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8.22 Marquette Women's Soccer Preview: Vs. Loyola-Chicago & Vs. Northwestern

FINALLY! It's been nearly four months, but we once again have actual regular season competition to talk about!

Maggie Bean/

Officially, women's soccer is the only team playing real games this weekend.  But men's soccer will be in Fort Wayne, IN, this evening to take on Ohio State in an exhibition match as part of the Shindigz National Soccer Festival.  Following that, they'll be back in Milwaukee on Sunday afternoon to play Wright State in their final exhibition match at 1:30pm.  That match will be right before the women's match that afternoon, so be sure to head down to the Valley early in order to see what Louis Bennett and crew are up to.

Marquette's women's soccer team heads into the season ranked #15 in the country by the NSCAA and #16 by Top Drawer Soccer.  The Golden Eagles were the unanimous choice to win the Big East in the poll of the league coaches, while two players, seniors Mary Luba and Mady Vicker, were named to the preseason all-conference team.  Marquette is looking to win their sixth consecutive regular season Big East title and their third consecutive Big East tournament title this season.

First up on the schedule is the Marquette Invitational.  MU has invited Loyola-Chicago, Northwestern, and Fairleigh Dickenson to Milwaukee for a non-conference schedule tournament, although the Golden Eagles won't play FDU.  Northwestern and FDU will play on Friday at 5pm, while FDU takes on Loyola-Chicago on Sunday at 11am, which will be before that men's exhibition against Wright State.  So yeah, if you like collegiate soccer, Valley Fields is the place to be this weekend.

Match #1: vs Loyola-Chicago (0-0-0)

When: Friday, August 22, at 7:30pm
Where: Valley Fields
Audio/Visual: As introduced last year when the new grandstand opened, there will be FREE LIVE VIDEO streaming from the Valley.  Live stats will be here.
Special Promotions: Kids 13 and under that completed their scorecard at Fan Fest can bring that bad boy with them to receive FREE admission!

The Ramblers had a fairly successful first season in the Missouri Valley Conference, as they replaced Creighton in the MVC.  They finished with an overall record of 6-8-6, including 3-3-0 in MVC games.  It doesn't sound impressive, of course, but they were picked to finish in last place.  Four players that return for 2014 earned all-MVC honors, including three defenders and goalkeeper Monica Gonyo.  One of those three defenders, sophomore Hayley Merrill, was a unanimous selection to the 2014 preseason all-MVC team and the only Rambler on that 11 woman squad.

Gonyo finished last season with a goals-against average of 1.09 and stopped 82% of shots on goal.  Senior Sammy Gage is the leading scorer amongst returning players for Loyola after finishing second on the team with 8 points on four goals in 2013.

The Ramblers tied in both of their exhibition matches.  They drew 1-1 with Eastern Illinois on a goal from Kristen Rodriguez and played SIU-Edwardsville to a scoreless draw.

Match #2: vs Northwestern (0-0-0)

When: Sunday, August 24, at 4:30pm
Where: Valley Fields
Audio/Visual: Free live video streaming, of course, and live stats will be here.
Special Promotions: Are you a freshman at Marquette?  Then the athletic department has a goodie bag of Marquette Soccer stuff to help you get ready to cheer on MU from The Birdcage.

So, uh, Northwestern might not be good at soccer.  They've lost at least 10 games every year since last finishing the year over .500 in 2008, when they were 10-9-1 following a loss in the Big Ten tournament to end the season.  This may just be a function of the Big Ten being kind of top heavy.  For example, there's three Big Ten teams in the NSCAA's preseason top 25 this season.

The Wildcats were picked to finish 13th out of 14 teams in the Big Ten (insert joke here) in the preseason poll of the league's coaches.  Because the Big Ten is a dumb conference that can't do anything like a bunch of normal people, they don't have a preseason all-conference team.  No, instead, they have a 42 player list of "Players To Watch."  This amounts to just the three best players on each team thrown into a massive jumble of nonsense as opposed to anything resembling useful information about the best players in the league.

In any case, at least we have the three players that the Northwestern sports information director tabbed as the three best Wildcats.  Senior defender Jackie Alynovich holds things down on the back line for NU, while they also have two junior midfielders on the list.  Margo McGinty played in 18 of the Wildcats' matches last year while Niki Sebo returns after missing all of 2013 with a knee injury.

Northwestern had four different goalies start at least one match last season, but a majority of the work went to Jenna Hascher.  The sophomore stopped 77% of the shots on frame in 2013 and finished with a goals against average of 1.42 in 16 appearances.  Senior forward Katie Landgrebe had 7 points (3G, 1A) to lead all players returning from last season.