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Grace Gabriel Named To 2018 Preseason All-Big East Women’s Lacrosse Team; Marquette Picked To Finish Sixth

The Golden Eagles will be aiming to outperform that preseason poll.

Grace Gabriel
Grace Gabriel is only a junior, but she’s already established as one of the best Golden Eagles.

Waaaaaaaay back on Friday, the Big East announced the preseason women’s lacrosse awards for the upcoming 2018 season. Marquette has one representative on the 16 player all-Big East squad, with the honor going to junior midfielder Grace Gabriel. As a team, the Golden Eagles finished in a tie for sixth place in the preseason poll of the league’s coaches, pulling even with Vanderbilt at 37 points.

Gabriel is one of eight unanimous choices for the all-Big East team after finishing 2017 with 41 goals, the second most in a single season in program history, and 45 points, the fourth best single season total for a Golden Eagle. She also led the Big East in draw controls, racking up 5.67 per contest in conference play. Gabriel’s 81 draw controls for the season are a Marquette record, absolutely smashing the 46 that Julianna Shearer posted in 2016.

With the attacking corps diminished by graduations after the 2017 season, Gabriel will have to be a steady presence in the offensive third of the field for the Golden Eagles, especially if they want to improve on their preseason poll spot. Tied for sixth place isn’t the worst thing in the world for the Golden Eagles, but at this point, their goals have to include a top four finish. Only the top four teams advance to the Big East tournament, and Marquette has yet to achieve that in their time in the league.

Here’s what the preseason poll looks like:

1. Florida (9) 81
2. Denver (1) 73
3. Georgetown 62
4. Temple 56
5. Connecticut 49
6. Vanderbilt 37
Marquette 37
8. Villanova 27
9. Cincinnati 19
10. Butler 9

Let’s turn our attention to the individual honors.

Offensive Player Of The Year: Lindsey Ronbeck, Florida, A

Defensive Player Of The Year: Haley Hicklen, Florida, GK

Neither of these awards are particularly surprising. Neither woman was my official pick back in mid-January, mind you, but it’s hard to overlook the Gators’ dominance as a member of the Big East when you file a vote on these things. I would have liked to see the Big East coaches vote for a field player for Defensive Player of the Year, but there’s nothing stopping them from giving their vote to the reigning Goalkeeper of the Year, so here we are.

Ronbeck is the leading returning scorer for a Florida squad that has lost just once in three seasons to another team in the Big East, finishing with 53 goals and 20 assists a year ago. Hicklen allowed just 5.39 goals per 60 minutes last season, which is an absurdly low number, especially when you consider that she was “only” stopping 58% of shots on goal against her. Both women are juniors, so it’s safe to say that this may just be a pitstop on a two-year long run of award dominance by the pair.

Here’s the full rundown on the all-Big East team.

Julia Blaze, Vanderbilt, Jr., M
Katie Comerford, Villanova, So., A
Cassie Ekstrom, Connecticut, Sr., D
Julia Feiss, Denver, Jr., A
Grace Gabriel, Marquette, Jr., M*
Haley Hicklen, Florida, Jr., GK*
Kendra Lanuza, Denver, Jr., A*
Nicole Latgis, Temple, Sr., D*
Grace Nolan, Connecticut, Sr., A*
Allie Pavinelli, Florida, Sr., M
Shayna Pirreca, Florida, Sr., A
Sydney Pirreca, Florida, Jr., M*
Lindsey Ronbeck, Florida, Jr., A*
Morgan Ryan, Georgetown, Jr., A
Cara Trombetta, Florida, So., D
Francesca Whitehurst, Georgetown, Jr., M*

As mentioned above, it’s a 16 player team with eight unanimous choices, with those marked by asterisks. I’m proud to say that I snagged all eight unanimous choices in my preseason all-league picks. Then again, those picks for attack and midfield were actually pretty easy to come up with based on last year’s end of season awards, so maybe it wasn’t that big of an accomplishment. I did get all 12 of my picks into the 16 woman team that the league’s coaches voted on, and that’s pretty solid. I ended up having to guess to a certain extent on the defenders, and all three of my picks are here.

The four that I didn’t have on my all-league team are Comerford, Feiss, Pavinelli, and Shayna Pirreca. All four were up for consideration for a spot, but ended up coming in behind more deserving candidates as I assembled a team based on a lineup that you would actually put out on the field. 16 women don’t play together! The team shouldn’t be that big!