Bad news: Marquette lost their season opener by one goal.
Good news: It was against a Louisville team that started the season ranked in the coaches poll and receiving votes in the media poll.
Bad news: Marquette allowed 13 goals on 20 total shots and just 17 shots on net.
Good news: Marquette’s offense is already operating at peak capacity, scoring 12 goals on 36 shots and 23 shots on net.
As I’m sure head coach Meredith Black would tell you, no one in the Marquette locker room was happy about losing the the Cardinals. However, it was game #1 of a 17 game season, and what we saw was exactly what you might have expected: A veteran laden offense holding its own against a nationally relevant team, while a defense with multiple new players playing new roles struggled to contain a potent offense.
Odds are that the defense will learn and improve, even just from the season opener. It was the first time ever that junior Molly Grozier played more than 16 minutes in net for Marquette, so there’s going to be a growing pain or seven for the defense. Even with that being the case, they still nearly did just enough to allow Marquette to grab what would have been the biggest victory in program history. They might be closer than you’d think to being a cohesive and effective unit.
Unfortunately for the Golden Eagles, things are going to get more difficult before they get easier, as they get a top 10 ranked team in game #2 of the season, and this time, they won’t be playing in front of the partisan crowd that was in the Valley Fields Bubble. Fingers crossed, people......
Game #2: at #10 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (2-1)
When: Tuesday, February 14, 2017, at 6pm CT
Where: Loftus Sports Center in Notre Dame, IN
Audio/Visual: ACC Network Extra is carrying the video stream which means it should be on WatchESPN. There’s also live stats.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWLax
Marquette is 0-4 all time against Notre Dame. The Golden Eagles have been outscored 61-27 in those games, although they hit a high water mark of nine goals against the Irish one year ago.
Notre Dame opened their season with a stern test, welcoming #9 Northwestern to the Loftus Center. They ended up taking the L, falling by just a lone goal, 14-13. ND had been trailing 8-2 before making it 13-11 with over 12 minutes left. The Wildcats held the Irish scoreless for over 10 minutes to preserve their lead before letting in two late ones to give the final 64 seconds a bit of drama.
The Irish bounced back over the next two days with two relatively easy wins over Liberty (18-2) and Detroit (24-9), and amazingly enough, the stat sheet for Notre Dame is not completely absurd. I mean, sure, Cortney Fortunato has 16 goals in just three games, and two more players - Samantha Lynch and Nikki Ortega - already have 11 points on the season. But you’ve got 12 different Irish players who have scored a goal and 14 different players that have recorded a point. That’s actually an incredibly job of spreading things around, although I suppose having massive leads late leads to a lot of bench scoring, doesn’t it?
Head coach Christine Halfpenny is going with sophomore Samantha Giacolone in net this season, and while Halfpenny spread the field play around to her bench, that was not the case for her goalies. It’s not a case of needing a little used player from last year minutes, as Giacolone started all 21 games as a freshman last season. Giacolone has played all but 9:28 of this season, wrapping up with a goals-against average of 8.80 and a save percentage of .359. That save percentage seems kind of enticing for a Marquette team that threw 23 shots on goal at Louisville’s Brittany Read and forced Read to make 11 saves to get the win for the Cardinals.
In their season opener, Marquette tangled with the team picked to finish seventh in the ACC this season. This game sends them into a contest with the team picked to finish third. The ACC doesn’t announce who got how many first place votes, but we’re left to point out that Notre Dame picked up 50 points, trailing North Carolina with 63 and Syracuse with 52. Louisville, by comparison, got just 20 points in the balloting. Fortunato was one of two Irish players on the preseason all-ACC squad, where she was joined by Casey Pearsall. Pearsall has two goals, an assist, and a team high 11 draw controls on the season, but sat out Saturday’s game against Detroit.