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The 2019 Marquette Women’s Soccer Season Preview: The Returning Players

We take a look at Markus Roeders’ returning roster to see what this coming season can be.

Alyssa Bombacino
Will we see more offensive firepower from Alyssa Bombacino in 2019?
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The 2019 Marquette women’s soccer season continues to inch closer and closer. It’s time to start diving into official preview stuff, and we’re going to start with a look at who is coming back to the squad from the 2018 team. It’s the logical place to start, as we can knock around what known quantities will contribute this year before considering where the newcomers fit into the picture.

We’ll divide things up by position here, as that’s a much easier way to summarize things than going by class. After all, you get sophomores, juniors, and seniors all playing along side each other on the regular basis, so constantly swinging back around to talk about a section of the field as we move down the class depth chart is just inefficient.

While we’re going to do this by position, we’re going to start with a senior dominated position, partially because there’s just one player in the position.

GOALKEEPER

The one player in question is Maddy Henry, back for her senior season this year. She has started every single match of her Marquette career, recording a career goals-against average of 1.25 and a save percentage of .786. Things have gotten increasingly difficult for Henry since her freshman year. She’s had to rack up a ton of saves, going from 87 as a freshman to 99 and then an even 100 last season. That is, unfortunately, a new Marquette program record. While Henry’s save total jumped way up from freshman to sophomore year, it didn’t result in much of a change in Marquette’s record. That wasn’t the case going from sophomore to junior year, as the Golden Eagles suffered the first losing season under the direction of head coach Markus Roeders.

Henry is very clearly a talented goalie, as a less talented player wouldn’t even be able to make all the saves that she did make. She’s going to be called on to play every minute in net this year, as she has only two freshmen behind her on the depth chart. That’s not a problem, as she’s cleared over 1,600 minutes in all of her three seasons so far. However, Henry will only be able to do so much to aim the Golden Eagles back towards the NCAA tournament after missing out in the last two seasons. Marquette got outshot 289-209 last year, and reversing that trend will be the biggest thing that MU can do to get the best possible season out of their senior keeper.

DEFENDERS

In addition to seven returning defenders on the roster this season, Marquette also has one listed midfielder/defender combo, so we’ll get to all eight of them here eventually.

There are four women who we know will play a major role in the defensive corps in front of Henry this season. This starts with seniors Emily Hess and Bri Jaeger, who join their keeper as two of the four women to start all 18 matches last season. Both logged over 1,600 minutes last season with Hess adding two assists to the scorebook and Jaeger recording her second career goal. I think it’s safe to say that Roeders will give Hess and Jaeger all the minutes that they can handle in 2019. Traditionally, Roeders ends up letting his back line play the full 90 minutes much more than the rest of his field players, so there’s no reason to think that won’t be the case again for these two.

In addition to Hess and Jaeger, we can also expect a big role for middie/defender combo Madison Burrier. She saw over 1,200 minutes last season, appearing in all 18 matches and starting 14 of them as a freshman. While the Golden Eagles had their struggles with putting a consistent lineup out on the field in 2018, Burrier wasn’t really part of that problem, earning a way onto the field from the get-go and keeping her spot in the rotation. We’ll see if she plays on the back line with Hess and Jaeger or if she’s lined up just in front of them in the midfield.

We’ll have to wait and see what happens with Maddie Monticello this year. She appeared in 13 matches as a sophomore last year, and made five starts. That sounds like she was contributing a lot, but in reality, she only played 568 minutes. Even more telling, that’s essentially only half as many minutes as she played the year before as a freshman on a much more successful Marquette team. She did start in the exhibition against Regina, so we’ll tilt the switch towards “expected to be a major contributor.”

Bonnie Lacey, Mary Kate Simon, Maura Weaver, and Madeline Warren round out the defenders on the roster. Lacy and Warren did not play at all last year as freshmen, so they remain a question mark in terms of what they can contribute. Simon played in four matches as a redshirt sophomore a year ago, tallying 71 minutes. Weaver was a bit more active, recording 185 minutes played in eight appearances, also as a redshirt sophomore. This is year #4 in the program for Weaver and Simon, so they’ll be experienced voices in the locker room for sure. We’ll see if Roeders and his staff dole out a larger role for them this season.

Before we wrap up this department, we should probably note one departure that will have an impact on how roles develop this season. Katie Koker appeared in all 18 matches last season, starting in 14 of them as a freshman. That’s really great, or at least it would be if she hadn’t transferred to Minnesota. The Racine native showed a tenacity on the backline even at just 5’5”, and she added a goal and an assist, too. That’s over 1,100 minutes of action that Roeders will have to replace on defense. Hess, Jaeger, and Burrier will be able to provide enough cover for the woman that gets the nod until they get acclimated, so it’s a matter of finding a fit within the existing construction more than anything else.

MIDFIELDERS

First things first: Marquette lists just three true midfielders on the roster. Three. The good news is that Markus Roeders loves to list crossover midfielders. In addition to the previously mentioned Madison Burrier, there are also four midfielder/forwards on the roster, and, for whatever reason that this many years into paying attention that I still can’t figure out, a forward/midfielder. So, we’re going to push the F/MF over into the forwards group and only talk about the other seven here.

