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2017 Marquette Women’s Lacrosse Preview: The Defense

The success of the Golden Eagles this spring will depend on how fast this unit pulls together.

Fran Meyer
Fran Meyer inherits the mantle of the experienced veteran on the Golden Eagles defense.

We’ve already talked about how Marquette’s offense is primed and ready to drive the Golden Eagles to success this season. It’s reasonable to think that this will be the highest scoring season of Marquette lacrosse.

They might have to do exactly that to survive and reach the Big East tournament for the first time in program history.

Here’s the problem: Marquette lost three defensive starters and an excellent two-way midfielder to graduation after last season. Goalie Sarah Priem, who has been the starting netminder since Day 1 for head coach Meredith Black, along with defenders Elizabeth Goslee and Kayce Haverstick are all gone now, as is midfielder Hayley Baas.

Those four women hold the four spots atop Marquette’s career ground balls list, and four of the top five spots in career caused turnovers. They have four of the best ground balls seasons in program history, six of the best seven, and seven of the best 11. Goslee and Baas are the only two women to ever record 24 or more caused turnovers in a season, and they’ve each done it twice. That group of four has eight of the 10 best caused turnovers season in program history.

They have been the bedrock of the Marquette defense for the past four seasons. And now head coach Meredith Black has to move in a new direction without them.

The good news is that Black doesn’t have quite the same defensive reconstruction project that men’s lacrosse coach Joe Amplo has on his side of the aisle. Fran Meyer returns for her senior season, and Alex Gambacorta is back again after being voted Most Improved Player on the squad in 2016 by her teammates. Those two were crucial components for MU last season, with Meyer starting all 17 games and Gambacorta appearing in all 17 with 13 starting nods. They combined for 52 ground balls and 34 caused turnovers last season, and that’ll definitely be a great place to build out from in 2017.

Filling in the field defense around Meyer and Gambacorta won’t be that difficult. Marquette has a bunch of experienced midfielders - Allison Lane, Taylor Smith, Charlotte McGuire, and Grace Gabriel jump to mind immediately, even if they’re best known for their offensive exploits - and having midfielders who know what they’re doing solves half your defensive questions. Megan Bianco, Laine Dolan, Jordan Simonides, and Kaitlyn Viviano are the upperclassmen on defense, and while there’s not a lot of experience there, they all have familiarity with what Black is asking from her defenders, and fitting in next to Meyer and Gambacorta shouldn’t be a big ask for them. MU has three freshmen on defense this season, and it’s possible that Black might be able to turn to one of them right away. Anna Gallagher was a two-time All-American honoree during her prep career, and if she can pick up the speed of collegiate lacrosse quick enough, she could find her way into the lineup early and often.

That brings us to the issue of goalkeeping. As mentioned earlier, Sarah Priem has been MU’s #1 netminder for each of the past four seasons. That changes this year, of course. Molly Grozier would be the early favorite to start on Friday against Louisville merely due to seniority. The junior from Pleasanton, CA, has made just one appearance in three seasons for Marquette, coming on in relief for 16 minutes in last season’s destruction of Central Michigan. That’s the sum total of collegiate netminding experience on the roster for this season, as freshman Jules Horning is the only other goalie. The good news is that she was the team captain for Conestoga (PA) last season as they won a league and state title. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Black give Horning the nod to start the season, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see the pair of goalies split time in one way or another this season either. We will have to wait and see what happens.