Let’s say it because it’s fun to say: YOUR FIRST PLACE MARQUETTE GOLDEN EAGLES!
Okay, okay. Yes, it’s a five-way tie for first place with everyone having played one game. Half the league won, half the league lost, and thus, Marquette is one part of that quintet at 1-0.
With that being the case, the question becomes how long can the Golden Eagles hold on to their share of the lead. If they’re focused and give each game their best effort, it might be a while. The next three games, including Saturday’s contest: at Villanova, home vs Temple, and at Butler. Those three are all winnable if MU comes out of the gate with the right attitude and effort. Past that... might be a little hard. Vanderbilt lost their league opener to #6 Florida by just one goal, and then after the Commodores, MU tangles with those same Gators. After that, it’s games against Denver and Georgetown, both of whom are ranked in the most recent Cascade media poll.
In other words..... uh.... it might actually be pretty important for Marquette to maintain their share of the Big East lead if they’re planning on making the conference tournament for the first time in program history. Fact of the matter is they’re going to need the wins. One step at a time, though, and that means taking care of business against Villanova on Saturday afternoon.
Big East Game #2: at Villanova Wildcats (5-3, 0-1)
Date: Saturday, March 24, 2018
Time: 11am Central
Location: Villanova Stadium, Villanova, PA
Streaming: Villanova.com, but you’re going to have to pay for it.
Live Stats: GameTracker
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWLax
Marquette is 2-3 all time against Villanova. The good news is that both of the wins came in the last two meetings.
Villanova has kind of been all over the place this season. When they win, it’s almost always by at least six goals, with just one exception. Their losses, on the other hand, have been by six goals, eight goals, and in their most recent game, nine goals. At least the six goal loss was to a Cornell team that was ranked in the top 20 at the time, and that nine goal loss was to a Georgetown team earning media poll votes last week. But a 19-11 loss to a 5-3 Jacksonville squad that lost at home to Dartmouth? Man, I don’t know what to make out of that.
Even with the lopsided losses, Villanova will most likely have the advantage when it comes to draw controls in this game. They’re outdrawing their opponents this season by nearly six per game. They spread the draw efforts around a bit, but Marquette is going to have to keep an eye on both Devin Hassinger and Kim McDonough. Both women have at least 40 draw controls this season, including 45 from McDonough.
In terms of slowing down the VU offense, that means stopping Jillian Swikert. The junior from New Jersey leads the Wildcats with 24 goals on the season, and her four assists give her 28 total points. MU’s defenders are going to need to keep their heads on a swivel when it comes to defending Swikert, as she hasn’t started a game so far this season. The Villanova points race is currently being led by Katie Comerford, who has 32 points on 18 goals and 14 assists. The helpers total is tied with Ashley Lynch for the team high, but they’re just two of six Wildcats who have at least five assists on the season. All in all, VU has assists on nearly 57% of their goals this season, so MU will have to keep their eyes open and sticks at the ready to defend against a quick cut to the net.
Villanova has something of a goalie controversy brewing. Senior net minder Julia Michaels is listed as having started all eight games, but she’s also not finishing the contests either. That role falls to sophomore Khaia Baranowski, who has already surpassed her minutes total from last season. In fact, she’s actually surpassed Michaels in terms of playing time. Baranowski has Michaels beat in goals-against average and in save percentage, too. I don’t expect head coach Julie Young to make a change to the starting lineup, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see her with a quick hook for Michaels.