That’s somewhat unfortunate, because we kind of don’t have a lot to talk about here. Katrina Wetherell, Marquette’s lone representative on the preseason all-Big East team, is the only known quantity in the midfield. Even as a freshman, she was one of just four women to start all 18 matches a year ago, racking up over 1,400 minutes played. With a goal and four assists, she finished tied for second on the team in points. Marquette is probably going to need a lot more from Wetherell in 2019. She did lead the team in shots and shots on goal in 2018, but as you can see, that didn’t turn into balls going into the net all that often. Either she’s going to have to find better angles for shots or she’s going to have to do a better job of setting up her teammates. Either one is good, as the Golden Eagles need to do a better job of holding the ball on the offensive end of the field in 2019.

We really can’t go any further here without mentioning that Wetherell did not play in MU’s exhibition win over Regina. For the time being, we’re going to cross our fingers and presume it’s for precautionary or temporary reasons, but keep that in mind as the season draws closer.

Wetherell is also the only midfielder to play more than 300 minutes. Erin Johnston appeared in 11 matches, but only saw 181 minutes. Midfielder/forward Rachel Johnson also had 11 appearances, but logged up 263 minutes. Those are the next two highest minute totals in the group, and generally speaking, less than three games worth of action in an 18 game season isn’t much when we’re talking about experience that will pay off in 2019.

As much as Johnston and Johnson aren’t known quantities for Roeders and his staff in terms of in-game production, they’ve still got a leg up on the last remaining midfielder and the three other midfielder/forwards that we’re putting in this group. Maggie Lena and Elaina Eckert both played just four minutes in one game last season. As coincidence would have it, both saw their four minutes of action against BYU. That was a step backwards in minutes for both women from their freshman season the year before, but not by much. Lena and Eckert have yet to play 50 minutes for Marquette, and if they struggled to find the field in a year where Roeders was struggling to find combinations that worked on a regular basis, things probably aren’t going to come together for them as juniors this season.

The final two women here are complete question marks, as they’ve yet to play at all for Marquette. That’s not a terrible surprise for Sammi Bugay, who came in as a freshman last year as one of the least heralded prospects in her class in terms of things accomplished before arriving at Marquette. She’s a redshirt freshman this year, so we’ll see what happens. Meredith McGuire is a redshirt sophomore now who did not play at all last year as a redshirt freshman. As was the case with Lena and Eckert, that’s a little worrying given the troubles of last season. Still, she’s in year three with the program now, so we’ll see what the experience that she has ends up helping her contribute.

FORWARDS

We have four women to talk about here, and there’s questions to be asked all over the place.

Let’s start with Kylie Sprecher. In 2017, she was an All-Freshman Team honoree in the Big East and Freshman of the Week twice. She finished the year with three goals and six assists, including the game-winner in what might be the stupidest win in Markus Roeders’ entire career as Marquette head coach. With that in mind, 2018 was a disappointment for Sprecher. She appeared in just 16 matches for the Golden Eagles, earning 11 starts and playing just 827 minutes. She scored just one goal, although it was a pretty big one at the time. It broke a scoreless tie just past the hour mark before Marquette ended up losing to #4 Georgetown 2-1 in overtime. However, there is an explanation for her drop. She spent 16 weeks over the 2018 summer in a walking boot, and her fitness levels just weren’t there to log minutes. She saw more than an hour’s worth of playing time in just six 2018 matches, and at the end of the day, that had a pretty big impact on what Marquette was capable of on offense.

It’s been over a year since that stretch in the walking boot for Sprecher. That fitness question is in her rear view mirror now, so the only question is whether she’s back to 2017 form. If so, Marquette should be much more dangerous in the offensive third. If not.... a lot of someones are going to have to step up to create goals.

The obvious someones we would look to first are Alyssa Bombacino and Abby Hess. Bombacino had a weird 2018, but maybe not so weird for a freshman. She didn’t play at all in the season opener, and then didn’t clear 20 minutes in a game until the eighth game of the year. By the end of the year, she had played in 16 matches and logged only 601 minutes. And yet, somehow, she finished tied for the team lead in goals with three. Okay, yes, the “somehow” is largely because three was enough to lead the team. Still, one goal per 200 minutes played is pretty damn great, so hopefully we see her minutes go way way up for her sophomore year with the production level staying the same.

Hess is one of the few women to appear in every Marquette match a year ago, and while it didn’t help her find the back of the net all that much (just one goal), she did make a major impact on offense. She finished the year with three assists, one behind Wetherell for the team lead. A healthy Kylie Sprecher should be able free up some space for Hess as well as create a few more chances for those handy helpers.

Macey Shock is listed as a forward/midfielder on the roster, and she rounds out our discussion here. As a freshman last year, she appeared off the bench in 14 games, but only tallied up 242 minutes. With Carrie Madden and Heather Handwork gone, Marquette has space in the forward end of the formation for players to step up and contribute. It’s good that Shock was getting regular action a year ago in her first year on campus, and hopefully that turns into solid production in 2019.