Six up, six down.
Marquette women’s lacrosse enters Big East play with a record of 6-6 on the year. You can make the argument that maybe they should be a win or two better than they are, but it is what it is at this point. All of those 12 games are in the past now, especially last week’s two very terrible losses to Central Michigan and Northwestern.
All that matters now is the next five games of the season, which are also the final five games of the regular season as well as the five games of Big East play. In case you forgot, the Big East went from 10 members to six members this year after the American Athletic Conference started sponsoring the sport and the Big East associate members who are full AAC members went over there along with Florida and Vanderbilt. Thus, the cozy six team league that we have now.
That means just five league games to decide who gets the four spots in the conference tournament. Every game is crucially important, as there’s just not that many opportunities to get the wins you need to finish in the top four. Denver is the obvious favorite, as the Pioneers are currently ranked #19 in the country in the Inside Lacrosse media poll. Georgetown is receiving votes in the poll, even though the Hoyas are just 6-4 on the year right now. Butler and Old Dominion were the clear choices to finish in the #5 and #6 spots in the preseason coaches poll, which leaves us with just two teams.
Marquette and Villanova.
Not coincidentally, those are the two teams facing off in the game that we are currently previewing. Neat how that works, huh?
This is a pivotal game for Marquette this season. As alluded to earlier, perhaps this season is not going as well as head coach Meredith Black or any of her players would like it to be going. That’s fine. Conference play is a great time to hit the ol’ reset button and move forward from there. Forget about what came before and push ahead with the goal of stacking up enough wins to qualify for the Big East tournament.
This holds a little extra weight for Marquette this year, as they’ll be hosting the Big East tournament. Wouldn’t it be a hoot to parlay home field advantage into a tournament title and the program’s first NCAA tournament appearance? For that to happen though, they’re probably going to need three wins in conference play to clinch that safely. With Villanova coming to Milwaukee to start the slate off, it’s a perfect chance to grab that first win and start things off on the right foot.
Big East Game #1: vs Villanova Wildcats (6-4)
Marquette is 3-3 all time against Villanova, with all three wins coming in the last three meetings. Last year’s game in Pennsylvania was the closest of the three MU wins with a 16-12 final score.
Villanova comes into this game after back-to-back overtime games in their last two contests, and they ended up with a 50/50 split in those two 50/50 chances of winning. Villanova scored four goals in the final six minutes, including two in the final 30 seconds with one at the horn to force overtime against Richmond before losing, 11-10. March 19th brought the opposite result for the Wildcats where Columbia scored twice in the final three minutes, but it was Liz Trojan finding the net for VU in the extra session for the win.
The Wildcats will have 11 days off between games with that March 19th date against Columbia marking as their most recent contest, but it’s a well-deserved time off for them. The game against the Lions marked the end of a streak where Villanova played every three or four days for eight straight games. That’s a lot of lacrosse to pack into a very little amount of time, although the travel wasn’t a problem. Yes, they had to go up to New York to face Columbia, but their other two road games in that stretch were what amounted to cross-town jaunts to play Saint Joseph’s and Drexel. While it was a lot of games in a relatively short amount of time, the fact that two of them were played within 30 minutes of campus does make that a lot easier.
Liz Trojan may have scored that game winner for Villanova, but she’s only third on the team in points with 22 (18G, 4A) right now. Katie Comerford leads the way with 31, and she’s doing it largely on the strength of her passing with 12 goals and 19 assists. Those helpers are tied for the 4th most in the Big East in terms of a per-game average at 1.90, so Marquette’s defense is going to have to keep their heads on swivels out there. This is reinforced by the fact that Ashley Lynch and her 17 assists on the year are 6th in the league in per game average. As a team, Villanova is averaging 6.8 assists per game on 11.8 goals, so they’re very clearly focused on the team game to put the ball in the net.
Alex Moro appears to be the goalie of choice for Villanova at this point of the season. Senior Olivia Gonsalves started VU’s first two games of the season, but gave up nine goals in her first 15 minutes of action split between the two games before giving way to Moro in both contests. Moro, a freshman from Connecticut, has started every game since then, relegating Gonsalves to mop up duty here and there. She’s posted a goals-against average of 10.42 to this point of the season, which is more than respectable, and is stopping 49% of shots on goal.