Forget about the program record eight wins for a moment. Forget about the six straight Big East victories. Forget about the program best margin of four games over .500. Here’s a new one for you.
Marquette has the most prolific offense in the Big East.
Through four conference games for every team, Marquette has scored 70 goals, seven more than second best Florida. That has the Golden Eagles as the only team averaging more than 16 goals per game. Marquette is also the best passing team in the league, with a Big East best 34 assists in those four contests, nearly an assist on half of their goals. No one else has 30 helpers yet. That Gators squad that’s right behind MU in goals? They only have 20 assists on their 63 strikes.
Marquette is also the most accurate shooting team in the league, with nearly 49% of their shots finding the inside of the net. That’s not shots on goal, that’s 49% of total shots. Miss wide, miss high, those are shots, too, and nearly half of MU’s shots are finding their way past goalkeepers in Big East action.
This is all very good news, because Marquette is going to need that prolific offense on Sunday. They’re going up against a Vanderbilt team that turns the ball over the least amongst Big East teams, and that same VU squad is also in a tie for the most caused turnovers on defense. MU’s accuracy will help balance out their reduced chances to score against the Commodores.
Sunday’s game is a big opportunity for Marquette. They’re currently in a tie for first place in the Big East, with both Florida and MU at 4-0. Vanderbilt is one of the two teams currently tied for third place at 3-1. While this is the best start to Big East play in Marquette history, we can’t ignore the fact that two of the wins are against the two teams that are 0-4 right now. You have to beat the teams on the other side of the field from you, but Sunday’s game marks the start of a pivotal four game stretch for the Golden Eagles. They’ll follow up Vandy by visiting #8 Florida, the current co-leader. After that it’s back home for Denver, and then on the road again against Georgetown. The Pioneers earned votes in the most recent media top 20 poll, and the Hoyas are the team tied with Vanderbilt for third place.
You can see it’s going to be a bit of a rough go over the next four games. Still, Marquette is at home on Sunday, and if the Golden Eagles are going to lock up the first conference tournament spot in program history, they have to lock up a win in a big spot down the stretch. Sunday against the Commodores counts as a big spot.
Big East Game #5: vs Vanderbilt Commodores (8-4, 3-1)
Marquette holds a 2-1 all time record against Vanderbilt. The two teams have met in each of the past three seasons, aka “every year since the Commodores joined the Big East.” MU has won the past two meetings, one at Valley Fields and one in Nashville.
I’m not quite sure that Vanderbilt’s record tells the full story of what the Commodores have done so far this season. In mid-March, the ‘Dores had consecutive close losses, the first on the road and the second at home. The road loss was to 12-10 to Saint Joseph’s, which is now 5-6 on the season. That’s not what you would call a “good loss.” In their next game, VU lost 11-10 to current Big East co-leader Florida. As in “then-#6 in the country and currently #8” Florida. As in “has lost just one game to Big East opponents in three-plus seasons” Florida. The Commodores held the Gators scoreless for the final 17 minutes of the game and had pulled within one with just under four minutes to play. All this, just seven days after coughing up a one-goal lead with 18 minutes to play against a not particularly great St. Joe’s team.
Marquette’s defense is going to be incredibly tested in this game, so thank goodness that goalie Julianna Horning is on a bit of a hot streak. Vanderbilt has the rough equivalent of two Grace Gabriels in Kayla Peterson and Emily Mathewson. Both women have tallied over 50 points already this season, with Peterson (45G, 6A) relying on putting it in the net more than Mathewson (38G, 16A) does. The ‘Dores are almost as good as Marquette when it comes to passing to score goals, as they’ve posted 77 helpers on 185 goals so far this season. However, a lot of that scoring came outside of league play. Vanderbilt is well back of league leader MU in both categories in just the four conference matches so far this season.
Vanderbilt’s goaltending situation is a complete mess, with three different women getting the start at some point this year. However, Grace Bell’s four starts and four appearances have all come in the last four matches of the season, so I feel it’s likely that the junior and Brooklyn native will be in the net at first draw on Sunday. She’s not having a particularly easy time of things, allowing 10.50 goals per 60 minutes and only stopping 35% of shots that she’s faced. It’s possible that Bell is VU’s only option in net right now. Lily Argyle, who started on Opening Day for the Commodores is no longer listed on the VU roster page, and Madison Foglio hasn’t played since that nailbiter against the Gators for whatever reason. Based purely on stats, Foglio is the better option for head coach Cathy Swezey, so with no actual information to back this up unfortunately, I’d have to guess that Foglio is injured, at least for the time being.