Let’s look at the pluses and minuses from Marquette Golden Eagles’ season opening draw against Cal Poly.
PLUSES: Earned a shutout, avoided a road loss, outshot the opponent 5-1 in extra time
MINUSES: Got shutout, got outshot 17-15 for the game and 16-10 in regulation, all of this was against a team picked to finish towards the bottom of the Big West
In other words, not all bad, but could have been much better as well.
It’s not necessarily the kind of showing that you want to have as your only match leading into a contest against a top 40-ish opponent in your home opener, particularly when your schedule doesn’t get any easier over the next 18 days. It’s not necessarily the kind of showing you want to have to start your season off when you’re trying to bounce back from missing the NCAA tournament a year ago.
That’s where Marquette is at, though. Whatever lessons that head coach Markus Roeders wants to derive from the draw against Cal Poly, he kind of needs to do it quickly and the team needs to pick it up quickly, starting on Monday night. Top 40 Badgers at home, top half of the Big Ten Michigan on the road, top 40 UWM at Valley Fields, two straight top six teams in Duke and North Carolina on the road, then a top 30 Colorado team back in Milwaukee. I don’t want to put too fine a point on it, but regardless of where MU ends up finishing in the Big East, they’re going to need to get results out of that six game stretch if they have postseason thoughts in their heads.
Yeah, it’s way too early to be worrying about this kind of thing. But the next six matches are going to determine the course of the season. That’s just how this thing works.
If we’re being honest, the defensive performance against Cal Poly was right about in range for the Golden Eagles last year in terms of shots and saves. If that’s repeatable, if they can tighten that end up ever so slightly, maybe things will work out okay in the long run. We might get a better idea of how things are going to go on Monday night.
Match #2: vs Wisconsin Badgers (0-0-0)
Marquette is 5-7-2 all time against Wisconsin, with the Badgers earning the win in the most recent meeting in 2016. The last three meetings between the two have come by way of the NCAA tournament, with the teams splitting the matches evenly at 1-1-1. Marquette had the advantage in the draw, advancing in the tournament by way of penalty kicks in 2010. It has been almost a decade and a half since the two teams met in the regular season after playing every year between 1995 and 2004. While it’s been that long between regular season meetings, the teams have been playing preseason exhibition matches against each other for most of the dry spell.
As you can see from the line above, the Badgers have yet to officially start their 2018 campaign. They were scheduled to start things off last Thursday with a home date against North Dakota State, but the match was rescheduled for Friday before finally being cancelled. Monday’s contest will be UW’s first official action of the season, and their first opportunity to show that they deserve more than the three points they earned in the United Soccer Coaches’ preseason poll.
Wisconsin was picked to finish fifth in the Big Ten this season, which isn’t a surprise as there are three teams from that league in the USC preseason top 25. I’d love to tell you about which Badgers made the preseason all-Big Ten team, but I technically can’t. I mean, officially, Cameron Murtha, Victoria Pickett, and Dani Rhodes are on the “Preseason Honors List,” but that list has three women from every team on it. It’s not like it’s an actual honor like being preseason all-Big East like Carrie Madden.
In any case, Rhodes, a junior forward from Waukesha, led Wisconsin in scoring last year with 11 goals and five assists. No one else on the team managed more than five goals, and Rhodes had more than twice as many points as anyone else with 27. Needless to say, she will be defensive priority #1. Priority #2 goes to Murtha, a 5’8” sophomore from Maryland. She was one of two players with five goals last season, so it’s not like she’s shy about booting it at the net. Pickett doesn’t have the scoring responsibilities that Murtha and Rhodes have, but she has started in all 38 matches that she’s appeared in for the Badgers, and she joins Rhodes on the preseason watch list for the MAC Hermann Trophy. That’s the Heisman Trophy of college soccer in case you didn’t know, and if you’re getting preseason pub for that without being a scorer, you’ve got to be doing a few things right here and there.
We’ll have to wait and see who ends up in net for the Badgers. Caitlyn Clem played over 2,000 minutes last season as a redshirt senior on an NCAA tournament team, but she is obviously not back for 2018. I suppose junior Jordyn Bloomer is what passes as the likely starter after playing 42 minutes last season for her only collegiate action. Senior Grace Quick has the, uh, well, seniority on the roster, but she has yet to see the field in an official match. UW has two freshmen keepers on the roster as well, so I suppose it’s possible that one of them could earn the start.