1) Will the team take a jump forward this season?
There's no running from the fact that Marquette women's lacrosse has started their history with seven wins and 27 losses in their first two seasons. On top of that, the Golden Eagles enter the season on a seven game losing streak.
Marquette started the program two years ago with a bunch of freshmen and redshirt freshmen manning a lot of, if not all of their key roles. Now this year, head coach Meredith Black has a core group of juniors who are ready to start matching the experience level of the other teams that they'll be playing.
Now, taking that into account, let's look at that seven game losing streak, all of which were conference games: 12-5, 12-6, 11-10, 11-7, 10-9, 12-5, 11-5. That's a bunch of relatively competitive games, especially when compared to 2013, when MU played non-conference games against all of the Big East squads as an independent. In that season, the Golden Eagles lost by 10 or more goals to a Big East squad four times, plus two more losses by exactly nine goals.
2) Can this team qualify for the Big East tournament?
Four of the conference's eight squads will meet in Storrs, Connecticut on April 30th and May 1st for the Big East semifinals and championship. The Golden Eagles were picked to finish 7th in the league in a vote of the league's coaches, so perhaps it's a steep hill to climb.
With that said, last season, Rutgers snagged the fourth and final spot at 3-4 in league games, winning a three way tie with Temple and Villanova. Marquette fell into 7th place behind that trio at 1-6. If MU can figure out a way to score two more wins against a conference foe than they did last season, maybe they can find a way into that four team playoff. They had one goal losses to Connecticut and Villanova a year ago. If those two flip over last year, just one more save from Sarah Priem and one more devastating swing from Amanda Bochniak, and MU is 3-4 and takes the Wildcats' spot in that tie for the fourth spot. If the experience is there, perhaps Marquette isn't that far from their first postseason appearance.
3) Is Julianna Shearer healthy enough to go back to her production from last year?
Last season, the now-sophomore from Westminister, Maryland exploded onto the scene with 15 (12G, 3A) points in Marquette's first seven games. Then, she was lost for the season due to injury. Even though she played 10 fewer games than most of her teammates, Shearer still finished fifth on the team in goals and points.
Marquette has a strong trio of goal scorers in Claire Costanza, Amanda Bochniak, and Hayley Baas. But Shearer can add another dimension to the offense that maybe, at times last year, could have used an extra scorer to throw a scare into teams. Look at those close losses that I detailed in the first question. What if Shearer was out there for those games, giving defenses just one more thing to have to pay attention to and stop? If Shearer is back to 100% health, can she make the difference for the Golden Eagles this season?