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Marquette Women’s Soccer Preview: at #22 Santa Clara

The Golden Eagles follow up their best showing of the season with a trip out west to test themselves.

NCAA Women's Basketball: USA TODAY Sports-Archive Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Things looked a little shaky for Marquette in their first two contests. They’ve righted the ship since then, evening out their record at 2-2-0 on the season, thanks to wins over Illinois State and Michigan last weekend. Perhaps not coincidentally, Marquette’s looked better since Markus Roeders inserted freshman Emily Hess into the lineup.

Hess didn’t play at all in the opener, and then came off the bench for 54 minutes in MU’s shutout loss to Kansas. She’s played every minute since then, scoring Marquette’s first goal against Illinois State on a bending corner kick, then drawing two fouls that immediately led to goals against Michigan. Hess’ determination against the Wolverines first earned the Golden Eagles a penalty kick that Morgan Proffitt converted, then Hess sent the free kick that she earned to the far post for Molly Pfeiffer’s game winner.

That’s how you end up with a freshman who hasn’t played in every game this season sitting atop the team lead in points with three. It’s also how Hess has launched herself into the discussion for Big East Freshman of the Year after earning the weekly version of that award this past Monday.

Of course, Marquette still has a few things to hammer out. Even while playing three consecutive solid halves of soccer, MU still got outshot by Illinois State and Michigan to the tune of 21-15. Marquette’s being outshot on the season by an average of three shots per game, which is traditionally not how head coach Markus Roeders likes to see his team play. When the Golden Eagles were going to six straight NCAA tournaments, Marquette’s overwhelming control of possession was a hallmark. MU was taking at least 60% of the shots in their games between 2008-2013, and at their best and winning back to back Big East regular season and tournament titles, MU was taking 70% of the shots.

They’re in for a rough test in each of the next two matches, and things might get worse before they get better. Perhaps with two ranked foes on the horizon, merely looking like they belong in the matches will be a testament to how the team is coming together, and we’ll reassess where things are next week. Or maybe Marquette can swipe a win from a reeling opponent on Thursday night.....

Match #5: at #22 Santa Clara (2-2-0)

When: Thursday, September 1, 2016, at 9:30pm CT
Where: Stevens Stadium in Santa Clara, CA
Audio/Visual: WCCSports.com has the video streaming, plus there’s live stats.
Twitter Updates: @MUWomensSoccer & @SCUWomensSoccer

Marquette is winless in two tries against Santa Clara. The Golden Eagles haven’t actually scored against SCU, either. The 1999 season brought a 1-0 loss, and that margin was doubled in their 2004 encounter. This will be the third straight match between the two teams that has been played on the Broncos’ home turf.

It’s been an up and down season already for Santa Clara. Ranked #21 in the NSCAA’s preseason poll, the Broncos started the year off with a pair of thrilling overtime wins at home over then-#11 USC and then-#18 California. Nicely done, Broncos!

Except then they headed to the Evergreen State last weekend and the wheels came off. A 38th minute header gave unranked Washington State a victory over SCU, assuring them that they’d drop from their #13 spot in the poll. Two days later, they were in Seattle to face Washington, and the unranked Huskies gave them the business as well. UW came up with two second half goals, including the game winner in the 88th minute to stun the Broncos and send them down to .500 on the year.

I guess the good news for them is that they’re still ranked, although one spot further down the poll than where they were to start the season.

Coming off of the 25th NCAA tournament appearance in program history and sixth in the last seven years, Santa Clara was picked to finish second in the West Coast Conference this season. Redshirt senior midfielder Julie Vass and junior defender Kellie Peay represented SCU on the WCC’s preseason all-conference squad. Vass led Santa Clara with eight goals and 17 points in 2015, while Peay had two goals and an assist to land her on the all-WCC Second Team from the back line a year ago.

Vass has started all four matches this season for the Broncos, but has yet to record a point. Senior middie Jordan Jesolva has the early lead in goals with two, while four Broncos have all contributed an assist. Sophomore keeper Melissa Lowder eclipsed her freshman mark of minutes played in the second half of the season opener and has played every minute so far this season. She’s allowing 1.18 goals per 90 minutes and stopping 72.2% of shots on frame, which is pretty respectable for this early in the season.