With the Marquette women’s lacrosse season getting started on Friday, it’s time to take stock of what head coach Meredith Black has for her seventh season at the helm. In this article, we’ll be running through the returning players on the roster, and down the line, we’ll look at the freshmen as well, and we’ll wrap up the season preview with a few questions that we have about the season in general.
We should probably start off the returning player discussion by pointing out what Marquette is going to have to replace from last season. The 2018 senior class was small, but impactful. Attacker Riley Hill finished the season tied for the team lead in points with 67, getting there on 33 goals (4th on the team) and 34 assists (2nd best). She finished her career as MU’s #2 point getter of all time, along with ranks of #5 all time in goals and #3 all time in assists. Midfielder Allison Lane is arguably a bigger void to fill merely because of her two-way play. Lane had 53 points a year ago on 39 goals and 14 assists, but she also contributed a team high 47 ground balls along with 25 caused turnovers and 82 draw controls, both of which were the second best marks on the squad. Lane leaves Marquette ranking in the top five all-time in all six of those statistical categories. Alex Gambacorta started every game of her junior and senior seasons on defense, racking up 31 ground balls and 18 caused turnovers. She had been a cornerstone for the Golden Eagles’ defense over the past three seasons, working her way to #6 in MU’s all-time ground ball and caused turnover charts. She doesn’t pop off the page the way Lane and Hill do, but she was just as critical to the Golden Eagles assembling the program’s first ever winning season last year.
Onwards then, divvying things up by position......
There are two obvious places to start here, which means that there are none. I think we have to start with the attacker that Meredith Black wasn’t expecting to have this year. Charlotte McGuire was honored on Senior Day at the end of the 2018 season after finishing up four years at Marquette, but only three years of action. I don’t know if she wasn’t planning on returning or if the team wanted to make sure they honored her just in case or what have you, but McGuire is enrolled in grad school at Marquette and is thus back on the team for one more go-around. She posted 42 goals and seven assists a year ago, which is the third best goals total in program history for a single season, and it’s only third because Grace Gabriel had the team lead last year. Her 49 points are the seventh most in a season in program history, which is pretty impressive when you realize that she was fifth on the team in points a year ago. You can see how McGuire’s return to the lineup might be ever so slightly beneficial for the Golden Eagles.
The other option to lead off this section is Cate Soccodato, who enters her senior campaign as a preseason all-Big East honoree. She tallied 18 goals and 39 assists a year ago, and you have to figure that becoming the first Golden Eagle to record 40 assists in a season is on her goals list for the year. She was 22nd in the country in helpers last year, so to a certain extent there is a cap as to how much she can accomplish here, but someone is going to have to pick up the slack from Riley Hill’s departure in terms of passing.
Marquette’s depth on attack, at least in terms of how the staff is labeling players on the roster, is a little bit suspect. Obviously McGuire and Soccodato are going to absorb a whole bunch of playing time and a whole bunch of the scoring punch, but past them, there are question marks. Megan Menzuber actually started all 18 games a year ago, something that McGuire and Soccodato can’t say, so you’d have to figure that she’ll be in for a bigger role in 2019. She had 28 goals and six assists as a sophomore as well as finishing fifth on the team amongst field players in ground balls. Bridget Danko is MU’s only other attacker listed on the roster, and she had just five appearances last season to bring her career total to eight after two seasons. The Maryland native has the experience with Black’s system to be able to step in and contribute, and it’s possible that there’s space in the lineup for her to do so here in her junior season.
So, how much time do you have to talk about Grace Gabriel? Because we could spend a whole bunch of time talking about the 2019 Big East Preseason Offensive Player of the Year. 2018 saw her break every single Marquette offensive record in the book .... except for free position goals, believe it or not. She is already Marquette’s all-time leader in career goals, shots, shots on goal, draw controls, and free position goals, and now she gets another run to see how fast she can rack up the 36 points she needs to break Claire Costanza’s career record for points, too.
Marquette has a strong depth of midfielders returning from last year in terms of numbers, but there are questions to be asked about how much the coaching staff trusts the players that they have. Lindsey Willcocks will be called on to step up following the departure of Allison Lane after starting in 12 of MU’s 18 games a year ago. Her statistical impact wasn’t huge — 9 points, three ground balls, three caused turnovers — but she did make herself known on the draw. Her 36 draw controls was third on the team last year and she was just one of three players with more than 10. Lane was one of the other three, so you can see how Willcocks might be able to do a little bit more this time around. That’s a little unfair, of course, as part of the reason Lane was so good on the draw was the fact that she stood six-feet tall, while Willcocks is only 5’4”. Logan Dobratz also looks to end up playing an important role for Marquette this season. As a junior last year, she appeared in all 18 contests with three starts, and compiled 15 points (11G, 4A) along with 14 ground balls. The Minnesota native has pushed her way deeper and deeper into Marquette’s rotation every year on campus, and hopefully she can cap that off with a big senior season. Madison Kane was the player with 10 draw controls last season to round out MU’s list of four women in double digits there, and she played in 16 of Marquette’s 18 games. She didn’t make much of an impact on the scoresheet, but 16 of 18 appearances as a freshman is nothing to sneeze at, either. We’ll see what Black has in mind for the Chicago product this time around.
