And thus, the 2018-19 Marquette athletic calendar officially gets underway.
Markus Roeders and MU women’s soccer head into the 2018 season looking to improve on their 13-7-1 record from a year ago. Actually, if we’re being honest, the 13-7-1 isn’t all that bad. It’s the 5-4-0 in Big East regular season action that ultimately cost MU a spot in the NCAA tournament in 2017. Thus, their nine match non-conference slate will be taken as a series of tune-ups to make sure that the Golden Eagles are prepared to tangle with their conference rivals once league play starts on September 23, just over a month from now.
There are questions to be answered about how that is going to go, of course. Marquette went 1-1-0 in their two exhibition matches. They tallied a 2-0 win on the road against Green Bay, but suffered a 1-0 loss this past Saturday night against Mississippi State. Both outcomes are something of a problem, as Green Bay is picked to finish last in the Horizon League this season, while Mississippi State is slotted in at #12 in the 14 team SEC.
Marquette loses four starters from last year’s squad, but they were spread out across the field, so no particular department is especially damaged by the loss of the senior class. Maddy Henry returns for her junior season as MU’s starting goalkeeper for the third straight season. Roeders appears to be ready to deploy an experienced core in front of her, starting four players that saw significant time last season in his back four, not to mention Leah Celarek moving slightly forward from defender to midfielder in both exhibition contests. While Celarek will likely be reliable as a defensive minded midfielder, it looks like it’s going to be freshman Katrina Wetherell joining experienced vet Ryley Bugay in the midfield. That, of course, is dependent on the lineup not changing if/when Kylie Sprecher makes her first appearance of the year. After earning Big East All-Freshman team honors last season, Sprecher did not appear in either of Marquette’s exhibition matches. If/when she makes her debut, does that push Jamie Kutey or Abby Hess down to Wetherell’s spot in the midfield, or is someone heading to the bench to make space for Sprecher and her scoring touch?
No matter how that shakes out, the Golden Eagles are going to have to do a better job of activating Carrie Madden. She’s MU’s lone rep on the preseason all-conference team, but she tallied just one shot in 73 minutes against MSU. That’s not going to cut it for a team that only scored 10 goals in nine Big East matches a year ago, not if they have postseason aspirations.
Match #1: at Cal Poly Mustangs (0-0-0)
This is the second meeting between the two teams, and the first time that Marquette has gone out on the road. Marquette’s Carrie Madden scored her first career goal to push the Golden Eagles to a 3-2 win at Valley Fields back in 2016.
Cal Poly is coming off of a 7-9-3 season in 2017. That doesn’t sound particularly good, but they do bring back 17 players who appeared in at least 12 of their 19 contests a year ago. With that said, they were picked to finish eighth out of nine teams in the Big West preseason poll. While year to year coherence in the roster is never a bad thing, it appears that it might not be particularly beneficial to the Mustangs at least when it comes to league play.
Goalkeeper Sophia Brown is a two-year starter for Cal Poly, accruing a goals against average of 1.40 along the way. Her save percentage is just .769, so it seems that if Marquette can get shots off against the Mustangs defense, which is led by preseason all-Big West honoree Chelsea Barry, they’ve got a pretty solid chance of going in. For her career, Brown is averaging nearly five saves per game, so it seems clear that MU should be able to get their chances on offense.
On the other end of the field, Cal Poly’s attack will have to reconfigure a little bit after losing leading scorer Megan Abutin to graduation. She accounted for six of their 23 goals a year ago and 15 of the team’s 61 total points. That’s a sizeable chunk of offense to recover. Junior forward Jessica Johnson will be first up to carry the load after tallying four goals in 2017, while redshirt sophomore forward Georgina Stiegeler and junior midfielder Megan Demijohn both had three goals. Oddly enough, it might be Barry, the all-conference level defender, that might end up providing the most pop on the roster, in a manner of speaking. She had four assists last season, which led the team and accounted for more than a quarter of the team’s total for the year. Her production in 2018 may end up tied to how head coach Alex Crozier deploys her on the field for the Mustangs’ best benefit, but it’s something to keep an eye on for now.