Year 7 of Division 1 lacrosse at Marquette looks to be the best one yet.
A lot has been made about the (relatively) immediate success of Joe Amplo’s men’s team, and as a result, Meredith Black’s slower progress has been somewhat overlooked. She’s been building a team from scratch, and the year over year results for what she’s accomplished are a lot more in line with what you’d expect from inventing a team from nothing at all.
Marquette is coming off of a 10-8 season in 2018, the first ever winning season in program history. The Golden Eagles also made their first ever appearance in the Big East tournament, which was very fun and exciting, even if it ended in yet another lopsided loss to Florida. The important part is that Marquette went 6-3 in league play and won their regular season finale in order to clinch their spot in the tournament’s four team field.
The other important part is that Marquette returns a whole hell of a lot from that team. MU had six 30+ point scorers a year ago, and four of them return in 2019. Six women had at least 30 ground balls last season, and four of them are back. Grace Gabriel, the Big East’s preseason Offensive Player of the Year will lead the way for Marquette and aim at putting up 3.7 points per game again this year. She’ll be joined on the attack by preseason all-Big East honoree Cate Soccodato (18 goals, 39 assists) and Charlotte McGuire (42 goals, 7 assists).
Jocelyn Miller, also an all-Big East honoree, is the cornerstone for the Marquette defense, and she’s got Anna Gallagher and Laine Dolan as her running buddies for another season together. Julianna Horning returns in net for the Golden Eagles after setting Marquette single season records for saves per game and save percentage as well.
The Golden Eagles are a dark horse favorite to make noise in the Big East this season, but we’re going to get a strong sign as to what kind of team they want to be in their very first game of the season. It’s against a team that they’ve never beaten, but that opponent is seemingly not quite as strong as they have been in the past. We’ll have to wait and see if the Golden Eagles can make some early noise with a big opportunity on opening day.
Game #1: vs Notre Dame Fighting Irish (0-0)
Marquette is 0-6 all time against Notre Dame. This is the first time that the two sides will meet while the Irish are not ranked, and the first time that they’ve played in Milwaukee since 2016. Last year’s encounter was the closest margin, with ND winning 15-10.
While Notre Dame is not ranked for this encounter, they are receiving votes in the Inside Lacrosse preseason media poll. They’re unofficially the #22 team in the country. They are also, according to the poll, the seventh best team in the ACC. The good news is that according to the poll of the league’s coaches, Notre Dame is actually the sixth best team in the conference. Boy, does that sounds like a rough go of things.
The Irish have two preseason all-ACC performers in midfielder Savannah Buchanan and attacker Maddie Howe. Buchanan had the team lead in assists last year with 27, and matched that number in goals while adding 67 draw controls, too. Howe had a remarkable freshman season last year where she led Notre Dame in goals with 40 and then tacked on 15 assists, too. The pair combined for two goals and an assist against Marquette last season.
Somehow, and I’m not entirely sure how this works, neither Buchanan and Howe are Notre Dame’s lone preseason Inside Lacrosse All-American. That honor belongs to senior defender Hannah Proctor, who, as you’ve probably noted by now, is also not an all-ACC honoree for the preseason. What a weird world we live in.
It was Andie Aldave (5 goals, 1 assist) that really did a number on Marquette last season, along with Molly Cobb (3 goals, 1 assist) and Abi Cullinan (3 goals). Thankfully, sort of, only Aldave is back for 2019. Goalie Samantha Giacolone returns for the Irish after playing over 800 minutes last year, so I imagine we’ll see her in net on Friday afternoon. She made 12 saves on 22 shots on goal against Marquette last season. MU only took 29 shots in the entire game, so there is a question as to whether they were just being too picky or not there.
Game #2: vs Louisville Cardinals (0-0)
Marquette is 0-5 all time against Louisville. The two sides have met in every season of MU lacrosse except for 2015, and this will be just the second meeting in Milwaukee. The first time UL made the trek north, Marquette gave the #18 ranked Cardinals a scare before falling 13-12.
Scott Teeter’s first year at the helm of the Cardinals’ ship did not go particularly well. UL’s 16-8 victory over the Golden Eagles in early February was one of just six wins on the season paired off against 11 losses. The big problem there was that Louisville went 0-8 in ACC play, and as we talked about in the Notre Dame preview, that league is just an absolute bear to deal with. Of course, a lot of the problem was the way that Scott Teeter ended up getting the UL job, too.
This year, the Cardinals are picked to finish last in the league again, and they got there with just eight points in the polling. Seventh place Duke got 21 points to give you an idea of the drop-off. As you would expect from these kinds of things, Louisville does not have anyone on the preseason all-ACC team, but sophomore midfielder Caroline Blalock was named as a preseason All-American honorable mention after putting up 43 goals and 12 assists last season to go with 24 caused turnovers.
Blalock had four goals against Marquette last year, so the MU staff is well aware of what she can do. The same goes for Tessa Chad, who had five goals on eight shots a year ago. Lexie Ball played nearly 1000 minutes for the Cards last year, stopping just over 40% of shots on goal, so I’d expect her to get the call again this season.