1) How does Marquette replace Claire Costanza?
Through the first three seasons of Marquette women's lacrosse, there's been one constant: Claire Costanza. The attacker from Webster, NY, has posted at least 40 points every season, and she's done it by dishing at least 20 assists every season. She's Marquette's all time leading scorer with 129 points, more than 50 more points than the next best player.
And as we found out last week, she's going to miss the entire 2016 season due to a leg injury.
That's no good.
So how do you replace her? Well, I don't know if you even can. She has 69 assists in her career, and second place is Amanda Bochniak with 22. Yeah, I know. Now, the good news (I guess) is that Bochniak recorded 20 of those assists during her freshman season and then tacked on two more before getting hurt for the year last season. So, presuming that Bochniak is ready to go on day 1 this season, I'm guessing that she'll be MU's primary facilitator.
While Marquette might be a slightly worse passing team this season without Costanza, there is a way that they could improve as an offense. Last year, Marquette converted just 31% of their free position attempts into goals. On top of that, they also allowed way more free position attempts than they tried on their own. If you reduce the goals you give up on FPS attempts and boost your own production on FPS attempts, then that's a net positive where you don't have to worry all that much about passing to get an open shot at the net.
2) Is this the year that Marquette breaks through to .500?
Well, that mission got a lot harder with Costanza out for the year, that's for sure. Through three seasons, Marquette has an all-time record of 12-39, with matching 5-12 records for each of the past two seasons. Now, it's important to point out that Marquette has had a history of losing players on the offensive end that may have ended up crippling their ability to get a win or two or three here and there. Of course, this luck doesn't get any better this season, but I guess at least it's something that the Golden Eagles are used to at this point.
Since this is the fourth season in program history, this is the most fully functional team that Marquette has ever fielded. They have 28 returning letterwinners from last season, including nine true seniors and four redshirt juniors that have been around for each regular season that MU has played so far. In theory, minus the absence of Costanza, this is the closest to the actual roster composition that head coach Meredith Black actually wants to see from her team. If there's going to be a year that they get to .500, this might be the best opportunity out of their four seasons.
Lastly, we have to look at the schedule. Marquette will play 17 games this season, just like the first three years of the team. .500 means going 9-8. Things get a little difficult because Marquette will play four non-conference games against teams that are in the preseason national polls. That leaves just six games against unranked teams, but there's no guarantee that those will be easy. When it comes to the Big East schedule, that means facing a fifth preseason ranked team, in this case that's Florida, the preseason favorite to win the league's regular season title. That game might be a bit of a steep climb, but it's the rest of the schedule that might be an issue.
Even though they've only been in the league for two years, Marquette has played a full Big East schedule in each of their previous three seasons. Marquette has managed just two league wins in those three seasons, defeating Cincinnati in each of the past two years. To get to .500, MU is going to have to get more than a few wins against league opponents. Last year, Marquette suffered a one goal loss to Georgetown and a two goal loss to Vanderbilt. Maybe the Golden Eagles aren't that far away from breaking through against a few opponents this year. They only need to improve by four wins to get to over .500 for the first time in program history.
3) Who will step up to be the future of Marquette women's lacrosse?
As we mentioned earlier, Marquette does have nine seniors and four redshirt juniors on the roster. Those seniors currently account for the #1, #2, and #4 spots on MU's all time points list. They occupy the same spots on the goals list and go 1-3-5 on the assists totals. Five seniors occupy the top five ground ball spots, and three seniors have the three most caused turnovers in program history. Oh, and goalkeeper Sarah Priem has started every single one of Marquette's games ever and played 85% of the minutes in program history.
So there's going to be some major shoes to fill next season, and that's even if Claire Costanza ends up coming back for her final season of eligibility. We can expect players like Amanda Bochniak, Julianna Shearer, and Riley Hill will shoulder some of the load on offense in the future, but they're going to need help. The defense is even more at risk with a brand new goaltender having to replace Priem and on top of that, they're going to be losing team captains Elizabeth Goslee and Kayce Haverstick. The good news for the defense is that Marquette is going to have to replace quality players like Jenaye Coleman and Fran Meyer right now, so people will be able to grow into their roles around Goslee and Haverstick. It's just a matter of figuring out who those women are going to be.
In MU's official preview for the season, head coach Meredith Black mentions sophomore Charlotte McGuire and freshman Cate Soccodato as potential feature players on offense this season. McGuire went without any game experience in 2014, but she's earning rave reviews from the coaching staff heading into this season. Soccodato comes in with international experience after scoring 12 goals and an assist in six games for Team Italy in the 2015 European Championships last August. Those are the only newcomers to the lineup that the preview mentions, so that defensive transition may get rough unless people step up at some point this season.