On Wednesday, Marquette Golden Eagles ended up on the business end of a “tale of two halves” game. #18 Notre Dame was up 10-3 at the half, they outshot MU 21-11, and had a 9-1 advantage in free position attempts that turned into a 5-1 advantage in goals. After the break, Marquette fought through a 22-7 foul differential to outscore the Irish 7-5 and outshoot Notre Dame 17-12.
That second half performance spread across 60 minutes would have been enough to beat the Irish. It would have been enough to beat most teams, if we’re being honest. The question will be whether or not that the Golden Eagles can repeat that effort, and repeat it on the regular. I would presume that will be the messaging from head coach Meredith Black and her staff. “Look what you can do! That’s what we need to do every time.”
We should also point out that Marquette dropped back to .500 with the loss to Notre Dame, moving to 3-3 on the season. It was a short run with the team over .500 for the first time in program history, but that’s how the schedule shook out. MU gets a prime opportunity to move back above .500 in this game, but watch out: That might be short lived, too. The Golden Eagles visit Northwestern next Saturday, and the Wildcats are currently ranked #10 in the country. But that’s next week. Right now, Marquette needs to focus on getting better and taking care of business at home.
This would normally be the part of our show where I tell you where various players are on various all-time and single season records charts, but the fact of the matter is that Grace Gabriel, Riley Hill, and Allison Lane are all causing the top 10 charts to shift way too much to make it worth the time and effort to carefully track their movements on a game by game basis. Facts are facts: Marquette has had lots of talented players in the first five years of the program, and that is not changing any time soon.
Game #6: vs Niagara Purple Eagles (3-0)
This is the first ever meeting between Marquette and Niagara. I can’t even go to option B here and tell you about Marquette’s history against Niagara’s conference, as this is MU’s first ever game against a team in the MAAC as well.
Speaking of the MAAC, we need to talk about their preseason poll. Canisius is the clear favorite this season, even though their coach scooted to Louisville since the school year started. The Golden Griffins picked up eight of the possible nine first place votes. Niagara was picked to finish fourth, earning 53 points in the balloting. Siena earned the other first place vote. The Saints are picked to finish eighth. I have no idea what the hell happened there.
The Purple Eagles are 3-0 on the year with one win at home and two on the road. This will be their third straight road game, so they’re not exactly going to be shy about playing in the Valley Fields Bubble. Niagara has played two close contests already this year, beating Binghamton 8-7 after rallying from down 5-3 at halftime, and downing Duquesne 17-14 in their most recent contest. NU took control of that one with a 6-0 run that bridged halftime, turning a 7-6 deficit into a 12-7 lead.
Marquette is going to have to watch out for Niagara’s offense, which is pretty frightening with back to back 15+ goal performances. Caroline Crump is the focal point, tallying 12 goals, including a monster seven strikes against Duquesne. Rachel MacCheyne is actually leading the team in points, thanks to nine goals and a team high five assists.
MacCheyne is one of two preseason all-MAAC honorees on the Niagara roster, and both were the only unanimous choices out of the entire league. The other is Alexandra Higgins, who was the 2017 MAAC Defender of the Year. After setting single season NU records for ground balls, draw controls, and caused turnovers last season, Higgins is averaging 3.7 ground balls, five draw controls, and 2.3 caused turnovers per game in 2018. She is a whirlwind of activity roughly on par with MU’s Allison Lane, who is neck-and-neck with Higgins in all three categories.