Question #1 - Can this year’s seniors finish on a high note?
Back in 2013, Marquette won the Big East regular season title with an undefeated record in league play. They kept up their winning ways against conference opponents going in the Big East tournament, claiming their second straight conference tournament title.
Since the 2013 season, Marquette has gone 18-16-7. The 2015 season marked the first time in head coach Markus Roeders’ 20 year tenure that his team did not record more wins than losses. In fact, it was the first time since Roeders was hired that the team did not reach the 10 win mark. The 2014 season (10-8-3) was the first time that they didn’t reach the 11 win mark under Roeders.
The point is that this year’s crop of seniors, led by Morgan Proffitt and Liz Bartels, got off to an outstanding start in their collegiate careers. It’s been all downhill since then, though. If you wanted to, you could point to the fact that the seniors in the last two seasons really only combined for seven quality rotation players, whereas the seniors in 2013 had eight in that class alone.
Eight of the 10 seniors this season will likely be called on to be major players for Marquette. The chances will be there for them to succeed. They have a quality non-conference schedule, and the Big East as a conference is down this year. Can they take the experience they’ve built up over the last two seasons to dominate opponents as so many of Roeders’ teams have in the past? Can they find their way into the top reaches of the Big East table and push their way back into the NCAA tournament after two years away?
Question #2 - Can Maddy Henry perform as a starting keeper from Day One in college?
Every indication is that Maddy Henry will get the start on Friday night against Nebraska. She played all 90 minutes of the lone exhibition match, and if you’re trying to have a goalkeeper competition, you don’t keep your other keeper off the pitch. On top of that, head coach Markus Roeders has spent the last 12 seasons with just three primary keepers. Laura Boyer, Natalie Kulla, and Amanda Engel were given the net on Day One and kept it for four years, so we know that Roeders has no problem naming Henry as his keeper.
The question is whether or not that she’s going to be able to handle the workload for a team loaded with seniors that’s trying to get back to the NCAA tournament for the first time in three seasons. We know that she was forced to make nine saves against Wisconsin in the exhibition match, but the question is whether that’s her inexperience at working with her defensive teammates or whether that could be the result of a newly assembled defense struggling to work together. The fact of the matter is that Henry did make those saves, so perhaps the indication from that is that she’s got the athleticism needed to be a Division 1 goalie from the get-go. She’s going to need her defense to do her some favors along the way, though. Marquette’s going to play teams better than Wisconsin, and they’re going to play them pretty soon.
Question #3 - Who’s going to step up to carry the program into the future?
It’s good news that Marquette brings back 10 of 11 goal scorers from last year’s team. But seven of those women are seniors this year. If we’re looking at MU’s defensive corps for this season, Morgan Proffitt, Erin Holland, and Cali Pyzdrowski are all seniors, and potential replacements for 2017 are going to have to step forward and prove that they can perform on a big stage.
There are 22 non-seniors on this year’s roster. The seniors are going to provide a lot of minutes for the Golden Eagles, but they’re going to need the rest of the team to provide some pop as the season progresses if this year is going to be a return to form for Marquette. Players like Allison Jacobson and Leah Celarek are going to need to develop into viable defenders. Marquette is going to need more scoring, if it’s just assists, from Caroline Fink and Jamie Kutey, the latter of whom has been slowed by injury in the preseason.
With the number of seniors Marquette has on the roster, you would like to think that the experience will pay off for the Golden Eagles this season. But if they want to start a brand new run of six straight NCAA tournaments like they had from 2009 through 2014, the underclassmen are going to have to show what they can do, too.
Marquette women’s soccer begins the 2016 season on Friday night when they visit Nebraska at 7pm Central.