#1 - Who is going to step up and score this season?
Given the nature of women’s lacrosse, I’m not particularly worried about Marquette‘s ability to throw the ball in the net this season. They’re going to score goals. I feel comfortable in the knowledge that they’ll get enough goals.
The question is trying to figure out where they’re going to come from this year. Marquette scored 219 goals a year ago. 93 of them came from players who are no longer on the roster. 55 of those all came from the stick of Julianna Shearer, and when you lose a player who set a program record for goals, then you have to wonder who will step up into the void. Some of the burden will fall to Grace Gabriel, who finished with 41 goals a year ago, but she plays in the midfield. Marquette will need attackers to take the place of Shearer and the other seniors in that section of the lineup, and it would seem that Charlotte McGuire and Cate Soccodato would be first and foremost on the list of likely shooters in 2018.
Perhaps the bigger question is who is going to make the passes to open up the scoring chances. Amanda Bochniak and Claire Costanza by themselves tallied 63 of Marquette’s 102 assists last season, and now both of them are gone as well. Riley Hill had eight assists last season, but she did record 22 helpers in her sophomore season the year before when Costanza was sitting out with a knee injury. She’s probably going to be the team’s first option as facilitator this year, but she’s going to need some help out there, too.
#2 - Is this the year when Marquette beats a ranked team?
0-26. That’s not a typo. Marquette has lost 26 straight games to ranked opponents since the genesis of the program in 2013. That’s an average of five losses to ranked foes every season. They’ve never had fewer than four losses to a ranked team in a season. 2017 was a banner year for losing to ranked teams, as Marquette dropped seven games.
They had some near misses last season. 13-12 to #18 Louisville in the season opener. 12-10 against #17 Johns Hopkins in the third game of the season. You could even toss their 18-12 loss to #13 Denver late in the season onto that list. That one was a two goal game with 24 minutes to play.
Heading into 2018, Marquette has three opponents ranked in the preseason Cascade media poll: #5 Florida, #9 Northwestern, and #15 Notre Dame. Three more foes — Johns Hopkins, Denver, and Louisville — are receiving votes in the poll, but unfortunately for the Golden Eagles, Hopkins and Louisville are coming up in this opening weekend when they are quite obviously not ranked. Marquette’s best chance might come when they host Denver during league play in mid-April, if the Pioneers can get themselves into the top 20 by then. Marquette has generally not been in the same class as Florida, Northwestern, or Notre Dame through the first five years of the program, so it’s hard to guess that the Golden Eagles would suddenly jump up and chomp them unexpectedly.
#3 - Is this a Big East tournament team?
I’ll tell you this much: If the answer to question #2 is “yes,” then the answer to this one had sure as hell better be “yes” as well.
This will be the fifth season that Marquette plays in the Big East, a league that holds a four team tournament at the end of the regular season. Their records in league play: 1-6, 1-6, 4-3, 4-5. As you can guess, the Golden Eagles have never played in the Big East tournament. Things aren’t necessarily trending towards that happening this season either, as Marquette was picked to finish sixth in the Big East this season, or at least in a tie for sixth with Vanderbilt.
Marquette has narrowly missed out on the tournament in the past two seasons, though. In 2016, they lost a three-way tie for third, ending up as the team in fifth place. Last year, Marquette dropped an overtime contest on the road at Temple, and got narrowly clipped by three on the road against Connecticut. Those are, probably not coincidentally, the two teams that finished right in front of Marquette in the standings last season. Flip those two games, and you get Marquette at 6-3, Temple at 5-4, and Connecticut at 4-5. That would have been enough for fourth place and a Big East tourney berth.
So they’ve been close. Can they snap this close streak and find their way in? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.