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Marquette Women's Lacrosse Big East Preview: vs #9 Florida

Yes, this is a Big East game.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

When the American Lacrosse Conference collapsed because the Big Ten schools took their teams out as their conference started sponsoring women's lacrosse, it left Florida and Vanderbilt without a conference.  Conveniently, the Big East had two spots that had just opened up because Rutgers (Big Ten) and Louisville (ACC) had just departed.  That's how we end up with Florida traveling to Milwaukee for a Big East women's lacrosse game, not to mention things like Big East women's lacrosse being televised on SEC Network+.

In any case, it's still Marquette's third game against a ranked opponent this season, and they're still looking for the program's first win against a ranked team.  The Golden Eagles came very close in the season opener, falling to then #16 Johns Hopkins in double overtime, and #5 Northwestern used one big run to get away from Marquette at Valley Fields by a final of 13-6 back on February 21.

The Golden Eagles are also on a 3 game losing streak, matching a season high string.  At 4-8 on the season, Marquette is also one win away from tying the program record for wins in a season, and their first Big East win this season will tie a program record in that regard, too.  Admittedly, it will be a stern test of MU's ability and tenacity in order to get that win against the Gators, but that's what you end up with as a third year program sometimes.

Keep an eye on Claire Costanza against Florida.  The junior attacker is sitting on 22 assists for the season, which ties her own program record for helpers in a single campaign.  Costanza has recorded 22 assists in each of her first two seasons at Marquette, which has helped her to build a strong mark as Marquette's all time points leader.

Big East Game #3: vs #9 Florida (9-4, 3-0 Big East)

When: Wednesday, April 8, 2015, at 11:30am
Where: Valley Fields
Audio/Visual: No video hookup on the East field, but there is live stats.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWLax

On March 27th, I wrote a Big East women's lacrosse roundup post as Marquette started league play.  At the time, Florida was 7-4 with losses to the teams ranked 1, 3, 6, and 8 in the country.  Now, two poll editions later, Florida's four losses are to the teams ranked 1, 2, 6, and 7.  Newsflash: Florida's really good and they've played a crazy hard schedule.

They've also won the first three Big East matches they've ever played to jump out to a commanding lead in the league standings.  Yes, I guess technically they're tied for first, as both UConn and Villanova are undefeated.  But I'm going to call it a commanding lead, as the Gators have an average margin of victory of 12.3 goals per game.  Their closest win was a 19-10 victory against their old ALC foe Vanderbilt, and even in that case, it wasn't that close.  Florida led 9-2 after 24 minutes and 12-4 five minutes into the second half.

Senior midfielder Shannon Gilroy was the Big East's preseason Offensive Player of the Year, and she's running away with that title across the regular season.  She's scored 48 goals and notched 17 assists so far this season.  That gives Gilroy the best goals per game average in the conference, the third best assists per game mark, and - DUH - the best points per game, too.  Brace yourself for this one: Gilroy is averaging 5.00 points per game, the only player in the Big East averaging more than 3.3 points.  THINK ABOUT THAT.  She might actually be the best offensive player in the country, as she's leading the nation in points and ranks second in goals.

Gilroy's not alone out there, although she has nearly as many assists as the next two players combined.  Eight different Gators have found the back of the net at least 10 times this season, with five of them averaging at least a goal per game and sophomore middle Mollie Stevens averaging more than two per game.  They've got a great goalie, too.  Junior Mary-Sean Wilcox is the second best keeper in the Big East in goals-against average (9.05) and third in save percentage (.416).  It might not sound like much, really, but Florida does have the best scoring defense in the Big East.