Somehow, even though they were the first team to start playing matches this school year, Marquette women's soccer is the last of the three fall sports to start the conference schedule. It's kind of weird, since the volleyball schedule goes longer, even though they play more matches, and I don't know why men's soccer starts with a schedule where they play just one league match a week for two weeks. All I know is I'm not in charge of organizing all of these schedules, and I'm thankful for that.
This will count as our preview for Sunday's league opener against Creighton, so let's get to the fine details on that....
Big East Match #1: vs Creighton (8-3-0)
When: Sunday, September 27, 2015, at 1pm Central
Where: Valley Fields
Audio/Visual: Big East Digital Network on Fox Sports Go has the video broadcast, and there's live stats.
Special Promotions: Double Fanatics points for students!
Twitter Updates: @MUWomensSoccer
We'll go one by one through the Big East in alphabetical order. You'll see each team's record right now next to their name, and then below that you'll see a NSCAA ranking for two teams, and the Bennett Ranking for every team, to give you a feel for their standing relative to each other. Past that, there's the statistical leaders for each team as well as their top keeper, and the parenthetical numbers are their rankings within the Big East right now. The final lines are each team's best win and worst loss, where applicable, and that's determined by the Bennett Ranking of each opponent.
Let's get to it, then...
Bennett Ranking: #134
Goals Leader: Halle Stelbasky, 7 (T-1)
Assists Leader: Two players with 4 (T-2)
Keeper: Madison Card - 1.18 GAA (#6); .600 SV% (#10)
Best Win: vs #125 Eastern Michigan, 3-0
Worst Loss: at #262 Indiana State, 3-2
I'm concerned for the Bulldogs, and I think their Bennett Ranking is on my side here. It seems that their gaudy record is merely a product of playing any chump within driving distance of Indianapolis. They have wins over Eastern Michigan, Milwaukee, IUPUI, Evansville, Wright State, IPFW, and Bowling Green. In their most recent game, they lost 4-1 while visiting a ranked Kentucky squad.
Stelbasky has taken a ton of scoring load off of Sophia Maccagnone, the senior midfielder that's been an all-Big East performer from the moment the Bulldogs joined the conference. Maccagnone is one of the two Butler players with four assists, so it's not like she's been slacking off here. Maybe the most surprising item on their stat sheet? All-Big East defender Serina Kashimoto has two goals and two assists.
Bennett Ranking: #143
Goals Leader: Lauren Sullivan, 5 (T-4)
Assists Leader: Jill Richgels, 4 (T-2)
Keeper: Erin Scott - 0.73 GAA (#4); .882 SV% (#2)
Best Win: at #150 Montana, 1-0
Worst Loss: vs #188 South Dakota State, 1-0
I'm willing to say that Creighton is better than they were last year, when Marquette bombed them 7-2. WITH THAT SAID, they've played just one team in the Bennett Ranking top 100, and they lost 3-2 to Seattle. Also, their only top 100 opponent is Seattle, so that kind of tells you something. In fact, they've got six sub-200 opponents on the schedule, so that's not entirely convincing.
On the other hand, winning is winning, and sometimes you just need the mindset of winning all the time in order to do impressive things. They've got six shutouts on the season, and recently had a three game shutout streak stopped when Drake scored two goals against them. If nothing else, the Jays are assembling a serious core for next season: Only one of the five Creighton players that have started all 11 matches this season is a senior. Maybe most impressive of the group is keeper Erin Scott, who is a freshman.
DePaul (7-2-2, 1-0-0 Big East)
Bennett Ranking: #41
Goals Leader: Elise Wyatt, 7 (T-1)
Assists Leader: Madeline Frick, 6 (#1)
Keeper: Alejandria Godinez - 0.48 GAA (#2); .815 SV% (#4)
Best Win: at #97 Cincinnati, 2-1
Worst Loss: vs #62 Long Beach State, 1-0
It seems that DePaul's offense is what has caused them to drop out of the NSCAA top 25 since the preseason poll came out. First, it was a 0-0 draw with Utah in the first weekend of the season. Then, a 3-1 loss to Nebraska, then a scoreless draw while visiting Loyola-Chicago. They also suffered a 1-0 loss to Long Beach State in their last non-conference match.
