It’s January 10th! YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles begin their fifth season of Division 1 competition exactly one month from today when they host Louisville, so it’s more than an appropriate time to make some preseason picks when it comes to Big East women’s lacrosse.
That, and the league office announced last year’s award winners on January 27th, so you can bet your sweet bippy that I’m not getting caught off guard.
We do have two fairly important pieces of news to get to before we get to the picks. The Big East is now a 10 team league for women’s lacrosse, and no, Creighton, DePaul, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall, and Xavier didn’t suddenly get much cooler in the past 10 months. Butler did, however, as our friends down in Indianapolis are playing Division 1 lacrosse for the first time ever. Also joining the league this season is Denver, formerly of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. The Pioneers were already affiliate members of the Big East for men’s lacrosse, so as more and more Pac12 schools add women’s lacrosse, it was a natural fit for them to associate with the Big East.
Denver and their players were considered for the picks you’re about to ready, but Butler was not. Sorry, Bulldogs, but I still remember how Marquette’s first season of Division 1 lacrosse went, and y’all don’t even have the year of redshirting players on campus that the Golden Eagles did. It’s probably going to be a little rough for Butler this year, but if they post some serious numbers, they will of course be considered for postseason awards.
Now, on with the show.....
Preseason Offensive Player of the Year: Grace Nolan, Attack, Connecticut
You don’t need to overthink these things most of the time. Nolan led the league in points per game a year ago while finishing second in goals per game and seventh in assists per game. She’s the best returning goal scorer in the league and she was named Co-Attacker of the Year at the end of the 2016 campaign. Simple.
Well, maybe not that simple. With Denver joining the league this season, an argument could be made for the Pios’ Nicole Martindale. The junior just barely pipped Nolan in terms of points per game last season, 3.56 to 3.53. That wasn’t in the Big East, of course, so I’ll figure that she’ll end up losing out to Nolan. For what it’s worth, in the nine games last season that Martindale played, she averaged fewer goals than Nolan, but more assists.
Preseason Defensive Player of the Year: Caroline Fitzgerald, Defense, Florida
She was the Defensive Player of the Year at the end of 2016, was named to the all-Big East First Team, and finished fifth in the league in ground balls per game, second if you don’t count goalies. Again, very simple.
Preseason All-Big East Team
Sammi Burgess, Florida, Attack
Taylor Bresnahan, Florida, Defense
Cassie Ekstrom, Connecticut, Defense
Caroline Fitzgerald, Florida, Defense
Morgan Glassford, Temple, Midfield
Callahan Kent, Vanderbilt, Goalkeeper
Allison Lane, Marquette, Midfield
Nicole Martindale, Denver, Attack
Grace Nolan, Connecticut, Attack
Lindsay Ronbeck, Florida, Attack
Layne Voorhees, Denver, Defense
Francesca Whitehurst, Georgetown, Midfield
This was surprisingly easy to put together. Last year’s all-Big East teams were incredibly senior heavy, so I was expecting to have to do some fine parsing to draw the line between who made it and who didn’t. However, when mixing in Martindale and Voorhees from Denver, I easily made my cutoffs for 11 field players and a goalie. For midfield, defense, and goalkeeper, all of the players were either first or second team all-BE last year with the exception of Voorhees, who was First Team all-MPSF.
Callahan Kent was Second Team all-Big East last year, and clearly deserving of a spot in that regard. However, she’s one of just three regular goalies from last year that return in 2017 and Kent wasn’t knocking anyone over with her numbers, either. Denver’s Maddy Stevenson had a better goals-against average and a comparable save percentage. If the league’s coaches want to go in that direction, I’d be fine with that.
For attack, it’s the three returning First Teamers in the league along with Martindale. She didn’t earn all-MPSF honors last year, most likely due to missing half of Denver’s season. Martindale’s numbers in the second half of the year are clearly worthy of preseason all-Big East honors, though. The Big East had three attackers that return for 2017 on their Second Team last season, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Vanderbilt’s Kelly Chandler, Marquette’s Julianna Shearer, or Florida’s Shayna Pirreca sneak into the official preseason team, especially if they go bigger than the 12 player team that I used here.
There is one possible monkeywrench that could be thrown in here. Marquette’s Claire Costanza is back for a final year of eligibility after missing all of 2016 with an injury. She’s MU’s all time leader in points and assists and has the top two single season point totals in program history, too. If she’s 100% healthy and back to form, she’s deserving of an all-Big East spot. I don’t know if the league coaches will give it to her, though.
Top Five Teams
1 - Florida
2 - Connecticut
3 - Denver
4 - Marquette
5 - Georgetown
Clearly, the Gators are the class of the league. There’s not really anything anyone can say to convince me otherwise. The Huskies rolled through the league with a 6-1 record a year ago (aka “Winning The Non-Florida Division”) and while they have to replace a few talented players, there’s still a lot to be reckoned with there.
If Denver’s postseason accolades and Martindale’s scoring can transfer to being a high quality foe in the Big East, then the Pioneers should be in the mix for a Big East tournament berth. I think this is the year that Marquette finally punches through for one of those four prized league tourney spots after losing out on a three-way tie a year ago, and, sure, why not the Hoyas, who did make their way in ahead of the Golden Eagles last season.