As the starting lineups were introduced on Sunday afternoon, I came to the realization that Villanova had five field players and two keepers on their bench and available for this match. Meanwhile, on the western bench, Marquette had the full complement of players on their roster dressed and ready to go. It became apparent that if Marquette got an early goal, they were going to be able to run the Wildcats into the ground from a fresh legs perspective.
As the match got going, Marquette got a few possessions in deep into the Wildcats' end, and Liz Bartels was able to navigate the ball around various Villanova defenders repeatedly. The 5'2" forward's deft footwork was too much for the Wildcat defenders to stay in front of, and while Bartels' initial few attempts didn't end with a real challenge on VU keeper Emma Meyer, it was a promising sign.
Then, in the 19th minute: Eli Beard ended up with the ball deep in the left corner, and she got it to Bartels on the edge of the 18 yard box. A couple of quick touches later and Bartels found space between two Nova defenders to launch a shot at the far corner. Meyer never had a chance as it went rocketing into the upper 90 for what would eventually turn into the game winning goal for Marquette.
The Golden Eagles outshot Villanova 18-5 in the game, including a 13-1 advantage in the first half. 13 days ago, Marquette had a Corsi (aka shot ratio) of just 52.6% for the season. Today, after four straight wins to boost their record to 6-5-1 on the season, that percentage is up to 56.4%. I don't know what light went on for the Golden Eagles before the win over Kansas, but they've been playing beautiful Marquette soccer since then.
Amanda Engel made two saves, one in each half, for her fourth shutout of the season. It wasn't all perfect for Marquette, though, as Alex Heffron left in the 10th minute with a non-contact ankle injury and did not return.
Up Next: MU makes a mid-week trip to New York City, as they take on St. John's on Thursday. The Red Storm are 6-5-0 on the season, but courtesy of wins over Creighton and Xavier, they sit tied with Marquette atop the league table at six points.