The Marquette Golden Eagles will play the Illinois State Redbirds tonight at Valley Fields. The Redbirds do not want to play the Golden Eagles at the moment since MU is carrying a scorching seven game winning streak. It’s no surprise that when the new rankings came out on Tuesday, the Golden Eagles were in the top 25. The United Soccer Coaches poll has them ranked #19 with 196 points. This is the first time that MU has been ranked since 2014. That year they were ranked in the preseason top 25 after winning the Big East championship back-to-back years. So what have the Golden Eagles done this season that has gotten them to their best start since 2011?
I’ve talked about this before but the Golden Eagles have been very efficient on offense. They have great chemistry on the attack combining for 14 assists this season. Every single one of Marquette’s goals has been assisted which makes sense when looking at how well MU builds up the attack and creates chances. They have a shots on goal percentage of close to 50% (.482) compared to their opponents’ 37% (.368). A high shots on goal percentage typical results in more goals scored. The Golden Eagles have been no strangers to finding the back of the net scoring an average of 1.62 goals per game. Is that good? It certainly is when you’ve got five shutouts this year.
Speaking of shutouts, Maddy Henry has been incredible this year in goal. Her save percentage is up to 83% on 100 shots faced so far. She’s received two Big East Goalkeeper of the Week awards along the way as well. The MU defense deserves a lot of credit as well as they’ve been holding opponents to a .057 shot percentage. They have shown amazing resiliency holding on to leads in both games this past weekend against Boston University and Rhode Island. But these are all things we’ve seen all season from the Golden Eagles. They have been dominant on both sides of the ball. The few times that they haven’t—like the BU game for example—they have found crazy ways to win.
Players to Watch
Marquette forwards Kylie Sprecher and Darian Powell have been outstanding lately. Sprecher is on a run lately with points in the last four games. She has two goals and three assists on the year totaling seven points. Last weekend, she had the game winning goal against BU and the game winning assist at Rhode Island. Sprecher’s great play has earned her back-to-back Big East Freshmen of the Week awards. That’s right, she is just a freshmen and is tied for second on the team in points with veteran Carrie Madden. Having Sprecher catch fire as of late has been increasingly important for MU considering the injuries that have kept Madden and Jamie Kutey out of the lineup the last few games.
Powell reached a career milestone over the weekend moving into the top 10 on Marquette’s all-time scoring list. She is tied for ninth place with Mary Luba and Rachael Sloan with 21 career goals. Powell could realistically reach as high as a tie for sixth place: she would only need four goals in the remaining 11 games to do so. Let me remind you that Big East play hasn’t even started yet. What’s even more impressive this season is that Powell actually has more assists than goals, as well as more assists this season than she had in her first three years of action combined. She has been the ultimate offensive weapon with three goals and four assists and leads the team with 10 points.
Match #9: vs Illinois State Redbirds (2-4-1)
Date: Thursday, September 14, 2017
Time: 7pm Central
Location: Valley Fields
Television: Spectrum Sports in the Milwaukee area.
Streaming: Spectrum Sports, if you’re a customer.
Live Stats: GameTracker
Special Promotion: First 200 students get FREE Qdoba!
Twitter Updates: @MUWomensSoccer
The Redbirds are coming off a 3-0 loss to IUPUI which dropped them to 2-4-1 this season. They have had a decent non-conference schedule thus far playing Northwestern (ranked #23 at the time) and playing St. Louis who has one vote in the United Soccer Coaches Poll and is unofficially 43rd in the nation. However, they suffered scoreless losses in both of these games 3-0 and 1-0 respectively. They also played Wisconsin-Milwaukee in an exhibition match to start the season and beat them 2-1. Milwaukee is currently 35th unofficially with 5 points in the coaches poll, so even if it was an exhibition the Redbirds beat a quality team.
For the most part, the Redbirds have struggled as a team. They have only managed to score four goals in seven matches and have been shutout in all of their losses this season. The silver lining is that they have managed to out shoot opponents by a tiny margin: 103-99. They will need to find ways to turn those shots into goals if they want to even think about beating Marquette. Especially considering the Golden Eagles have only given up one goal at Valley Fields during this seven game winning streak.
One player the Golden Eagles will need to watch out for is Redbird’s forward Sarah Lafayette. Coming into her first year at Illinois State she has already scored two game-winning goals against Pittsburgh and Illinois. Lafayette boasts the team leads in points with four and has played over 300 minutes this season. If there’s one player for Marquette to focus on it would be her. The other two goals for the Redbirds were scored by Kelli Zickert and Angel Krell. Zickert is a player Redbird’s coach Brad Silvey has counted on this year having her play the full 90 minutes in four out of the seven games. This is not counting the opener where she played 110 minutes in a double overtime 1-1 draw to Eastern Illinois. Krell was a freshmen transfer from Auburn and played 426 minutes last season with the Redbirds. She’s already eclipsed that this year playing 439 minutes over seven games. However, her only goal of the season came in the very first game of the year so it’s been a while since she’s produced on offense.
The Golden Eagles have a 2-1 all-time record against the Redbirds. Their most recent showdown was last season down in Normal with Abby Hess and Darian Powell playing hero with a goal apiece to snag the 2-1 victory. Illinois State was the preseason favorite to win the Missouri Valley Conference but haven’t gotten off to the start they were hoping for. The Golden Eagles will look to take advantage of that and continue their winning ways against a team that hasn’t had much to celebrate this season.