 32:40 against Georgetown while the Hoyas scored seven unanswered goals in the second half. While the offense sputtered and was outshot 19-2, goalie Sarah Priem was a whirling dervish, tying a career high with 14 saves and eight ground balls. Marquette's offense on average has been better than it was last year, with both sophomore Claire Costanza and freshman Amanda Bochniak on pace to surpass Costanza's single season points record from last season. By the time the weekend is over, Hayley Baas could be Marquette's new single season goal scoring record holder, as the sophomore has 19 on the season already, slotting her just five behind classmate Kenzie Brown's 24 from last season.
Game 1: at Rutgers (6-6, 0-2 Big East)
When: Friday, April 11, 2014, at 4pm Central
Where: High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway, NJ
Audio/Visual: We've got FREE STREAMING VIDEO, and you can add some live stats to your fun.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWLax
So here's the deal: Rutgers is either losing control of their matches or they've changed how they're playing. Through their first nine games, only four of the 18 goal totals by either the Scarlet Knights or their opponents had hit the 10 goal plateau. In their last three games, both teams have cleared the 10 goal hurdle. Not surprisingly, Rutgers has lost two of those three games. Now, in their defense, one of the losses was to first place Connecticut in overtime, but this kind of goal scoring pace is not typical for the Knights over the last two seasons.
The good news for Rutgers is that even with the increased number of goals being given up, freshman goalie Amanda Currell is still the best netminder in the Big East. She leads the league in both goals-against average (9.37) and save percentage (.494). On the other side of the field, Rutgers has five players with at least 10 goals on the season, led by 16 from Lauren Sbrilli. The junior midfielder also leads the team in points with 20, but the important thing to note is the depth of the Scarlet Knights' scoring. The next three players on the stat sheet all have 13 goals and 4 assists for a total of 20 points, so it's a multifaceted attack. Junior defender Hollie DiMuro leads RU in ground balls with 20 on the season, and senior attacker Megan Clements has a team high 18 draw controls.
Game 2: at Connecticut (7-4, 2-0 Big East)
When: Sunday, April 13, 2014, at 11am Central
Where: Sherman Family Sports Complex in Storrs, CT
Audio/Visual: The Huskies are going to make you pay for video, but live stats are free.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWLax
The Huskies opened up 1-4 on the season. Now they've won six straight, including their first two Big East games. You can't even blame them for starting out 1-4, because they spent the non-conference section of the schedule testing themselves. Testing themselves was the right choice, as they were entering the season with what appeared to be the best goalie in the conference and either the best defensive player or the best offensive player in the Big East, depending on your perspective.
In any case, Shannon Nee (9.96 GAA, .456 SV%) has won three Defensive Player of the Week awards from the Big East for her goalkeeping, while Lauren Kahn has been on the Weekly Honor Roll four times this season, just one behind Louisville's Kaylin Morissette for the most in the league this season. Kahn was on this past week's Honor Roll for her hat trick against Rutgers, including the overtime game winner. While Kahn's shooting and passing has her atop the Huskies' points list this season, it's actually sophomore Katherine Finkelston that leads UConn in goals with 27, just three more than Kahn. Nee and Kahn are the top two on the squad in ground balls with 21 and 29 respectively, while Kacey Pippit has 35 draw controls on the year, two more than Kahn.