With that said, they scored four goals on Saturday afternoon to beat Xavier in the first conference match of the season, so maybe it's just certain teams giving them fits. Ultimately, it is hard to holler at someone for having an offense that's a problem when they have the best goal scorer and best passer in the league, y'know?
Frick is just another piece to the DePaul puzzle that's providing them with a benefit from the second she arrives in Lincoln Park. Last year it was Alexa Ben, now it's Frick, a native of St. Paul, MN. Frick is the third Minnesota Player of the Year in recent years to end up playing for DePaul and head coach Erin Chastain, which is kind of annoying when you think about it.
Bennett Ranking: #44
Goals Leader: Two players with 4 (T-7)
Assists Leader: Four players with 3 (T-7)
Keeper: Emma Newins - 1.71 GAA (#9); .533 SV%
Best Win: vs #57 San Diego, 1-0 (OT)
Worst Loss: vs #72 William & Mary on a neutral field, 3-0
I'm not going to lie: Watching Georgetown struggle is fun. Yes, it's mitigated by Marquette's own struggles on the field, but I'm still amused.
I suppose that you can't really call what Georgetown is doing as "struggling," though. Two of their losses are in their last three games, and both came against top 50 opponents in Virginia Tech and UCF, and the game against the Knights was in Florida on top of that. I am some what pleased to see that Grace Damaska (T-6 in points) and Audra Ayotte (T-8 in points) are taking control of the Hoya offense. Both players have been solid contributors the past few years, but their contributions have largely been overshadowed by Daphne Corboz. Ayotte in particular has been very good for head coach Dave Nolan, to the point where I was getting annoyed that she was getting left off of the all-conference teams.
I have to wonder if GU is suffering from the same issue that Marquette is, namely a defense that's letting the goalie down. Back during her freshman year, Newins was one of the best keepers in the Big East, just like MU's Amanda Engel. Her stats have gotten increasingly worse over the interceding years, which mirrors Engel's issues as well. For what it's worth, senior Lauren Trower got the start in Georgetown's most recent game, a 4-0 win at Stetson, but their official game recap doesn't mention anything about Newins being held out for injury or anything like that.
Bennett Ranking: #70
Goals Leader: Molly Pfeiffer, 3
Assists Leader: Liz Bartels, 3 (T-7)
Keeper: Amanda Engel - 1.42 GAA (#7); .667 SV% (#9)
Best Win: at #20 Michigan, 2-1
Worst Loss: vs #76 Portland, 4-3
Two losses in overtime, three draws against teams they probably shouldn't have drawn with. Should Marquette's record be better? Maybe. That win at Michigan would seem to indicate that they're capable of playing better than they have so far this season. Marquette looked like they had gained the form that head coach Markus Roeders is looking for against Northern Arizona and South Dakota State a few weekends ago, but those were also two of the three worst teams that MU has played this season, at least according to the Bennett Ranking.
Last year, Marquette struggled in the non-conference before bouncing back with a strong performance in conference play. Perhaps they can do it again, but at this point, I think it might take a Big East tournament title to put the Golden Eagles back into the NCAA tournament.
Bennett Ranking: #103
Goals Leader: Rachel Ugolik, 4 (T-7)
Assists Leader: Four players with 2
Keeper: Kristyn Shea - 1.09 GAA (#5); .750 SV% (#6)
Best Win: at #25 Boston College, 3-2 (OT)
Worst Loss: at #97 Cincinnati, 1-0
I'm not entirely sure what to make of the Friars at this point. Winning at BC is a good accomplishment, of course, but all three of their losses are to teams much worse than BC, including a Boston University team that Marquette handled easily.
Catherine Zimmerman was a preseason all-Big East honoree, and she's lived up to that thus far.... in the shots department. She's leading the Big East in overall shots and sits at second in shots per game. These shots aren't turning into points, though, as Zimmerman isn't in the top 10 in points, goals, or assists, both in pure totals or per game average.
PC will get a chance to build themselves up through the conference schedule, as they won't play St. John's or DePaul until the final three games of the regular season. If they're going to push their way into the Big East tournament for the second straight season, the chances for them are going to be there in the first half of the Big East schedule.
