And now, all of a sudden, it’s time for Big East play.
It won’t feel like it’s jumped up on us out of nowhere next season. This is the final year that the Big East will play with 10 members and thus a nine game league schedule. Cincinnati, Connecticut, Temple, Florida, and Vanderbilt are all departing the league next season, and they’ll be replaced by only Old Dominion. That will give the league only six members and a five game schedule as a result. It remains to be decided exactly how the schedule will shake out at that point, but it certainly looks like Marquette will get an extra two weeks before playing Big East games next season. It also means that Marquette can fit in four more non-conference games somewhere in the schedule, so we’ll have to wait and see what that means for the Golden Eagles.
But for now, MU prepares for the nine game slate, and for the first time since joining the Big East in 2013, Marquette sits at .500 entering league play. It sounds like such a small thing, but as the program continues to grow, we have to acknowledge the steps that they’re taking. The question becomes whether or not they can finish the season with a record over .500, as all they would have to do is finish league play over .500 now. If they can do that, Marquette will at least be in contention for their first ever conference tournament berth. Again, not a massive achievement perhaps, but it would be the first if they can pull it off. They’re going to be tested mightily in league play with two teams ranked in the top 20 and a third receiving votes. With that taking care of a full third of the league slate, it’s important for Marquette to take care of business in the other six games.
Sunday against the Bearcats is one of those six. It has the added bonus of being at home, and the added added bonus of coming against a team that Marquette has consistently beaten over the past five seasons. It’s just step one on a nine-step path, but it’s going to be an important one.
Secondary scoring is going to be important for Marquette. They have two players ranked in the top 10 in the Big East in points per game in Grace Gabriel (4.25) and Riley Hill (3.88). Cate Soccodato joins Hill in the top 10 in the league in assists per game, which is a step in the right direction for the Golden Eagles. Allison Lane (16) and Charlotte McGuire (19) are both averaging two goals per game or better, but when going up against teams that are familiar with Marquette and their general game plans, MU is going to need goals to come from somewhere else as well. Hill is close to two per game at 14 on the season, and sophomore Megan Menzuber isn’t too shabby at 11 markers on the year. If MU could get a goal or seven through league play from, say, Lindsey Willcocks or Logan Dobratz, that could go a long way towards propelling MU towards the postseason for the first time.
Big East Game #1: vs Cincinnati Bearcats (6-1)
Date: Sunday, March 18, 2018
Time: Noon Central
Location: Andy Glockner Memorial Bubble, Valley Fields, Milwaukee, WI
Streaming: Not this time, y’all.
Live Stats: GameTracker
Special Promotions: All Boy Scouts & Girl Scouts in uniform get in for free AND get a Marquette badge. Teachers get discounted admission as well with ID.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWLax
Marquette is 4-1 all time against Cincinnati, with a game against the Bearcats in every single season of the program. The Golden Eagles dropped the first ever meeting, but have won each time since then, including a 16-10 victory in Ohio last season.
Cincinnati has recovered nicely from a loss to open their season, rattling off six straight wins since then. A couple of those contests — at Winthrop and at home against Detroit-Mercy — were on the close side, both finishing at 12-10. The rest were pretty solid victories for the Bearcats, all by at least five goals. The flip side of that is that five of the six games came against teams that I’d expect Marquette to beat, with the sixth coming against an Ohio State team that’s just 3-5 on the season. Hooray for the W’s and all, but I’m not sure we’re getting a clear picture of the Bearcats based on record alone.
As expected, Monica Borzillo is tearing it up on offense for UC. The 5’5” sophomore has 23 goals and 15 assists on the season, leading the team in both categories. Those numbers are also good enough to put her in the top five in the Big East in terms of averages. Only four women are good enough to average two assists per game this season in the league, and Borzillo is one of them. She’s not alone out there, either, as fellow sophomore McKenna Rushford is pouring in goals and only trails Borzillo by one. Rushford is a talented passer, too, tallying 10 helpers so far this season. The Marquette defense is going to have to keep their heads on swivels, because Cincinnati has four other players averaging at least one goal per game and UC is getting an assist on 40% of their goals.
Junior Giuliana Durso gets the nod in net for head coach Gina Oliver. She came into the season with just 41 minutes of collegiate experience, but things are going okay so far for the New Jersey native. Her goals-against average of 10.51 is respectable given the scoring totals in women’s lacrosse with the shot clock, and you can’t really say no to a save percentage of 49%.