1) How much can the defense improve?
Earlier in this season preview, we looked at how Marquette did when it came to possession in the back half of the 2014 season. Ultimately, MU's ability to possess the ball started trending upwards in 2014, which brings us to the question at hand. The Golden Eagles finished the 2014 season with the most goals allowed out of any team in the Big East with 27. Most of this was their failings in the non-conference schedule, as only 12 of them came in conference play. The offense was fine (third most goals overall, second most in league play), so the potential of this season completely lies in the defense. Head coach Markus Roeders has an advantage this season that he didn't have in 2014, with a majority of his defense coming back for this season. They got used to playing together last year, so now they have to push forward to get this team to achieve like they have in seasons past.
2) Which of the younger players will make the biggest strides forward?
We know that big things are expected from goalkeeper Amanda Engel, defender Jacie Jermier, and midfielder Ann Marie Lynch, the three seniors on the team. While the defense's development will be the deciding factor for the 2015 season, the future of the program will depend on the underclassmen stepping forward and seizing prominent roles on the team. In the team's lone exhibition against Wisconsin, Roeders went with a starting eleven that featured four sophomores, and his substitutions in the match included two redshirt sophomores, three true sophomores, and a freshman. The kids are going to get a chance to play on this year's team, and if they can perform, that's going to pay dividends for Marquette down the road.
3) Is this an NCAA tournament team?
In 2014, Marquette missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in seven seasons and just the second time since 2005. Obviously, the goal for the season is to get back to the College Cup. If the team can mimic the possession numbers that they put up during Big East action in 2014 for all of 2015, the general trend of the previous run of six straight tournament appearances seems to indicate that it should be a cakewalk back to the national championship field. Marquette does have a significant advantage in their back pocket: six of their 10 non-conference matches will be played at Valley Fields, with a seventh taking place over at UW-Milwaukee's Engelmann Field. Coming into the 2014 season, Marquette hadn't lost a regular season match at Valley Fields since 2010. Yes, they lost four times there last season, but they also beat #16 Kansas and the facility has been a fortress for MU in the past. If they can return that level of threat to opposing teams in 2015 and then take care of business in Big East action, there's no reason why this team shouldn't be back in the NCAA tournament.