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Marquette Women's Lacrosse Preview: vs Connecticut

The Golden Eagles face a stern test in order to hold on to their share of first place in the Big East.

Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

For the second time in three seasons, Marquette is 1-0 in Big East play.  That's exciting!

Unfortunately for the Golden Eagles, they now only have a record of 3-12 in two-plus seasons as a member of the Big East.  Two wins over Cincinnati each of the last two seasons and last week's road W against Villanova.  That's not great.  Still, it's better to start the league schedule with a win when you're looking for the first two win conference season in program history.

There's two big offensive things to watch during Saturday's game.  Junior attacker Julianna Shearer has 24 goals on the season, which has her just four markers short of Hayley Baas' program record of 28, set in 2014.  Elsewhere, sophomore midfielder Allison Lane isn't that far behind Shearer with 20 goals.  While she's not posing any threat to Baas' record (yet), Lane has scored at least one goal in every single one of Marquette's games this season.  That's gotta be some kind of record, and if not, it's fun to watch scoring streaks, and Lane's dates back to the final three games of the 2015 season.

One of the biggest stories of the year for the Golden Eagles is how they would adjust to not having Claire Costanza in the lineup.  Costanza has the program record for assists in a career, as well as the three highest single season assist totals in program history.  She's the only player to ever record more than 20 assists in a season, with only Amanda Bochniak managing to hit 20 on the number elsewhere in MU's three seasons of Division 1 lacrosse.  This is all preamble to pointing out that Marquette currently has 51 assists with six games to play, and the team record for assists in a season is 58.  Shoutout to head coach Meredith Black, y'all.

Big East Game #2: vs Connecticut (8-2, 2-0 Big East)

When: Saturday, April 9, 2016, at noon Central
Where: Valley Fields
Audio/Visual: Free live video, because Marquette is great, plus live stats.
Special Promotions: First 50 students in attendance get a free earwarmer/headband!
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWLax

If Marquette wants to win, they've got quite the task head of them.  Connecticut's Katherine Finkelston has the sixth best goals per game average in the country.  She's shaking the twine at the rate of 3.8 per game, and her 4.2 points per game has her in the top 20 in the country in that category, too.  The good news here is that Marquette did a solid job holding down Notre Dame's Cortney Fortunato earlier this season.  She's averaging 4.77 points per game right now, and she had "only" two goals and an assist against Marquette.

The bad news is that three other Irish players scored hat tricks in that game, and Finkelston has a partner-in-crime that might be better than any of Fortunato's teammates.  Grace Nolan is breaking opponents' wills as well this season, trailing only Finkelston in the Big East scoring races with 2.9 goals and 3.8 points per contest.

The Huskies got two first place votes in the preseason polling of the Big East coaches on their way to finishing second, and so far this season, they've pretty much held up their end of the bargain.  They were ranked at the time they lost 15-6 to a UMass squad that is now up to #14 in the country now, and the Huskies are still receiving votes in the media top 20 poll even though they lost 17-7 to #4 Syracuse.  It's one of those "they're smacking down everyone else except the really good teams that they play" kind of deals.

While Connecticut's offense is quite great, they're also pretty good on defense.  They've allowed double digit goals just twice this season, and they actually have a shutout after opening up the season with a 21-0 win over Quinnipiac.  Goalie Shannon Nee is allowing just 8.85 goals per 60 minutes and she's stopping 54% of shots on goal this season, which is the best save percentage in the Big East right now.  Connecticut's also causing the most turnovers in the league, too, although Marquette is right behind them.