The upward momentum of the Marquette women’s basketball program was stunted on Wednesday, when Penn State announced that they had hired Carolyn Kieger to fill their head coaching vacancy.
Kieger, a 2006 Marquette graduate, had served as head coach for the past five seasons, generating a record of 98-64. After essentially resetting the program after her first season with a core group of then freshman, she took the Marquette program to all new heights. She won a Big East tournament title in 2017 and back-to-back regular season Big East titles in 2018 and 2019. The tourney title and the first regular season title were MU’s first such trophies since joining the conference. Her team spent most of the 2018-19 season ranked in the top half of the AP poll, peaking at #8 in the country, the program’s best ever ranking, and was poised to host NCAA tournament games before a season ending knee injury to senior Erika Davenport short circuited their top 16 possibilities.
Before departing for the Big Ten, Kieger was facing at best a transition year in 2019-20. Marquette projects to return just six players from the active roster, with two more who were inactive in 2018-19 due to health reasons for Tori McCoy and a mid-season enrollment for Sharna Ayres. The Golden Eagles have seven more freshmen signed for the fall to join Ayres as newcomers, with the recruiting class headlined by Milwaukee’s very own Shemera Williams. Now all of that is up in the air at best, as it’s hard to say who will and will not elect to honor their signed letters of intent and who will ask for their release. There’s also the possibility of transfers heading out of the program in the wake of Kieger’s departure.
As such, whoever the new head coach ends up being is going to have their work cut out for them. Not only are they going to have to stabilize the roster immediately and move forward from there, but they’re also going to have to walk in the shadow of Kieger, who proved that great things are possible at 770 N. 12th Street.
Here’s what the scholarship picture looks like for Marquette as they begin a search for a new coach.