Marquette heads into the 2016 season with an eye on shaking off the past two campaigns.
After winning their second straight Big East tournament title in 2013, Marquette has barely kept their head above .500 over the past two seasons. In his first 19 seasons at Marquette, head coach Markus Roeders had never won fewer than 11 games. 2014 brought just 10 wins and snapped a six year NCAA tournament streak, and 2015 was worse as the Golden Eagles finished 8-8-4. As you can guess, it was Roeders’ first non-winning season while manning the sidelines at Valley Fields.
Onwards and upwards, though, as Marquette hopes to make a return to form on the backs of 10 players who are finishing their collegiate eligibility this season. Most notable among them is midfielder Morgan Proffitt. Fresh off of a stint over the summer with the United States U-23 team where they won the Nordic Tournament in England, Proffitt was named to the MAC Hermann Award (soccer’s Heisman Trophy) preseason watch list and was voted the 2016 Big East Preseason Defensive Player of the Year.
Proffitt was joined on the preseason all-Big East team by fellow senior Liz Bartels, who will be called on to take on a bigger scoring role for Marquette this season. The Omaha native has tallied 10 goals and 12 assists in her three years wearing blue and gold. While Marquette will rely on those seniors and their experience this season, they’ll also need the underclassmen, particularly freshman keeper Maddy Henry, to step up and into the limelight if the Golden Eagles want to return to the NCAA tournament after two seasons away from postseason play.
Match #1: at Nebraska (0-0-0)
This will be just the third meeting between the two teams. Marquette lost both previous encounters, a 2-1 road defeat in 1994 and a 3-2 home loss in 2014 where both teams were nationally ranked at the time.
Nebraska is coming off of an 8-7-2 season in 2015 where their 4-5-2 Big Ten record wasn’t good enough to earn a spot in the eight team conference tournament, nor was it good enough to get them an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament with the third best strength of schedule in the country. The Huskers are picked to finish eighth in the league in 2016, so things could be a little dicey for them as far as postseason play goes this year, too.
I’ll be happy to badmouth the Big Ten for a lot of reasons, but one of the absolute worst things that they do is the “everybody name three players” preseason honors system that they use. Upside: I know who Nebraska considers to be their three best players. Downside: I have no idea if those three women are anywhere near the best players in the Big Ten because there’s FORTY-TWO women on the preseason all-B1G list.
This is probably slightly unfair in Nebraska’s case, at least this season. The Cornhuskers are represented on the all-B1G list by three seniors: Caroline Flynn, Jaycie Johnson, and Sydney Miramontez. Flynn is a midfielder/forward who spent her summer on the same U-23 team that Marquette’s Morgan Proffitt played on in England. Johnson, a forward from Missouri, ranks 10th all time in Nebraska history with 31 career goals, and she’d be higher on that list if her 2015 season wasn’t cut short with an ACL tear. If you’re wondering if she’s healthy less than a year later, she scored twice in Nebraska’s 4-0 exhibition win over North Dakota State. Miramontez is a midfielder from Lenexa, KS, who led Nebraska in assists last year with five.
We may see a battle of freshman keepers in this one. Aubrei Corder played 73 minutes of that exhibition game for the Cornhuskers, so it seems likely that she’ll be in the net against the Golden Eagles. Kelly Schatz is a redshirt junior who played all 19 games in the 2014 season for Nebraska, but she missed the entire 2015 season due to injury and did not play at all in the exhibition match.
Match #2: at Kansas (0-0-0)
When: Sunday, August 21, 2016, at 7pm
Where: Rock Chalk Park in Lawrence, KS
Audio/Visual: ESPN3/WatchESPN will pick up the streaming video broadcast of the match, or you can listen to KU’s audio stream. Live stats will be here.
Twitter Updates: @MUWomensSoccer & @KUWSoccer
Marquette and Kansas have only met once before. It was a 1-0 upset Marquette victory at Valley Fields in the 2014 season over a nationally ranked Kansas squad.
Kansas fell just one mistake short of the NCAA tournament in 2015. The Jayhawks dropped a 1-0 loss to Texas Tech in the Big 12 championship game when Gwennie Puente beat KU keeper Maddie Dobyns with a rebound goal in the 85th minute. That match had to leave a sting for the returning Kansas players, as they outshot the Red Raiders 15-11 in the game and had a penalty kick in the 28th minute turned aside by the TTU keeper.
As for the 2016 season, Kansas is picked to finish seventh in the nine team Big 12. As if that conference needed to be more confusing, right? Don’t worry, Kansas State is starting a women’s soccer program this season and will join the B12 next year. Anyway, while seven of nine doesn’t sound all that good (unless you’re talking about Star Trek: Voyager like our friends at The Post Atomic Horror Podcast), you have to realize that there’s just 12 balloting points separating third place Oklahoma (42) and seventh place Kansas (30). In other words, the coaches in the Big 12 have no idea what to make of the middle section of their own league.
While they might not know how to decipher the expected standings, the Big 12 coaches did not put any Jayhawks on their 11 woman preseason all-conference team. To be fair, we’re talking about a list that had two women who played for Canada in the Rio Olympics, both of whom attend West Virginia, so the competition was a little fierce. While they might not be all-conference caliber, Kansas does return eight of the starters from last year’s squad and 15 letterwinners overall. Sophomore Grace Hagan dons the mantle of “best returning scorer” with four goals and three assists in her freshman campaign. Dobyns returns to Lawrence for her junior season and is the expected starter at goalkeeper. She posted a goals-against average of 1.09 a year ago and stopped 77% of shots on frame in 2015. If you want a baseline of what to expect from the Jayhawks, they drew 2-2 with Butler and beat Creighton 3-0 in their two exhibition matches.