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Marquette Women’s Lacrosse Preview: at Johns Hopkins Blue Jays & at Louisville Cardinals

WOOOOO OPENING WEEKEND

Bluejay Checks Out Backyard Pembroke
No mascot pictures = actual bird pictures
Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Marquette kicks off the sixth season of Division 1 lacrosse in Milwaukee with a strong road trip of action. The Golden Eagles will be tangling with two programs that they’ve been close to beating over the past three seasons, but both are experiencing a bit of a shakeup heading into 2018. One is in a full blown restructuring, but we’ll get to that eventually.

As for the Golden Eagles, they have some questions of their own. Gone are the power packed offensive trio of Julianna Shearer, Amanda Bochniak, and Claire Costanza, as well as defensive stalwart Fran Meyer. Head coach Meredith Black will have a harder time replacing the goal production of her now departed attackers (86 goals, 68 assists) than filling in the void left by Meyer, but it’s all part of a careful balance needed to win games.

Grace Gabriel, Marquette’s lone representative on the preseason all-Big East team, will be asked to carry the biggest load on offense after recording 45 points a year ago, and she’ll be helped in the midfield by Allison Lane (24G, 4A) and on attack by Riley Hill (21G, 8A). Alex Gambacorta will be the foundation for MU’s defensive efforts, and her familiarity with Laine Dolan and Kate Viviano should help provide protection right off the bat for sophomore goalie Julianna Horning.

Marquette ended up tied with Vanderbilt for sixth in the Big East preseason poll, but the Golden Eagles will have their sights set on a top four finish and the program’s first ever conference tournament appearance. If they pull that off, it could be a big vaulting point for MU, as this is the last season with 10 members for the Big East. Florida, Vanderbilt, Cincinnati, Connecticut, and Temple will all depart after the 2018 campaign as the American Athletic Conference begins to sponsor the sport, and it would be extremely beneficial to Marquette to head into the new era of the Big East with a sign that they can dominate the reformed league.

Game #1: at Johns Hopkins Blue Jays (0-0)

Date: Friday, February 9, 2018
Time: 1pm Central
Location: Homewood Field, Baltimore, MD
Streaming: HopkinsSports.com
Live Stats: HopkinsSports.com
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWLax

Marquette is 0-4 all time against the Blue Jays, but that is ever so slightly misleading. After a lopsided 16-2 first meeting in 2014, the two squads have met up in each season since then with Hopkins ranked #17 in the country every time AND Hop has never won by more than three goals. MU suffered a 12-10 loss at Valley Fields last season.

This will be the first game of the season for both squads, so all we can talk about at this juncture is what is expected of JHU in 2018.

This is Hopkins’ second season as a member of the Big Ten, where they are picked to finish fourth in the seven team league. The Big Ten insists on doing that goofball “here’s some players to watch on every team” thing, which is dumb, but useful for those of us trying to figure out things about teams early in the season. JHU’s trio is Emily Kenul, Shannon Fitzgerald, and Nicole DeMase. All three were in the starting lineup for the Jays in last year’s contest in Milwaukee, combining for four of Hop’s 12 goals as well as two assists. Fitzgerald is shifting from midfield to attack alongside Kenul this season, so that will only make the pairing even more dangerous. DeMase will be asked to hold the midfield together for Hopkins, and the 5’4” New York native is coming off a career best 32 goals last season.

Hopkins’ biggest questions are in the defensive third, where they have to replace three senior starters and their netminder. Based on Hopkins’ own preview, it seems that Haley Crosson will get the shot in goal to start the season. She has played just 57 minutes in five appearances in her first two years of college lacrosse, so this may be a perfect opportunity for Marquette to start the season off with a win. Emily Verica will be the anchor for JHU on defense, but they’re also going to be looking to big minutes from freshmen to protect either Crosson or whoever ends up getting the nod in net.

Game #2: at Louisville Cardinals (0-0)

Date: Sunday, February 11, 2018
Time: 12pm Central
Location: UofL Lacrosse Stadium (that’s the official name)
Streaming: ACC Network Extra/WatchESPN
Live Stats:
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWLax

Marquette is 0-4 all time against the Cardinals, but the Golden Eagles seem to be getting closer. Louisville has been ranked in each of the past three meetings, and the Cards barely escaped Valley Fields with a 13-12 win last season.

So. The Cardinals. Let’s start with things we know thanks to the ACC releasing their preseason poll yesterday. Louisville is picked to finish last in the conference, racking up 10 points in the balloting. They have no players on the 16 woman preseason all-ACC team.

If all of that sounds bad, well, there’s a reason. Head coach Scott Teeter has been in charge of Louisville lacrosse since November 20th. Yes, that’s two and a half months ago. No, that’s not really the time when most programs would make a coaching change. On November 6th, Louisville terminated the contract of head coach Kellie Young after she was accused of negligence in a lawsuit filed by a former player. If that doesn’t sound like enough for the UL administration to dump Young, well, it’s not. In 2013, the Louisville Courier Journal reported on multiple accusations against Young regarding abusive behavior towards her players. That’s definitely the kind of thing where you only get two strikes when one was probably way more than necessary.

Young was the only coach in Louisville lacrosse history, so the move to a new coach was always going to be tumultuous whenever it happened. The fact that it happened under these circumstances only made that worse. According to the Courier Journal, nine players departed the program with eligibility remaining after the 2017 spring semester, and another six left during the fall. Included in the spring departures were all-ACC honorees Brittany Read, who should be a senior on this team, and Meghan Siverson, who should be a junior.

Of the 14 women who tallied even one point last season, 10 have left for one reason or another, including each of UL’s top four scorers. Louisville will rely heavily on Madison Hoover (5G, 20A in 2017) and Jillian Balog (16G, 5A) to provide offense. Emily Howell will anchor the defense after a junior campaign that included 33 ground balls and 18 caused turnovers. Sophomore Lexie Ball is the frontrunner to start at goalie, but she played just 15 minutes as a freshman last season.

Please keep this in mind after reading all of that: Scott Teeter is a really good lacrosse coach. He’s been the head coach at Canisius for the past 16 seasons, and they’ve been great during this decade. Teeter guided his teams to five tournament MAAC titles in the past six seasons, and regular season crowns in four of the past five seasons, including each of the last three. He’s the winningest coach in MAAC history, and Canisius hasn’t lost a league game since 2014. Teeter has also been coaching the Canadian U-19 National Team since 2009, so he knows what he’s doing. The question becomes whether or not it shows on the field immediately. Louisville will open their season at Cincinnati on Friday before hosting MU on Sunday.