St. John's (8-1-0)
Bennett Ranking: #33
Goals Leader: Rachel Daly, 7 (T-1)
Assists Leader: Rachel Daly, 4 (T-2)
Keeper: I don't even
Best Win: at #25 Boston College, 2-1 (OT)
Only Loss: at #166 Brown, 2-1
Ok, let's walk through this one. Last year, Diana Poulin was inexplicably named Goalkeeper of the Year, and, just as inexplicably, she was named Preseason Goalkeeper of the Year back in August. Somehow, amongst all of this, Red Storm head coach Ian Stone added graduate transfer Katie DeVault to the roster. DeVault graduated from Fresno State after dominating the net for the Bulldogs for the last three seasons, which put Stone in a pickle: Stick with his (inexplicably) decorated keeper of the last two seasons or go with the talented grad transfer?
Stone's decision? Well, he hasn't made one yet. Poulin and DeVault split the first two matches of the season, both 1-0 wins, then Poulin got the next three games... but took the 2-1 loss against Brown. So Stone switched to DeVault... except not really. DeVault is the STARTING keeper, but Poulin has been playing the second half of each of St. John's last four contests. Here's the really crazy part: DeVault hasn't allowed a goal yet this season, and Poulin's allowed two just since they've started splitting time. Why are they keeping this up? Who knows.
All of that to explain what the hell SJU is doing at keeper, and I've essentially run out of space to discuss the fact that Rachel Daly (T-13 in the country in points) looks more like sophomore year Rachel Daly than junior year Rachel Daly, which is really bad news for the rest of the Big East.
Seton Hall (1-6-2)
Bennett Ranking: #201
Goals Leader: Amanda Gulli, 3
Assists Leader: Frankie Maier, 2
Keeper: Illissa Blackshear - 0.00 GAA; 1.000 SV%
Only Win: vs #245 Albany, 1-0 (2OT)
Worst Loss: vs #236 Duquesne, 3-1
"Hey, how can the Pirates has such a craptangular record with a keeper that's perfect on the season?" Well, I'm glad you asked. Blackshear only started SHU's most recent game, which just happens to be that 1-0 win over Albany. She came on in relief of freshman Anna MacLean after MacLean had already conceded the deciding goal in their 1-0 loss to Cornell, so as of right now, she's played over 167 minutes this season without allowing a goal. I don't expect head coach Rick Stainton to go back to MacLean after this, but he thought the freshman was the right choice after getting outscored 10-1 to start the season, so I'm not exactly qualified to talk about what SHU might do in the future.
And no, I'm not putting more effort into thinking about a team with one win.
Bennett Ranking: #154
Goals Leader: Three players with 1
Assists Leader: Two players with 1
Keeper: Emily Harris - 2.00 GAA (#10); .562 SV%
Only Win: at #183 Denver, 2-0
Worst Loss: at #152 Towson, 1-0
Ok, we have to start here: Villanova has played 810 minutes this season. They have scored all of their goals on the year in a span of less than 81 minutes. This is because Villanova has been shutout seven times in nine matches.
It's possible - and remember, this is just a theory here - that Villanova's not any good. They also have a massive issue deciding which keeper to use. Emma Meyer started the season, and then she started splitting games at the half with Emily Harris. Now, over the last two matches, which includes Nova's only win of the season, Harris has been the starter. I presume she'll keep the job for the rest of the season, but who knows.
And no, I'm not putting any more effort into writing about a team that's scored three goals this season.
Xavier (4-4-1, 0-1-0 Big East)
Bennett Ranking: #194
Goals Leader: Two players with 5 (T-4)
Assists Leader: Samantha Dewey, 5 (#2)
Keeper: Rachel Piccus - 1.69 GAA (#8); .791 SV% (#5)
Best Win: at #123 Western Kentucky, 2-0
Worst Loss: vs #234 Ohio, 2-1
Xavier, what's your problem? Why are you playing an NAIA school and counting it as an official win? I'm not counting that as one of your wins, so that's why you're at just four on the season.
After Saturday's loss to DePaul, the Musketeers are winless in their last three, and that includes their worst loss of the season as listed above there. Had I managed to get this finished up before Saturday, I could have said some nice things about Rachel Piccus, but her goals-against average went completely into the tank after giving up four goals to the Blue Demons.
We're going to have to keep an eye on Samantha Dewey going forward. She was the first Rookie of the Week this season, and it's impressive as hell to have a freshman racking up that many assists. Heck, I had to edit the stat blurb up there, because Dewey was actually leading the conference in assists until DePaul's Madeline Frick got two more against the Musketeers.