I don't know if you've noticed or not, but Marquette's women's basketball team is young this season. Like, really young. Like, the youngest team in the country young, and that was before JUCO transfer Chelsey Gibson was lost for the season with an ACL tear during the very first practice of the season.
The active roster now consists of eight freshmen, which we'll get to in a separate post, as well as one junior and one sophomore. We'll take a look at those two players here.
Junior - #3 - Guard - 6'1" - Sun Prairie, WI
McKayla Yentz has appeared in 37 games for Marquette in her two seasons in Milwaukee, and has played a grand total of 286 minutes. You know you're in for a weird season when the most tenured Division 1 player on the roster is not the most experienced player on the roster. Somehow, Yentz has actually played fewer career minutes than Shantelle Valentine.
In fairness to her, her freshman year was a loaded full roster with experienced players up and down the lineup card, and it was going to be hard to wedge herself into the lineup amongst Katie Young, Brooklyn Pumroy, and Cristina Bigica. With a new head coach and nothing but freshmen in front of her, Yentz managed to turn into a rotation player for Carolyn Kieger last year. She didn't have much of an impact, averaging three points and one rebound in her 10 minutes a game, although she did notch a career high 12 points in last January's road trip to Seton Hall.
That brings us to this season, and it appears, at least for now, that Kieger is intent on leaning on Yentz. She got the starting nod in Sunday's exhibition against Southwest Baptist, but her impact was minimal: six points on 2-6 shooting, three rebounds, an assist, a steal, and three turnovers in 29 minutes. While this sounds like it's an indictment of Yentz, that's not true: Her contributions to Marquette's exhibition win may not be showing up in the scorebook, as she played all of the final 9:13 of the game while the Golden Eagles fended off the Bearcats to pick up the 70-68 win.
There's going to be a lot of moving parts on the Marquette roster this season as Carolyn Kieger shifts things to and fro to figure out what she has on this team and what works best on any given night. If Yentz can be a rock for Kieger to rely on in close games, then that's an excellent starting point for a team looking to bounce back from a 9-22 season a year ago.
Sophomore - #31 - Center - 6'3" - Brampton, Ontario, Canada
Now here we had a confusing freshman campaign. At times, I thought that Shantelle Valentine was winning over head coach Carolyn Kieger. For example, there's the seven times where she earned a spot in the starting lineup. Or the 11 points and nine rebounds in 30 minutes against Northern Kentucky. Or the ten rebound performance against St. John's in the Al McGuire Center in February.
Then there were other times, where Valentine was just non-existent, both on the floor and on the scoresheet. One rebound in eight minutes off the bench against Georgetown at home. How about following up that Northern Kentucky performance with a spot in the starting lineup against Vanderbilt, but she only played 15 minutes and scored six points while grabbing one rebound. She followed up that outing with one rebound in nine minutes in a start against Western Illinois.
So yeah, kind of all over the place. The good news was that she was all over the place in Sunday's exhibition against Southwest Baptist, but in the good way that you can manage within a game. Valentine started alongside Yentz, scoring seven points and grabbing six rebounds in 29 minutes. She wasn't a focal point of the Marquette offense, but she did add a steal and a block along the way, and hey: Valentine only committed two of Marquette's 21 turnovers, so she gets a high five for me.
With most of Marquette's newcomers playing largely perimeter positions, Valentine's size can play a major factor for Marquette this season. Freshman Erika Davenport is going to push her for time in the middle, mostly because Davenport looks like she's a bit more agile in the lane with the ball. But if Marquette is going to take any steps forward here this season, they're going to need a giant pile of sturdy performances from Valentine night in and night out.