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Marquette Women’s Soccer Weekend Preview: vs #2 Stanford Cardinal & vs Kentucky Wildcats

The Golden Eagles kick off the 2017 season with a pair of home games.

Washington v Stanford Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images

The Marquette Golden Eagles women’s soccer team will begin the 25th season in program history facing off against Stanford tonight and Kentucky on Sunday afternoon. Things don’t start easy for the Golden Eagles, as the Cardinal are ranked second in the nation in the United Soccer Coaches Preseason Poll.

The Golden Eagles are coming off a tough exhibition outing against Wisconsin last Thursday. After scoring the first goal in the opening minutes of play, the Badgers answered with four goals and dominated the rest of the game. Although it is a preseason game, you still want to go out there and get a good result. It was the only exhibition match Marquette played in preparation for the start of the season.

Marquette: Strengths

The Golden Eagles are coming off a solid season going 12-8-2 and making it to the Big East Championship game. They also made the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2013-14 season. They have a lot of key players that contributed to their success last year. Marquette had three players that accumulated double-digit points last season, led by Carrie Madden who made the Big East All-Championship team last year. She led the team in basically every statistical offensive category, totaling 17 points with six goals and five assists. She showed a lot of versatility and creativity on the attack being able to create opportunities for herself as well as getting others involved. Look for the Golden Eagles to get her involved early and often in the attack. They will certainly need a spark from her if they want to beat a Stanford team that only had one road loss all of last year.

However, Marquette boasts a great home record only losing one home game last season. They went 7-1-1 at Valley Fields last year. Their only home loss came against Georgetown who made it to the semifinals of The NCAA Tournament last year. They will be looking to replicate their Valley Field prowess starting tonight. They certainly like to make things exciting at home winning six of their seven games by just one goal. They have shown to be resilient but something has to give in this game. We'll see if the Golden Eagles can score early and keep up the pressure against a very good Stanford team.

Marquette: Weaknesses

Marquette has struggled at the start of the season in the last three years. They have a losing record in the first five games of the season going a combined 6-8-1 in the previous three seasons. They are also winless against Wisconsin being outscored 9-2 in their last four exhibition matches (including this year). All of these games have come against non-conference opponents, of course, and Stanford is as tough as they come. The Golden Eagles will need to get off to a fast start, even if that doesn’t mean they score early, if they want any chance at getting a result in this game.

Another area where Marquette struggled last season was in their shots on goal percentage. Not only was it lower than it has been in previous years, but it was also ever so slightly lower than their opponents, 45.9% to 46.6%. They were also out shot by 1.5 shots per game. While it's a very small margin, it does show the Golden Eagles need to create more quality chances. They will need to improve their accuracy in front of goal right away with Stanford coming in to town this evening.

Match #1: vs #2 Stanford Cardinal (0-0-0)

Date: Friday, August 18, 2017
Time: 7:30pm Central
Location: Valley Fields
Live Stats: GameTracker
Twitter Updates: @MUWomensSoccer
Special Promotion: FREE ADMISSION for kids 12 and under!

As mentioned at the top, Stanford comes in ranked #2 in the country, the exact same ranking as last year when they pelted Marquette with 31 shots and won 3-0. It shouldn’t be a surprise to you that the Cardinal are picked to win the Pac-12 this season, although it might be a surprise that they aren’t a unanimous choice. They only got 10 of the 12 first place votes, with the other two going to UCLA and USC.

They return 17 of 21 players from last season, including Andi Sullivan and Tierna Davidson, both of whom are on the Hermann Trophy watch list to start the season. Sullivan has been a Hermann Trophy semifinalist each of the past two seasons and was named Pac-12 Player of the Year in 2016. I’d say that career bests in goals (11) and assists (7) is pretty good and worthy of that honor. Davidson, who plays midfielder just like Sullivan, plays more of a defensive game, but scored two goals and two assists as a freshman last year and made it to the All Pac-12 Second Team.

Stanford does have a question to answer at goalkeeper. They have two on the roster, redshirt junior Alison Jahansouz and sophomore Lauren Rood. Jahansouz was the backup to Jane Campbell last season, playing nearly 300 minutes in six appearances. However, Rood got the start in Stanford’s lone exhibition, but the two women did split the game right down the middle. We’ll see who gets the nod from head coach Paul Ratcliffe on Friday night.

Match #2: vs Kentucky Wildcats (0-0-0)

Date: Sunday, August 20, 2017
Time: 2:30pm Central
Location: Valley Fields
Live Stats: GameTracker
Twitter Updates: @MUWomensSoccer
Special Promotions: FREE ADMISSION for summer campers & it’s Kids Club VIP Day, with face painting, balloon animals, and more for Club members. Plus: Parents & family of Club members pay just $2 for admission.

Kentucky should be a more manageable opponent than Stanford. Kentucky had a difficult season in 2016 finishing in 84th in last year’s NCAA final RPI with a record of 5-9-4. They only won one game in the last half of the season, and that ultimately led to a coaching change as former UK assistant Ian Carry is now in charge of the show. However, they do play in a very competitive conference. Three of the top 10 teams in last year's final rankings came from the Southeastern conference (#4 South Carolina, #7 Florida, #9 Auburn). Kentucky also had one top 25 victory against an Arkansas team that finished the season ranked 17th. Kentucky was actually their only home loss of the year. Although Kentucky is a much less formidable opponent than Stanford, Marquette should still be wary of the Wildcats because of their strength of schedule.

While Kentucky might not have been particularly successful last year, they return eight starters, two of whom were SEC All-Freshman team performers last season. Keeper Evangeline Soucie stopped over 72% of shots on goal last season. The Kentucky defense in front of her was a little porous, though, as she still allowed 1.59 goals per 90 minutes. Marissa Bosco tallied three goals and five assists last season, and given her history with Eclipse Select club soccer, she’s probably more than familiar to the MU coaching staff and a number of the players as well.

The Wildcats also return their leading scorer from last season. Tanya Samarzich provided seven goals and six assists for UK as a junior, and the California native is also a part of the Mexican National Team. In fact, she was set to play in the 2015 World Cup, but suffered an ankle injury in final preparation for the tournament and had to be relegated to the sidelines.

Final Thoughts

If the Golden Eagles can go 1-1 to start the season I think that would be a success. They lost to Stanford 3-0 last season, but that shooting gallery of a game was played out in Palo Alto. It was also played last September and MU really rounded into form late in the 2016 season. If anything, they can use that game as motivation to come out strong against the Cardinal tonight. Their game on Sunday will be a little bit of history, as it will be the first ever meeting between Marquette and Kentucky.