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Marquette Women’s Lacrosse Preview: at #17 Northwestern Wildcats

The Golden Eagles head a bit south on I-94 for the fourth game of their seven game road trip.

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Northwestern vs Rutgers Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

At 2-4 so far this season, you’d have to say that things are going pretty much as could be expected for Marquette women’s lacrosse.

They have two wins over two unranked teams and four losses to four ranked teams. Breaking news: MU isn’t a national contender this season. Nothing wrong with that, nor is there anything wrong with head coach Meredith Black scheduling her team against high quality opponents. It sends the message to the team that these are the teams we want to compete against on a regular basis, and, on top of that, we have to play our absolute best every single time out if we want to beat them.

It just means that sometimes the L’s stack up a little faster than you’d like to see.

Hopefully it pays off. Last year, Marquette finished in a tie for third place in the Big East, but because it was a three-way tie, the Golden Eagles were left finishing in fifth place and missed the conference tournament. Hopefully tangling with all of these great non-conference foes leads to Marquette tearing it up against the other Big East teams. (glances at the top 20, sees two BE teams) Well, against most of the other Big East teams. That would be a solid payoff to these early season.... well, I don’t want to call them struggles, especially not after Marquette put up a quality fight against both Louisville and Johns Hopkins. Early season setbacks? Yeah, that will work.

There is reason for optimism that this is the case, by the way. MU is essentially dead even in shots per game with their opponents. Nearly 68% of Marquette’s shots have either gone in for goals or been saved by the goalie. The key at this point is getting more shots to go in. MU has a shooting percentage of .397 on the season, while their opponents are posting a shooting percentage of .466. If the Golden Eagles can just drag those two numbers a little bit closer together, they might really be on to something.

Game #7: at #17 Northwestern Wildcats (2-4)

When: Saturday, March 11, 2017, at 12pm Central
Where: Martin Stadium in Evanston, IL
Audio/Visual: BTN Plus has the video stream, so that’s subscribers only. You can get a month of Northwestern video for $10. Live stats will be free, though.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWLax

Marquette is 0-3 all time against Northwestern. However, MU has been showing signs of getting closer to a W against the Wildcats. After starting the series off with a 20-5 loss, MU fell 13-6 in 2015 and then 17-11 last season. Last year’s game was closer than that final margin looks: Taylor Smith made it a 12-10 game with 8:42 left to go before the Wildcats ran off five straight to pull away.

I’m guessing that you’re wondering how the hell Northwestern is ranked with a sub-.500 record. Well, first of all, that’s the kind of thing that happens when you start the season ranked #9 in the country. Second of all, NU started out the year 2-0 including a win over then-#8 Notre Dame. That buys you some leeway. After suffering their first loss of the season in overtime to the same Colorado team that smashed MU last weekend, Northwestern went into something of a tailspin. Sure, they’ve lost four straight total now, but the last three games have been against teams that were ranked in the top eight in the country at the time. They took an 11-10 OT loss to #4 USC and a 5-3 loss to #5 Syracuse (my word, that sounds like a nightmare to watch) before falling 13-5 to #8 Stony Brook last Sunday. All four of the losses (as well as the win over Notre Dame) came on the road, so that buys the Wildcats a little bit of reasonable doubt in the voters’ minds.

They’re not playing poorly by any stretch, especially when you consider that Stony Brook has scored 19 or more goals three times already this season. They are reeling a little bit, and I think it’s safe to say that NU will struggle to get back into the top 20 if Marquette manages to pull the upset down by Lake Michigan.

The Wildcats lean heavily on Christina Esposito to score goals this season. The redshirt senior has tallied 17 goals this year, finding the back of the net at least once in every single NU game. Selena Lasota (8G, 5A) is second to Esposito in terms of points, but the junior from Canada has missed each of the past two games with what appears to be an unexplained injury. Would it really be the worst thing in the world if teams just announced injuries like normal people??

Corinne Wessels has played a major role for the Wildcats this season, dishing nine assists. However, she missed the Syracuse game and hasn’t recorded an assist since then. She’s also been coming off the bench instead of starting like she did in the first three games of the season.

Sophomore Mallory Weisse has been given the nod in net by head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller, which shouldn’t be a surprise. Weisse was inserted as the starting netminder at the beginning of last season and hasn’t released her hold on the position. She’s stopping 48% of shots on goal this year while allowing just short of 10 goals per 60 minutes.