Have you already read our rundown for the Marquette women’s lacrosse returning players and newcomers? You haven’t?? Well, click those links and then come on back here to talk about the big issues ahead of the team in this, their seventh season of competition.
Ready? Here we go!
Question #1: What can’t Grace Gabriel do?
Marquette’s star midfielder is already arguably the best player in program history, and she still has a year’s worth of action ahead of her. The Lancaster, New York, native is already Marquette’s career leader in goals, shots, shots on goal, draw controls, and free position goals. If she even gets 75% of the points that she did last year (67 points on 56 goals and 11 assists), she’ll easily become Marquette’s all-time leader in points and will sadly have to settle for “only” being top five all-time in assists. As if that wasn’t enough, she already has the single season record for caused turnovers, and last year she grabbed up more ground balls than all but one field player in program history.
The Big East’s Preseason Offensive Player of the Year is absolutely ridiculous. I wonder if head coach Meredith Black will give her a start in net this season just to see if she can be good at that, too.
Question #2: Who is going to step up for Marquette this season?
The Golden Eagles return a lot of pieces from last year’s team that finished over .500 for the first time in program history and qualified for the program’s first ever Big East tournament. It’s reasonable to think they’ll be pretty successful this season (more on this in a moment). But the point of the whole endeavor is to continue to build the program onwards and upwards. Become a consistent contender in the Big East. Start qualifying for the NCAA tournament regularly. That kind of thing.
To that point: Marquette has nine seniors on the roster this season. Two of them — Grace Gabriel and Cate Soccodato — are preseason all-Big East honorees. Seven of them can be reasonably expected to be in the starting lineup all season long. That’s a heavy load to be carried by an experienced veteran core... but there has to be people ready to step forward and take charge next year, too.
We already know names like Megan Menzuber, Jules Horning, Jocelyn Miller, Anna Gallagher, and Madison Kane. They’ve already been chipping in already. Who will step forward out of the freshman and sophomore classes to show that they’re ready to inherit the mantle from what has to be considered to be Meredith Black’s best recruiting class?
Question #3: What is Marquette’s ceiling this season?
Well, the good news is that Florida isn’t in the Big East any more. The Gators have repeatedly run roughshod on the Golden Eagles over the past few years and that was starting to be not fun. Florida’s exit to the American Athletic Conference was part of five teams leaving the Big East, which puts the membership in the league for 2019 as such: Georgetown, Villanova, Marquette, and Butler, along with associate members Denver and Old Dominion, with the Monarchs making their Big East debut this year.
Marquette is coming off their first ever Big East tournament appearance, finishing 6-3 in league play and ending up in a tie for third place in the league and holding the #4 seed. But Florida’s gone now. That opens things up a bit, but with the league down to just six members and thus just five league games, things are going to be a wee bit competitive. The Golden Eagles were picked to finish third in the league by a vote of the coaches, but it’s not as cut and dry as that. Georgetown needed overtime to upend Marquette last season, and the Hoyas were nationally ranked at the time. Denver, the favorite to win the league this year, may have beaten MU by six last season, but that was a 9-9 game with 23 minutes to go.
Marquette should be one of the four teams in the Big East tournament this season. I mean, they’re hosting the thing. It would be really bad if they’re not. But can they win the regular season title? It’s not crazy to think that they could. On a recent College Crosse Cast, Skyler Gilbert said that if he expanded out his rankings into the 30s, Marquette would be in there somewhere. With that in mind, the NCAA tournament had 14 automatic bids and 13 at-large bids last year. That’s 27.
..... Is Marquette capable of an at-large bid? Can the Golden Eagles make the jump from “first ever winning record” to “in the national championship tournament” in one season? If they’re good enough to unseat Denver and Georgetown for the league title.... the answer might be yes. There’s a lot of lacrosse to be played between now and May to let us figure it out for sure. But with Notre Dame and Louisville coming to the Valley on opening weekend, we’re going to get a rough idea of what is and isn’t possible.