Coming off of the best season in program history, the offense may carry Marquette women’s lacrosse in 2017.
The graduation of the first ever four year players in program history ended up taking a bite out of the defense (more on that in a future article), but the offense has survived mostly unharmed, thanks to the production of non-seniors a year ago. Six of the seven players that registered at least 17 points (aka at least a point per game) return for head coach Meredith Black this season. Perhaps even more importantly, the Golden Eagles will get back the program’s all time leading point scorer after she missed all of the 2016 season with an injury.
It may be the deepest and most robust offense that Black has ever coached in Milwaukee, and that ability to put points on the board could allow enough cover for the defense to figure things out as the season progresses.
But again, we’ll talk about the defense more in the future. Let’s focus on the women who will be shaking the twine behind opposing goalies in 2017.
We have to start with Julianna Shearer and Allison Lane, MU’s two preseason all-Big East honorees. Shearer, now a senior, and Lane, now a junior, went 1-2 in goal scoring on last year’s squad, and also went 1-2 on the all time single season goals chart. Yes, that’s right, Lane would have recorded the best goals season in the four years of women’s lacrosse at Marquette with 33 if it wasn’t for Shearer topping her with 36. Along the way, Shearer became just the third woman in Marquette lacrosse history to hit 40 points in a season.
As you’ve kind of figured out, they’re not alone out there. After missing most of 2015 with an injury, Amanda Bochniak roared back into action in 2016, finishing in a tie with Shearer for the most points on the squad last season with 40. While Shearer did it with a record setting number of goals, Bochniak, also a senior now, mixed and matched her points with 16 goals and 24 assists. Her 24 helpers in 2016 fell just one shy of the program record for a single season and was just the sixth time a MU player tallied more than 10 assists in a season.
The biggest surprise of 2016 was Riley Hill. The New York native missed the first three games of the season, but exploded with productivity once she returned to the lineup. Hill scored 14 goals and chipped in 22 assists, making her just the third Golden Eagle to ever record more than 10 assists in a season. The most impressive thing about what she did during her sophomore campaign was the fact that she had just three assists for all of her freshman year and her 25 total assists are now the third best mark in program history.
Essentially what Hill did in 2016 was fill the vacancy left by the season ending injury to Claire Costanza. Bochniak and Hill have three 20 assist seasons between them, while Costanza, who hails from Webster, New York, recorded 20 assists in each of her first three seasons for Marquette. She literally has half of the six best assist seasons in program history, not to mention that even after missing a year, she still has the team record for career points (126) and career assists (69), and Costanza leads both categories by 23. She’s also third on the all time goals list, but that’s just to show off. Given the partial nature of scholarships for lacrosse, it was not a guarantee that Costanza would return for 2017 to use her final year of eligibility. In fact, she was honored on Senior Day last season. She is returning as a graduate student this year, though, and adding her into the mix will just make last year’s great offense even better. This is, of course, presuming that her season ending injury has healed and she’s back to 100%. Even 75% of the best scorer in team history should still be pretty good though, and you have to figure that she wouldn’t be back for one more go around plus graduate school if she wasn’t fully up to the challenge.
We can’t overlook Grace Gabriel and Cate Soccodato when we’re talking about MU’s dynamic offense. Both women are sophomores now, but they had great freshman campaigns for Marquette. Both women appeared in all 17 games, with Gabriel scoring 19 goals and dishing three assists, while Soccodato had 17 and 4 for 21 points while earning a starting nod in 14 of MU’s contests. With the return of Costanza to the lineup, it’s possible that Gabriel and Soccodato may find their roles slightly diminished this season. It’s also entirely possible that the combination of mixing in Costanza and the addition of the 90 second shot clock actually boosts Marquette’s offense, giving both sophomores even more space and time to contribute.
The lone hole to fill on offense will be the vacancy left behind by Hayley Baas. She was a four year standout for Marquette, and she wrapped up her senior season with 22 goals and five assists. Baas finished as just the second player to ever record 100 points for Marquette and she’s the program’s all time leading goal scorer with 88 markers. It’s hard to overstate how much she’s meant to the development of lacrosse in Milwaukee, but that’s something that Black and her staff will have to accomplish this season. The most likely candidates for that spot would be redshirt senior Taylor Smith and junior Charlotte McGuire. Both play in the midfield like Baas, and both had some modicum of success on offense last year. Smith recorded six goals and two assists while playing in all 17 games, while McGuire had eight points (4G, 4A) in 14 appearances. It’s also possible that Lindsey Willcocks could get the nod, since Smith and McGuire were playing alongside Baas more than anything else. As a freshman last year, Willcocks scored twice in 11 appearances.
There are also three highly accomplished offensive players amongst Marquette’s 10 freshmen. Hannah Ignacio was a US Lacrosse All-American selection after posting 48 goals and 55 assists as a senior, and she finished her prep career with 224 points (123G, 101A). Both Megan Menzuber and Mary Kate Condon bested Ignacio in the career scoring total, with Condon recording 193 goals and 41 assists in her career with Montini Catholic High School in Lombard, Illinois, while Menzuber tallied (and this is not a typo) 239 goals and 81 assists at Holy Family Catholic in Victoria, Minnesota. Menzuber might be a candidate to fill in for Baas in terms of playing on both ends as a midfielder, as she also had 40 ground balls, 29 caused turnovers, and 70 draw controls. She comes to Marquette after being named First Team all-state three times and Minnesota Miss Lacrosse as a senior.