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Marquette Women’s Lacrosse Preview: at #18 Notre Dame Fighting Irish

The Golden Eagles head out on the road with an eye on their first ever win over the Fighting Irish.

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Miami
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

As we discussed in the recap, Marquette women’s lacrosse made a little bit of history on Sunday when they beat Stetson. The win moved MU to 3-2 on the season, thus putting them over .500 in a season for the first time in the program’s six year history. At 25-60 coming into the season, it’s going to be a little while before the program moves over .500, but one step at a time, y’all.

Speaking of one step at a time, Marquette has a chance to etch some more history on Wednesday evening on their trip to South Bend to face the Irish. Believe it or not, Marquette has never beaten a ranked team. They’ve been close, of course, coming within a goal or two more than once last season. But, at least for now, a Marquette game against a ranked foe has never ended with a jubilant Golden Eagles sideline. They get their first crack at a team ranked in the Cascade media top 20 poll this season in this one, and what better timing to figure out a way to secure that W? They’re already one game over .500 on the season, why not move it to two?

It’s only been five games, but Grace Gabriel has already made a major impact on the season. The junior from New York has tallied 20 goals in the first five games, and if you do the math, that means she’s on pace (68) to surpass Marquette’s record for goals in a single season (55) with relative ease, and oh, by the way, Julianna Shearer set the record last season. Shearer also set the record for points in a season at 60, but Gabriel is on pace (74) to rip right past that plateau. While you’re watching Gabriel’s goal totals, make sure you keep an eye on Cate Soccodato and Riley Hill’s passing. The pair lead Marquette in assists this season with 10. That puts both on pace for 34 this season, and the team record is 32, set by Amanda Bochniak last season.

Game #5: at #18 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (3-2)

Date: Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Time: 4pm Central
Location: Arlotta Stadium, South Bend, Indiana
Streaming: ACC Network Extra/WatchESPN
Live Stats: GameTracker
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWLax

Marquette has played Notre Dame in every single season of Division 1 lacrosse in Milwaukee, but the Golden Eagles have yet to come away with a victory in their five attempts. The Fighting Irish have been ranked for every meeting, and last year’s 12 goal margin in Notre Dame’s 21-9 win was the largest in the history of the series.

This will be just the second time that Marquette has faced Notre Dame when the Irish are not ranked in the top 10, and it’s possible that this might be the Irish team most susceptible to MU pulling the upset. I don’t mean because they’ve already lost two games this season, that’s meaningless. The losses by two and three goals to teams ranked in the top 10 at the time and one is top 5 now, while the other is top 15. Sure, both were at home, but hey, things happen.

No, my theory on the susceptible nature has to do with their most recent game. Again at home on Sunday, Notre Dame had to rally from down four at halftime to beat Elon. Now, maybe Elon’s pretty good, as the Phoenix were 13-7 last year, they were picked to finish third in the CAA behind two teams that are ranked right now, and they’re 0-3 with three losses to ranked foes to start the season. But if you’re supposed to be the #18 team in the country, or #17 like Notre Dame was last week, you probably shouldn’t be down four to Elon at any point, regardless of how good Elon may or may not be.

On the flipside, maybe this just means that head coach Christine Halfpenny has her squad fired up to beat the band today. That’d be bad for Marquette.

If Marquette wants to pull the stunner, it’s going to involve shutting down Nikki Ortega. The junior from New York has tallied 12 goals in Notre Dame’s five games, so you know they count on her to create. She’s no slouch when it comes to passing either, as she’s currently tied for the team lead in that department. Marquette’s already well aware of what Ortega can do after she had a seven point (4G, 3A) game against the Golden Eagles last season. All told, the Irish have eight women who are averaging a goal a game and four who are averaging at least an assist per game, so it’s going to take some doing to slow them down.

Junior Samantha Giacolone has started all five games for Notre Dame in net, but there may be a little bit of a question about the position. Giacolone was lifted after just 17 minutes against Elon due to the fact that she conceded six goals on nine shots on goal. Bridget Deehan came on in relief and made five saves against two goals allowed for the rest of the game as Notre Dame rallied to win. Is that enough for Halfpenny to make the change to the freshman for the starting spot? I’d guess probably not, but it’s possible that Giacolone will be on a short leash after Sunday’s game.