Generally speaking, I don’t like to make outlandish statements on this here website that aren’t obvious jokes. Sometimes the circumstances call for it, though, and this is one of those circumstances.
Saturday’s women’s lacrosse home game against Temple is arguably the most important game in Marquette history.
Luckily, this is only season #6 of MU’s history, so that kind of helps define the possible historic nature of what we’re talking about in this case.
Here’s the deal: There’s currently a three-way tie for first place in the Big East, with all three squads at 2-0. Florida, ranked #8 in the country is one of the three. The other two? You guessed it: Marquette and Temple. One of those two squads is walking away from Saturday with a loss and at best a share of third place.
Here’s why this is a big deal for the Golden Eagles. First off, Florida is almost assuredly going to run through the Big East slate undefeated again. That’s just what they do. That’s the first of four Big East tournament spots spoken for already this season. Next up, a win on Saturday means that Marquette is going to stay tied for first place, and the longer that MU can maintain that tie for first place, the more likely it becomes that they can hold on to one of those four tournament spots. Furthermore, a win over Temple creates a tie-breaker for Marquette over the Owls. Temple already owns a win over Denver, and the Pioneers were picked to finish second in the Big East this season. Odds are that Temple is going to be competing for a tournament berth when the end of April rolls around, and if MU can hold an advantage on them, that could pay off in a big way.
Lastly, Temple is receiving votes in the most recent Cascade media top 20 poll. Sure, they’re at the very end of the RV department, which likely means that they picked up one 20th place vote. That’s still one more 20th place vote than Marquette’s getting, though. As we’ve mentioned one or two times around these parts, Marquette has never beaten a ranked team before. This would not count as beating a ranked team, of course, but it would be a major step in the direction of picking up said ranked team victory.
So yeah, it’s a pretty big deal all around, and that’s before we even mention that Denver and Georgetown are also both receiving votes in the poll, and they’re still looming on Marquette’s schedule.
Oh, by the way: Grace Gabriel’s next goal will be her 100th career goal, making her just the second Marquette woman to ever record 100 goals. Weirdly, she’s 16 goals behind Julianna Shearer’s career record of 115 AND 16 behind Shearer’s single season record of 55. She’s not going to get all 16 here, but keep your eye on it.
Big East Game #3: vs Temple Owls (7-3, 2-0)
Marquette is 1-3 all time against Temple. After two identical 11-7 losses, Marquette got their first win over the Owls in 2016 by a score of 12-10. Last year’s contest in Philadelphia was also a thriller, as Temple won 17-16 in overtime.
Temple comes in as winners of four straight. They’ve barely squeaked through that, though. It took two overtimes to get to a 9-8 victory over a Cincinnati squad that Marquette beat 19-12. That was their most recent game, and that was coming off a 10-9 victory over then-#22 Denver. The Cincy win was a come from behind effort, while the Pios effort involved hanging on down the stretch.
As you can kind of tell here, Temple has had problems scoring goals this season. 8-4 win over a La Salle team that’s now 4-5? Not great. 19-7 loss to then-#7 James Madison? Eeep. 17-4 loss to then-#9 Princeton? Sheeeesh. Given how Marquette’s games have gone this season, odds are there’s going to be a goal or four scored for both sides in this game, but if that happens, that might be a situation that forces Temple out of their comfort zone.
Part of Temple’s offensive problems may be rooted in the loss of Nicole Barretta. She left the team after four games this season for personal reasons, but had posted 13 goals and six assists in that limited run. The Owls have four other double digit scorers in their 10 games, led by Maddie Gebert and her 19 strikes. Gebert has two assists on the season to tie for the team lead in points at 21 with Olivia Thompson (16G, 5A). What Temple lacks in a dominant scorer without Baretta, they make up in volume. They have eight players averaging at least a point per game, so Marquette’s defense will have to keep their heads on swivels.
Maryn Lowell is the goalie of choice for the Owls. The sophomore from New York seized the starting role last season, earning the nod in 14 of her 18 appearances. She’s allowing just a shade under 11 goals per 60 minutes, which may get tested to a notable degree by Marquette on Saturday. She stops 50% of shots on goal, which is markedly better that Julianna Horning, her MU counterpart. The Golden Eagles will need to make their shots count to give the defense a little bit of breathing room.