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Marquette Women’s Lacrosse Preview: vs #3 Florida Gators

Brace for impact, y’all.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-East Regional Practice Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

It was really good for Marquette’s postseason hopes to smash Villanova 20-6 in their last outing. The Golden Eagles will tangle with two ranked foes in league play this week, and with MU’s history against ranked teams (SPOILER ALERT: oh-fer), odds are they’ll be under .500 in league action when Sunday morning rolls around.

For now, though, Marquette is 2-1 in the Big East, and only looking up at unbeaten Florida, their opponent on Wednesday afternoon. However, it is a five-way logjam for second place at 2-1 at the moment, so it is quite unfortunately that MU has to run into the buzzsaw section of their schedule right now. It also means that Marquette’s overtime loss to Temple stings a little bit more than it did at the time.

Think about it: if Marquette hadn’t fallen behind by six to the Owls, or if they had held on to their late lead in regulation, Wednesday afternoon’s game in the Valley would be for sole control of first place in the Big East.

Instead, it will only be to create a complete mess atop the standings. It would be a hell of a thing if Marquette could pull the stunner on the Gators, that’s for sure.

We can probably rely on MU’s offense to provide enough pop to run with the Gators, the question will be whether or not MU’s defense will be able to withstand UF long enough to keep Marquette in the game. The Golden Eagles are up to nearly 13 goals per game on average after thrashing Villanova last time out, but they’re still allowing nearly 14 per 60 minutes played, even after a six goal showing against the Wildcats. Freshman Jules Horning has shown some flashes since taking over from Molly Grozier, so she’ll have to have a huge game on Wednesday, as will Fran Meyer. The senior defender ranks second in the Big East in caused turnovers per game, and she’s one of just 29 women in the country causing more than two giveaways per game.

Big East Game #4: vs #3 Florida Gators (9-2, 3-0 Big East)

When: Wednesday, April 5, 2017, at 12pm Central
Where: Valley Fields in the Andy Glockner Memorial Bubble
Audio/Visual: GoMarquette.com has a free video stream, and free live stats, too.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWLax

Marquette has yet to defeat Florida in two tries. The Gators have outscored the Golden Eagles 31-10 in their two meetings, including running out to a 15-0 lead last season down in Gainesville.

How are the Gators ranked #3 in the country with two losses, you ask? Well, it’s quite simple. There are two teams who have been ranked #1 in women’s lacrosse this season: Maryland and North Carolina. Those are UF’s only two losses this season: a season opening 13-10 defeat at the hands of the Tar Heels when they were ranked #1, and an 18-8 thrashing from the #1 ranked Terrapins just last Wednesday. Fun Fact: Maryland is undefeated and North Carolina has only lost to Maryland.

Florida is getting things done this season with ferocious offense and passable defense. At nearly 16 goals a game, they’re ranked #3 in the country in scoring offense, and while their 10.6 goals per game allowed isn’t great, it’s still top 40 in the country and more than good enough to get them through with that kind of scoring kick on the other end. Mollie Stevens is providing the most pop in the Gators lineup, earning three Big East Attacker of the Week honors while ranking 15th in the country in goals per game with better than a hat trick every time out. She’s not alone out there, as Shayna Pirreca’s 35 goals on the season is just two behind Stevens for total goals, and there’s three more Gators than have scored at least 20 times. Sammi Burgess might actually be the most important player in their arsenal, as she’s scored 21 goals but assisted on 24 more. That’s nearly a third of UF’s assists from Burgess alone.

Sophomore Hayley Hicklen handles the netminding duties for Florida, and she’s doing a pretty good job. Her 9.90 goals-against average is second best in the conference amongst goalies with 400 minutes played, and her .485 save percentage is the best amongst any goalies, regardless of minutes played. She ranks second in the Big East in saves per game, so teams are definitely getting shots off at Hicklen, though, so Marquette may need to be ultra-precise on Wednesday in order to pull off the upset.