That’s it for rotation players in 2018, but Marquette has five more midfielders returning. Caroline Steller (2G, 2A) is the only one of the five that put the ball in the net last year, and she did make four starts for Marquette, but only appeared in six games total. She could end up making a big jump as a sophomore this season. Brynn Sunderland (4 games) and Emily Cooper (8 games) had random appearances throughout the season as freshmen, and there’s space in the lineup for them to make a name for themselves in 2019. Cooper had eight draw controls in her limited action, so there’s a potential way for her to earn playing time. Holly Andersen and Abigail Squirrell round out Marquette’s midfield corps, and I don’t know what Black’s plans for them in 2019 are. Both are in their fourth year at Marquette after not playing at all in 2018, and they have five and six appearances in their first two years respectively. They know the system, obviously, but they haven’t had their number called all that much to this point, and I don’t know if that changes in 2019.
The Golden Eagles have three players, all sophomores, marked in this neutral ground, but only one of them had a notable amount of playing time in 2018. That’s Caroline Peterson, who made 11 appearances last season. She tallied three goals, with two coming against Florida, one in both of MU’s games against the Gators. That’s an impressive amount of fearlessness from the Maryland native, even if both games were long past decided when she shook the twine. Marquette needs bodies on the attacking end of things, and if she got 11 appearances as a freshman, you’d figure that she should be able to leverage that into a more regular role as a sophomore.
Mary Dooley (3 games) and Claire Hamilton (2 games) didn’t get much of a chance to show what they can do as freshmen, but there’s nothing really wrong with that. As mentioned, Marquette has space in the rotation on offense this season, while it seems that there’s still a few players in front of them in the pecking order in the midfield. We’ll see if they can crack the rotation and pop in a few goals on the attack in 2019.
With questions to be answered about Marquette’s attacking corps, the true strength of the Golden Eagles this season may be their defense. We’ll get to the goaltending in a minute, but Marquette has three women returning on defense that started all 18 games a year ago. That’s the kind of continuity that can allow teams to make a major jump. Part of playing defense in any sport, but particularly in lacrosse, is merely trusting your compatriots to be where you expect them to be. Laine Dolan, Anna Gallagher, and Jocelyn Miller were all on the field for the first draw of the game every time Marquette went out there last season, so that’s going to be a big deal for Coach Black and her staff. Miller is the star, even though as a sophomore, she’s the youngest of the trio. In addition to finishing last year third amongst field players in ground balls with 34 and fourth overall in caused turnovers with 17, Miller was named to the preseason all-Big East team to start off 2019. That’s a big deal, and one that bodes well for the future of the Golden Eagles. That primary trio will be supported by Kaitlyn Viviano, who appeared in 14 games a year ago and made six starts. Even in somewhat limited action, she still racked up more ground balls (13) than Dolan (10) and was even with Gallagher in caused turnovers with three.
Those four will occupy a heavy dose of the primary time on the field, so Marquette’s lack of depth behind them isn’t that big of a deal. Remember, some of that midfield depth will end up helping Marquette on defense merely because of their two-way status on the field. Erin Dowdle appeared in seven games for the Golden Eagles as a sophomore, so with the departure of Alex Gambacorta, there is a space in the rotation for her to improve on that in 2019. Nia Polk did not see the field in 2018, which means that the Golden Eagles are still looking for their first playing time in program history from a Wisconsin based recruit. That could change as early as Friday afternoon if Polk or freshman midfielder Abbey Lippold make their way into the game, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Jules Horning is our primary concern here. The junior from Pennsylvania started all 18 games a year ago, racking up nearly 900 minutes of action after playing her way into nine starts as a freshman. Her 153 total saves and 8.50 saves per game a year ago are a Marquette single season record, and her .430 save percentage is a Marquette single season record for Meredith Black’s starting goalie. Think about that, and then think about it again, remembering that she returns three starters in front of her. Horning will likely play as much as she wants and/or as much as Marquette’s performance on the offensive end requires her to play. Sophia Leva will likely be Horning’s primary back-up after playing nearly 200 minutes in eight appearances last season as a freshman. If we’re being official and technical about things, Leva actually had better goals-against and save percentage statistics than Horning last year, but that didn’t deter Black and her staff from putting Horning in the starting lineup every time out.