The #19 ranked Marquette Golden Eagles will play the Milwaukee Panthers in their last game before the start of Big East play next weekend. What do they have to do to get back to in the win column after a tough draw to Illinois State?
Marquette needs to start out the game with high intensity. One thing that I saw from the Illinois State game is that their offense often looked stagnant for large periods of time. MU needs to retain possession of the ball early in the game and look to build the attack through the wingers. That’s how they have had most of their success in the past. I’ve lost count how many of their goals have come from crosses into the box. The times they did put pressure on the Redbirds, they came away with quality chances to score. They need to set the tempo early to try and rattle a Panthers team that has not lost yet this year.
After having the shot advantage over opponents consistently the first six games of the season, they have been out by opponents 63-35 in their last three games. This puts an incredible amount of pressure on Maddy Henry and the defense. They have played strong so far but ideally the Golden Eagles don’t want keep putting their defense to the test. This goes back to getting an early start against Milwaukee and taking control of the first 15-20 minutes of play. The goal is to get off to a better start than they did against Illinois State when they only managed three shots in the first half. The Panthers are no Redbirds either...they have yet to allow a goal all season. I repeat, they have allowed ZERO goals this season. I’m not counting the time they actually played Illinois State in an exhibition match back on August 12 and lost 2-1. Just thought I’d mention it since they are a common opponent.
Let’s get right to it then. Just how good are the Panthers? And more importantly, what can Marquette do to hand them their first loss of the season?
Match #10: at Milwaukee (8-0-1)
The record speaks for itself. The Panthers have yet to lose a game in the regular season. Even more impressive, they have yet to allow a goal. They are basically doubling their opponents in the shots per game category with 17. 3 compared to 8.9. That’s an instant recipe for success. Their keeper has only had to make 29 saves in nine games. That comes out to just over three saves per game. Compare that with Maddy Henry who’s had games where she’s made nine and 15 saves against Stanford and most recently Illinois State. UWM has two goal scorers with five goals each already this year. Anna Smalley (14 pts) and McKenzie Schill (11 pts) are leading the attack for the Panthers. Funny stat on the duo: Smalley has started every game while Schill has not started any game but has played over 400 minutes coming off the bench. Both of them have been very efficient in front of net scoring about a third of the shots they take.
Naturally, let’s look at who they’ve played. They have faced all the directional Illinois teams (Eastern, Western, and Northern) beating them 2-0, 3-0, and 2-0 respectively. Eastern Illinois is 5-3-1 but haven’t had a difficult schedule so far. Western Illinois is 0-7 this season, so seems like that was an easy win there. Northern Illinois is 3-3-1 but have played matches against Drake (1-1 draw) and Wisconsin (2-0 loss). Aside from that no other team really stands out. They drew their opener against an Akron team that now finds themselves losers of their last six games and 1-6-1 this season. Milwaukee started Horizon League play Friday night against Detroit Mercy and only managed to beat them by a score of 1-0. Six out of their eight wins this year have come by two or more goals. So there’s definitely room to exploit a Milwaukee side that has yet to see a quality team like #19 Marquette this season.
The Golden Eagles hold the slightest edge against the Panthers with a 9-8-8 record all-time. The last two times they’ve played have ended in 1-1 draws. In last year’s game, they out shot UWM 18-8 and had a dramatic ending when Molly Pfeiffer scored in the 89th minute to level it.
Speaking of last year...the Milwaukee Panthers finished last season 13-5-2 and were the no. 1 seed entering the Horizon League Tournament. They fell to Northern Kentucky 3-2 in the finals of the tournament. No surprise that the Panthers have started off strong this year and are definitely turning some heads in the national rankings. The United Soccer Coaches poll currently has them at an unofficial #39 spot with five total votes. But, as mentioned earlier, the Panthers have not played (and will not play) as difficult a team as the Golden Eagles. It would be big for Marquette to finish non-conference with a victory against their in-town rivals that are climbing in the national rankings.