You never really know which freshman is going to make an impression on the coaching staff when it comes to college sports. This goes double in a sport like soccer where you can have six freshmen on a regular basis and where individual skills can interlock with the rest of the team in various ways.
We don’t really know how Markus Roeders and his assistants think about this year’s crop of Marquette women’s soccer freshmen, but what we do know is that three of them played in the exhibition loss to Wisconsin, while three of them did not. While there may be more at work there than merely preference of who plays in an exhibition, we’re going to split the six of them in that manner to give you an idea of what to expect from the newcomers in 2017.
THOSE THAT PLAYED
All three freshmen came off the bench in the exhibition match, and Kylie Sprecher was the first to enter the game. The 5’8” forward from Menomonee Falls played high school soccer for just two seasons before focusing on her club team after that. I can’t guarantee anything, but it might have something to do with looking for a new challenge after breaking the school record for goals in a season (31) as a sophomore. You can never have too many gifted goal scorers on the field at once, but it’ll be a tough situation for Sprecher to push past Darian Powell, Jamie Kutey, and Carrie Madden in order to rack up playing time.
Rachel Johnson was next off the bench for Markus Roeders. The Omaha, Nebraska native stands 5’8” tall and won three state titles while playing for Marian High School. Listed as a midfielder/forward, Johnson does not have the sparkling goalscoring stats that Sprecher did during her prep career. She topped out at 10 goals during her senior year, which included one of Marian’s goals in their 2-0 win in the state title game. Even with that in mind, Johnson was still named First Team All-State as a junior and a senior by the Omaha World-Herald, so it’s clear that her talents on the pitch extend far past putting the ball in the net. Marquette’s recent run of consecutive Big East regular season titles was built on playing a possession control style of soccer, so it definitely seems like Johnson could be the next in a line of midfielders who can make sure the ball stays with the Golden Eagles.
The third and final freshman to see action in the exhibition match was also the last sub off the bench. Maddie Monticello comes to Marquette from Chicago (the city proper, not a suburb), and according to her official university bio page, she didn’t play prep soccer. Instead, the midfielder/defender focused on her club team, Eclipse Select..... which also happens to be the same club team that Kylie Sprecher played for over the past two years. I feel like it’s not a coincidence the three women who played in the exhibition were already tied together, with Sprecher and Johnson teaming up in the U.S. Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program. As we discussed yesterday, there is definitely space in Marquette’s defensive corps for someone to make a splash and grab up playing time, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Monticello work her way into the lineup.
THOSE THAT DID NOT PLAY
Elaina Eckert, Maggie Lena, and Meredith McGuire round out the freshman class for Marquette this year. At just 5’4”, Eckert is currently tied for the shortest player on the team. Hailing from Warren, Michigan, the midfielder/forward won two league championships in her prep career and helped Marian High School reach the state semifinals in 2016. Lena is the only Californian on the squad, and the only player coming to Marquette from somewhere that could not be categorized as a Midwestern state. She was a team captain in her junior and senior seasons at Santa Monica High School, where they won four league championships and reached the state semifinals in 2015. McGuire has had an interesting four years of competition leading up to her arrival at Marquette. She played for Naperville Central as a freshman and a senior, but spent her sophomore and junior years only playing club soccer with Sockers FC. Even with that being the case, she was still a team captain for Naperville as a senior and played her way onto the all-conference team.