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Marquette Women's Lacrosse Preview: at #2 Florida

The Golden Eagles trek down to Gainesville in search of their first ever win over a ranked team as well as their second league win of the year.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Marquette is chasing two things over their final five games.

First: Marquette is looking to win two Big East games in a season for the first time in their three seasons as a member of the league.  MU has gone 1-6 both of the past two years, with only wins against Cincinnati in each season to show for themselves.  This year, the Golden Eagles have already broken the Bearcat Barrier, opening up conference play with a 15-6 shelling of Villanova.  All they need to do is pick up that second W somewhere, and a Senior Day contest against Cincinnati looms in the final regular season game.

Second: Marquette has never won more than five games in each of their first three seasons.  2-15 in their first season, and then 5-12 each of the past two years.  The Golden Eagles currently sit on 4-8 on the season.  Getting that second Big East win will get them to five wins again, but the goal is to get better every year, and that will mean two wins in their final five games.

All of this is really just a smokescreen to get around talking about the fact that they're going to have a lot of difficulty getting that win in this game against the Gators.  On one hand, Marquette keeps having competitive games against ranked opponents or even teams that are just getting votes in the polls, as was the case with Connecticut on Saturday.  On the other hand, they keep coming up short in those games, and they've yet to play a team as highly ranked as Florida.  Fingers crossed, then.

Julianna Shearer Watch: She needs two goals to tie and three goals to break Hayley Baas' record for goals in a season.  Baas knocked home 28 goals in 2014, and Shearer has 26 markers after scoring twice against Connecticut on Saturday.

Draw Controls Watch: Both Julianna Shearer and Allison Lane have tied the program record for draw controls in a season with 33.  The next one for either woman will break Jacqueline Borzillo's record set in 2014.

Assists Watch: Marquette has 55 assists as a team this year, three away from the record of 58 set in 2014.  Considering that Claire Costanza, MU's all time leader in assists by a WIDE margin, is out for the year, that's pretty impressive.

Ground Balls Watch: The team record for ground balls in a season is 269, set last season.  Marquette currently sits on 266 ground balls as a team this year.

Big East Game #3: at #2 Florida (12-1, 3-0 Big East)

When: Wednesday, April 13, 2016, at 1pm Central
Where: Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, FL
Audio/Visual: UF has free live video for you, plus live stats.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWLax

We were *thisclose* to both Marquette lacrosse teams playing the #1 team in the country on Wednesday afternoon.  By *thisclose*, I mean that Florida trailed Maryland 4-3 with 25 minutes remaining before losing 14-4.  The Terrapins are undefeated and #1 in the country, while the Gators are #2.  These things happen.

That four goal outing is one of two times this season that Florida hasn't managed to score at least 10 times in a game.  The other time was a 7-6 road win against Stony Brook, and the Seawolves were ranked #10 in the country at the time, and they're at #7 right now.  Not exactly a moment to be sad about there, right?

If there is a upside for Marquette here, it's that Florida is actually a step back when it comes to offenses in the Big East.  The Gators are #2 in the league in goals and assists per game, coming in second in both categories to the Connecticut squad that MU just faced on Saturday.  The flipside of that is Florida holds onto the ball better than UConn.  Florida has the fewest turnovers in the Big East, which presents an interesting challenge for a Marquette defense that's second in the conference in caused turnovers per game and tops in ground balls.

While Florida is slightly less potent than the Huskies, they still have a one-two punch that Marquette might have to contend with all game long.  Nicole Graziano (#4) and Mollie Stevens (#6) are both amongst the league leaders in goals per game, buuuuuuut Stevens has missed the last three games, and she had missed two games this season previous to that as well.  It's not like Florida is short of scorers without Stevens, though.  Sammi Burgess is up over 20 goals on the season, and there are five non-Stevens Gators that are finding the back of the net at least once per game.

Mary-Sean Wilcox is the primary goalie for the Gators, and she's holding it down in net:  8.38 goals-against average and a 46% save percentage.  However, head coach Amanda O'Leary isn't shy about sending freshman Hayley Hicklen out there.  She's replaced Wilcox at halftime of each of the last three games, and she's played over 270 minutes in total this season.  Her stats are better than Wilcox's, but let's be honest: she's been doing a lot of mop up duty and Wilcox takes the majority of the high leverage minutes anyway.