When it comes time to take a look at the returning pieces for Marquette women’s soccer, the first thing that we have to address is how the roster is constructed. At least according to how the returning field players are listed on the roster, there’s only three pure forwards on the team and only five pure defenders. Everyone else is either a pure midfielder (six players, or a forward/midfielder (eight players) or a defender/midfielder (two).
So here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to talk about the forwards and forward/mids as forwards, we’ll talk about the pure midfielders in their own group, and then everyone with a D next to their name goes in the defenders group. Does it make sense? Maybe not, but having a 16 person midfielder group to talk about/for you to read is just going to be completely unwieldy for both of us.
Let’s start here: The good news about Marquette’s offense this season is that they only lost three goals from last year’s roster with the departure of Jacie Jermier. The even better news is that Jermier was largely playing a defensive role last year, so MU’s offensive pieces are all returning for 2016.
The bad news is that Marquette was a weird mish-mash of pieces in 2015. Of the 11 returning players listed with an F next to their name on the roster, only two - Darian Powell and Liz Bartels - tallied more than 1,000 minutes played last year. Unsurprisingly, they also were on the all-Big East teams at the end of last season after combining for 10 goals and five assists. Only three other players - Jamie Kutey, Ashley Handwork, and Molly Pfeiffer - went over the 700 minute mark for the Golden Eagles last year, but they combined for seven goals and four assists.
That’s a quality amount of production, of course, and given the depth of players on defense (more on that later), it looks like Marquette should be pretty well taken care of on the attack. But it’s not a lot of minutes played last year to make you confident in that group of five to get the job done on a regular basis all season long.
There’s a lot of depth behind those primary players, though. Most notable amongst that depth is senior Meegan Johnston. She played in every match of her sophomore year and only missed one game last season, albeit for a disciplinary decision that also snagged Bartels, Pfeiffer, and defender Erin Holland. Johnston might have appeared in every other game for Marquette, but her minutes (633) were down by about 35% from 2014. She’s clearly an offensive minded player, but she’s only recorded one goal on 62 career shots.
Heather Handwork, Ashley’s younger sister, saw action in 14 games last season, making her a prime candidate to step forward into a bigger role as a junior, and Allison Jacobson started off the season strong from a playing time perspective, but she only finished with 10 appearances by season’s end. From there, things get pretty quiet pretty quick. Leah Celarek and Carrie Madden combined for just 60 minutes played in their first seasons of play, while Hailey VanDerLeest sat the year out and will be a redshirt freshman in 2016.
Bartels and Madden were the two starting forwards in the exhibition match against Wisconsin, while Johnston started things off in the midfield. Pfeiffer and VanDerLeest saw action off the bench, as did the elder Handwork. Oddly enough, both Celarek and Jacobson were also in the starting eleven, but they were in the lineup on the defensive end of the field. With Kutey and Powell not playing at all, we’ll have to wait and see if this is a long term tactical move by Roeders or if he was merely dealing with minor early season training injuries.
If you were wondering what to make of the group of Marquette forwards, I probably can’t help you all that much with the six woman group of pure midfielders. The only one to see serious playing time last year was Caroline Fink, who played over 1,200 minutes while appearing in all 20 matches and starting 19 of them. She contributed two goals and an assist, with both markers coming in the non-conference portion of the schedule.
Riley Bugay would be next on the list of reliable returning midfielders after making eight starts in 2015. She ended up making 15 total appearances in MU’s 20 total matches, but still didn’t clear the 600 minute barrier. Eli Beard made two starts in 13 appearances, but played less than 200 minutes for the Golden Eagles in 2015. Beard’s PT was all over the place, as the starts came in the season opener and the Big East opener, and her minutes were waaaaay down from 2014, when she played over 650 as a freshman.
Andee Nelson, Alyssa Devine, and Courtney Dugan round out the roster in the midfield. Nelson and Devine are both seniors, and both saw action in Thursday’s exhibition match, but neither has made an impact on the pitch in their Marquette careers. Dugan sat out the 2015 season while bouncing back from an ACL injury suffered in high school and will be a redshirt freshman in 2016.
The strength of Marquette’s returning players for the 2016 season is on the defensive third of the field. There are three players that saw over 1,000 minutes of action in 2015, and another two that saw the pitch for over 700 minutes.
The focal point of the defensive end of the field this season will be senior Morgan Proffitt. She was named the 2016 Big East Preseason Defensive Player of the Year already, and while she was listed as a midfielder for MU’s exhibition game against Wisconsin, that’s really just a matter of designation. Proffitt might have been listed as a center back last year, but she was frequently playing further up the field than her defensive compatriots.
There’s a lot of experience joining Proffitt on the defensive side of the field. Erin Holland and Madison Dunker made 16 and 14 starts respectively a year ago, with both women playing more than 1,000 minutes along side Proffitt on the back line. Cali Pyzdrowski (13 appearances, nine starts) picked up the slack when Dunker went out of the lineup after the first 13 matches of the season, while Kirsten Timmer (11 appearances, nine starts) was in the lineup along with Holland, Proffitt, and Dunker at the start of the season. Both Pyzdrowski and Timmer finished the season with over 700 minutes played, so Roeders will have a good baseline for his traditional four-woman backline. Then again, he went with Holland and Dunker with Leah Celarek and Allison Jacobson in the exhibition match with only Pyzdrowski coming off the bench, so who can really say?
Bri Jaeger and Lisa Roman will provide depth on the defensive end. Roman made just one five minute appearance in 2015, while Jaeger got 18 minutes of run in three appearances as a freshman last year.
Marquette has just two goalkeepers on the roster, one sophomore and one freshman. After Thursday night’s exhibition match against Wisconsin, we can’t really talk about Sloane Carlson without talking about Maddy Henry.
Carlson’s the returning player. She played just over 150 minutes last season in just three appearances as a freshman, allowing five goals and making five saves. Carlson started two games, but we should probably put an asterisk on that: Senior keeper Amanda Engel was issued a red card against LSU and thus had to sit out a game on a rulebook mandated suspension. Carlson earned a draw against UWM in that game, but she also got the start in the next match against Creighton. She was immediately yanked after allowing a goal to the Jays, but there was some disciplinary action at work in that game, so it’s hard to really get a read on what that actually means.
Anyway, the point here is that while Carlson has a bit of experience with head coach Markus Roeders and assistant coach/keeper specialist Nick Vorberg, Roeders has a habit of bringing in a freshman to play keeper from day one for him. It’s happened for the past 12 years: Laura Boyer, Natalie Kulla, and Amanda Engel. Maddy Henry got the starting nod in the exhibition match against Wisconsin, and played all 90 minutes. With Marquette taking a 2-0 loss and Henry making nine saves, there’s a lot of moving pieces there as to what the issues are that need to be tightened up by the time the opener rolls around next Friday. While I would expect Henry to hold on to the starting nod, I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Carlson in the starting eleven against Nebraska. We’ll have to wait and see.