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Marquette Women's Soccer Weekend Preview: vs Utah & at Michigan

SPORTS ARE BACK!

CRIMINY, that's frightening, Utah.
CRIMINY, that's frightening, Utah.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into the 2014 season, Marquette women's soccer had a six season NCAA tournament streak at their backs.

Coming into the 2015 season, Marquette looks to start a brand new NCAA tournament streak after missing out on the 2014 edition.

The chances will be there for the Golden Eagles.  They have a non-conference schedule stacked with home dates, they return talented players all over the field up to and including a majority of last year's defensive corps, and they were picked to finish fourth in the Big East.

MU is still a young team this season, with just three seniors on the roster.  A trip back to the NCAA tournament this season could end up paying dividends for head coach Markus Roeders down the road.

Game #1: vs Utah (0-0-0)

When: Friday, August 21, 2015 at 7pm Central
Where: Valley Fields
Audio/Visual: Home games have FREE video streaming, and live stats will be here.
Special Promotions: Family 4 packs are available: 4 GenAd tickets, 4 hot dogs, 4 chips, just $25!  Also, it's Camper Reunion Night, so if you're a camper from over the summer, bring your voucher to get in for free.
Twitter Updates: @MUWomensSoccer

I'm going to say something that's slightly misleading about Utah's soccer team: They're picked to finish 10th in the Pac 12 this season.

Now, the reason this is misleading is because the Pac 12 is STACKED.  There are four teams in the conference ranked in the NSCAA preseason top 25.  Last year, Utah went 1-7-2 in conference play and faced six ranked opponents along the way.  I'm saying this is misleading because Utah ended up finishing the year with a record of 8-8-4.  They can win some games, clearly, but they're just buried at the bottom of one of the best women's soccer conferences in the country.  Plus, last year was marred with injuries, as the Utes found themselves in the NCAA tournament back in 2013.

Scouting the Utes starts with their keeper, Lindsay Luke.  After sitting out a year at Wake Forest before transferring to Utah, Luke became the starter as a redshirt freshman and hasn't slowed down since.  She set a school record with nine clean sheets in 2013 and followed that up with another seven blankings in 2014.  Luke currently finds herself 97 saves and eight shutouts away from the school records in both categories.

The Pac 12 doesn't name a preseason all-conference team or a watch list, or anything at all, really, so we're flying blind on Utes to keep an eye on.  Senior defender Megan Trabert is Utah's leading returning scorer with 10 points (4G, 2A) a year ago.

Game #2: at Michigan (0-0-0)

When: Sunday, August 23, 2015, at 4pm Central
Where: UM Soccer Stadium in Ann Arbor, MI
Audio/Visual: Live stats will be here.
Twitter Updates: @MUWomensSoccer

Part of writing these previews for the first game/weekend of the season is looking at how the opponent finished the previous season.  I'm trying to figure out what the hell happened to the Wolverines.  They had a record of 12-5-3 after a loss to Minnesota in the Big Ten tournament and didn't make the NCAA tournament.  That seems odd, right?  I mean, okay, yeah, they got outscored 8-0 on a trip to San Diego and San Diego State, but 8-2-3 in the Big Ten regular season!  That was good enough for the #3 seed in the Big Ten tourney!  Come on, right?

Oh, how little did I know how badly they got hosed out of the NCAA tournament.

In an effort to determine how bad the tournament loss to Minnesota was, I clicked through to the game recap on MGoBlue.com, and what did I find?  Michigan was ranked #25 in the country when they lost to the Gophers.  Minnesota wasn't even a bad team!  They were 11-8-1 after that win!  How did Michigan get left out of last year's NCAA tournament with a 64 team field?

Anyway.

This year, they're picked to finish second in the Big Ten.  Not only can the Big Ten not count how many members they have, but they also can't properly assemble a preseason all-conference team.  Instead, they go for a mealymouthed "Players To Watch," where every team contributes three people.  In Michigan's case, that's senior midfielder/forward Corinne Harris, junior forward Nicky Waldeck, and redshirt sophomore midfielder/forward Ani Sarkisian.  Waldeck and Harris placed on the 2014 All-Big Ten First Team and Second Team respectively, while Sarkisian was part of the conference's All-Freshman squad a year ago.  That trio combined for 56% of the Wolverine's goals a year ago, and overall, the team returns every single player that found the back of the net in 2014.  Megan Hinz is back with Michigan again this season, and is the likely starter in net.  She had a goals-against average of just 0.85 a year ago.