With about three weeks to go before Marquette women’s lacrosse kicks off the 2018 season with a road trip to Baltimore to face Johns Hopkins, that means it’s time to make some picks for the Big East’s preseason awards.
As is the custom of the conference, we’ll make picks for Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year, along with a 12 player all-Big East team, and then identify the top five teams in this, the final year of the Big East in its 10 team configuration. A lot of this was easy to figure out, but there was a rough spot along the way. It’ll make sense as we go.
Offensive Player of the Year: Grace Nolan, Connecticut
Sometimes figuring these things out isn’t hard. Grace Nolan was a junior last season, and she led the Big East in points per game at 4.81, the only player clearing 4.3. BOOM, Preseason OPOY, no questions asked.
Ok, maybe tiny questions. I could make an argument that Florida’s Lindsay Ronbeck deserves consideration, if only because she’s the leading returning scorer on the best team in the conference. Monica Borzillo from Cincinnati was second in points per game last year, which is notable but the Bearcats are likely to be not good again this season, and the pairing of Kendra Lanuza and Julia Feiss from Denver are in the neighborhood, but probably end up cancelling each other out. One of these days I’ll figure out how Feiss finished 9th in points as a sophomore and had the most game winning goals in the league but somehow wasn’t on an all-conference team.
Defensive Player of the Year: Nicole Latgis, Temple
Here’s the deal: Last year, on the two All-Big East teams, there were six defensive players honored, three each. Five of the women were seniors. Nicole Latgis was a junior. Thus, she is clearly the best returning defensive player in the conference.
This thought is hammered home by the fact that there were not any non-seniors that were named Defensive Player of the Week, nor where there any non-senior defenders on last year’s Weekly Honor Roll. That leaves the field nice and wide open for Latgis.
As is the case with the offensive award, we have to take Florida’s mere existence into account here, especially with the Gators having two all-league First Teamers that were seniors last season. Cara Trombetta is back this year, though, and she had the most caused turnovers (27) and second most ground balls (40) amongst returning defenders that aren’t Latgis. Those are actually better numbers than Latgis, so there’s definite potential for Trombetta to end up with the honor here.
If you were looking to include goalkeepers for this award, and why not, since they are defensive players, then Florida’s Haley Hicklen has to be included. As last year’s Goalkeeper of the Year and a First Team honoree, she’d be a shoo-in for this award if the league’s coaches are fine with handing it out to a goalie.
All-Big East Team
Julie Blaze, M, Vanderbilt
Grace Gabriel, M, Marquette
Cassie Eckstrom, D, Connecticut
Haley Hicklen, GK, Florida
Kendra Lanuza, A, Denver
Nicole Latgis, D, Temple
Grace Nolan, A, Connecticut
Sydney Pirreca, M, Florida
Lindsey Ronbeck, A, Florida
Morgan Ryan, A, Georgetown
Cara Trombetta, D, Florida
Francesca Whitehurst, M, Georgetown
This was a pretty easy list to assemble. The four attackers on the list were all on the All-Big East First Team last year, as are the four midfielders. In fact, three of the middies — Grace Gabriel, Sydney Pirreca, and Francesca Whitehurst — were unanimous choices for the First Team, as was Kendra Lanuza. Not only were those eight all on the First Team, I didn’t have to make a cut between returners on the First Team. Exactly four attackers and exactly four midfielders from last year’s postseason all-Big East First Team are back for 2018. Like I said, pretty easy to pick them out of a lineup, and the same goes for Haley Hicklen in net, as she was a First Teamer, too.
As discussed in the DPOY category, getting three defenders on this list was a process. Nicole Latgis was an easy and quick pick, and that led me to check everyone’s stat sheet for the best caused turnover player returning on each team. That’s how I found Cara Trombetta and Cassie Eckstrom. A quick check of last year’s preseason all-conference team turns up Eckstrom on that list, so it seems like she’s a safe bet this year.
Top 5 Teams
1 - Florida
2 - Georgetown
3 - Denver
4 - Marquette
5 - Connecticut
Much like the case with men’s lacrosse and Denver, I will pick against the Gators when they show that they deserve to be picked against. They have won 20 straight games against Big East foes including conference tournament games and have an overall record of 28-1 in their three seasons as a member of the league.
After the Gators? Shoot, that turns into a question. Georgetown and Denver tied at 7-2 for second place last season, but I think the Hoyas have more coming back than the Pioneers, so we’ll go in that order for the next two spots. I have a good (although homer-ish) feeling about Marquette this season, so I’ll pick the Golden Eagles to make their first ever conference tournament in the four slot. At some point, having the best scorer in the league has to mean something, so we’ll go with UConn to round out the top half of the Big East in its final season in a 10 team configuration.