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Marquette Women's Soccer Weekend Preview: The Marquette Invitational

We've done a lot of previews of various tournaments, and finally, we get one that's hosted here in Milwaukee.

Yep, that's Northern Arizona's mascot.
Yep, that's Northern Arizona's mascot.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Counting earlier today, we've previewed three different volleyball tournament already this season, and if you want to call the Milwaukee Cup as an ongoing yearly tournament, that makes four, and none of them have been at Marquette's home facilities.


Marquette women's soccer is hosting the not-quite-originally named Marquette Invitational.  It's a total of four games, with a pair of doubleheaders today and again on Sunday.  While there are four teams participating, Marquette will only play two of them, with Loyola-Chicago making the trip up I-94 to provide the opposition for the team that MU isn't playing on each day.  Loyola-Chicago takes on South Dakota State today at 3pm in the Valley, which will be followed by a Marquette men's soccer match against Nebraska-Omaha, which will then by followed by Marquette-Northern Arizona.  MU & Loyola trade opponents on Sunday, with Loyola-NAU kicking off at 11am, and the Marquette-SDSU following that.

As far as how the season itself is actually going, well, that's not great.  Following last Friday's 2-1 overtime loss to Minnesota, the Golden Eagles are just 2-3-0 on the season.  Two of the losses are somewhat bad beats, as they have an OT loss to Utah to go along with the golden goal defeat at the hands of the Golden Gophers.  Oddly, Marquette bounced back from their first two losses of the season to defeat arguably better teams just two days later, but for now, they stay under .500 on the season.  Things don't get easier for them in this tournament, as they invited two NCAA tournament teams from a year ago.

Molly Pfeiffer is dominating the scoresheet with three goals and an assist thus far this season.  While Pfeiffer is the only player with multiple goals in 2015, MU hasn't had difficulty scoring.  They've got nine goals through just five matches, but the problem has been the defense.  They've allowed eight goals, and even more troubling is Amanda Engel's save percentage.  She's stopping just 58% of shots on frame, which isn't completely surprising.  Marquette wants to play a style of soccer that snuffs out the attack before they even get a shot off, so it tends to lead to crummy save percentages for the keeper.  With that said, Engel's never had a save percentage below .700 to end a season, so she's bound to turn it around eventually.  Hopefully that comes sooner rather than later.

Match #6: vs Northern Arizona (2-3-0)

When: Friday, September 11, 2015, at 8:15pm Central
Where: Valley Fields
Audio/Visual: Home matches have FREE video streaming, plus live stats.
Special Promotions: Local law enforcement/firefighters/military personnel/hospital staff get $2 admission.  Turn in coupons from the men's game earlier to get a USA themed Marquette shirt.
Twitter Updates: @MUWomensSoccer

Ok, so yes, those three losses to start the season is, y'know, not good.  But, the Lumberjacks find themselves in a similar predicament as Marquette: They've been stung twice by golden goals in overtime, first in their season opener at Grand Canyon and then again at home against UNLV.  They've bounced back for two wins in their last two contests, and thanks to a 6-0 win over Alabama State, NAU is outscoring their opponents 8-1 in those matches.  This could actually be a bigger margin, as the ASU game was called on account of lighting after 74 minutes.

Northern Arizona finished last season with a record of 12-6-4, but that includes a Big Sky conference tournament title and an appearance in the 2014 NCAA tournament.  As a result of that and bringing back five all-conference selections from that team, it's not terribly surprising that the Lumberjacks are co-favorites to win the Big Sky this season, along with 2014 regular season champion Montana.

Hayley Wingender is your scoring leader thus far, but that's a teensy bit misleading.  Two of her four goals on the season came in the shellacking of Alabama State, and they were goals #5 & 6 to boot.  With that said, Wingender is the only Lumberjack to record more than one goal thus far, so she's probably one to keep an eye on.  Natalie Gilbertson has played all but the final 25 minutes of the Alabama State game for NAU, but her stats are still a little shaky at this point.  She's got a goals-against of 1.90, which after five matches maybe isn't all bad, but the .654 save percentage is really awful.  If Marquette can play their possession oriented style and bomb away with shots, this could get ugly.

Match #7: vs South Dakota State (3-2-0)

When: Sunday, September 13, 2015, at 1:30pm Central
Where: Valley Fields
Audio/Visual: Home matches have FREE video streaming, plus live stats.
Special Promotions: FREE PIZZA for the 1st 150 students!  Family 4 Packs (tix, hot dogs, chips) are available for $25.  Also: Post-match autograph session with the players.
Twitter Updates: @MUWomensSoccer

The name recognition factor on the two opponents in the Marquette Invitational is, admittedly, not good.  But, like their counterparts from Northern Arizona, South Dakota State is also coming off of an appearance in the 2014 NCAA tournament.  They were picked to finish second in the Summit League this season, snagging three of the nine first place votes and sitting just three points behind league favorite Denver.

The Jackrabbits will be coming to Milwaukee looking to pick up their second win over Big East competition this season.  They defeated Creighton in their most recent contest, with sophomore Tori Poole bombing one into the net from 30 yards out in the 49th minute to provide the only scoring in the game.

After a quick consultation with some scrap paper because someone at SDSU is slacking, I can report to you that junior midfielder Madison Yueill is the only Jackrabbit with multiple goals this season, leading the way with a pair of scores.  They've only managed six goals on the season, and only three assists to go along with those, and all three helpers were scored by different players.  Junior goalkeeper Nicole Inskeep does a pretty good job stopping what's coming at her, saving 82% of shots on goal.  With that said, she's still allowed 1.2 goals per game this season while playing every minute for SDSU.