Marquette women’s soccer embarks on a new and interesting voyage in 2019. For the first time since Markus Roeders’ first season as head coach, way back in 1996, the Golden Eagles start a new season after finishing with a losing record the year before. This is the first time that Roeders himself has had a losing record as the head coach, although he was an assistant on that 1995 team that went 8-11-2.
Questions abound for the team as a result. Can they find a way to put the ball in the net, a task that largely eluded them in 2018? Can the experienced defensive group that returns put a lackluster campaign behind them and not force keeper Maddy Henry to become the first Marquette goalkeeper to ever record three 90 save seasons? (She’s already the first to have two of them.)
Can they return to the Big East tournament after missing last year, the first ever miss of a conference tournament in program history? Can they bounce back all the way to an NCAA tournament spot and prevent Roeders from missing for a third straight year, which would be his longest ever drought as head coach?
We’re going to find out the answers to all of these questions and maybe more as the season winds on. For now, though, we sit back and cheer.
Match #1: at Colorado State Rams (0-0-0)
This is the first ever meeting between the two teams. SPOILER ALERT: You won’t have to wait long for the second.
Well, let’s put our cards on the table here: Colorado State has not had a winning record in women’s soccer since .... well, ever, actually. The Rams have only been playing women’s soccer since 2013. 2018 was a high water mark for the program as they won more than four games in a season for the first time and finished at 6-9-4 overall. This year’s seniors were signing their letters of intent during year #3 of the program.
It’s still an uphill climb for the Rams, even this deep into things. They are picked to finish 10th in the 12 team Mountain West this season. Yay, they’re better than Air Force and Nevada, but y’know, still not close to on par with the four teams that earned first place votes here.
The Mountain West doesn’t do a preseason all-conference team, so I can’t draw any helpful hints about the Rams from that. What I can do is note that they lost 3-1 in their lone exhibition match to Missouri. I can’t say much more than that as Mizzou did not publish a box score. That’s kind of a bummer, because I’d like to know who played in net and/or who scored the lone goal.
CSU did a lot of scoring by committee last season with five different players tallying a goal. Caeley Lordemann did most of the work, putting five of their 10 goals on the season in the net. Taylor Steinke (2G, 1A) was the only other woman to register more than two points last season. Both Lordemann and Steinke are back for 2019, so presumably they’ll be the top two offensive targets.
The Rams need a new starting keeper after last season, but sophomore Gabi McDonald did get 233 minutes of action across five matches, including two starts. Redshirt senior Sydney Hall hasn’t played since 2016, and senior Maddie Lesjak is joining the team this year after first transferring from Northern Iowa and also taking 2018 off from the collegiate soccer scene. Lesjak has also not played since 2016, so this could be a very interesting decision by the Colorado State coaching staff.
Match #2: at Ball State Cardinals (0-0-0)
Yet again, this is the first ever meeting between the two teams.
The Cardinals are coming into this year after what had to be a bummer of an end to 2018. They finished last year with a record of 14-3-3, including 8-2-1 in MAC play. However, because they went to a draw with Bowling Green in the MAC title game and because the Falcons won the penalty kick shootout, Ball State’s season ended there.
After that, head coach Craig Roberts resigned. He was 99-56-28 in nine seasons, winning three division titles and two regular season conference titles along the way. Now Josh Rife is in charge, marking his first season as a collegiate head coach. We’ll see how it goes.
It might go pretty well, as the Cardinals were picked to finish second in the MAC this season. Four teams, including Ball State earned first place votes in the balloting process, so things could be pretty wide open at the top of the table.
Ball State returns four of their top five point scorers from 2018, including team leader Tatiana Mason. As a freshman, Mason tallied six goals and three assists and ended up as MAC Freshman of the Year as well as an All-MAC Second Team honoree. Each of the four top returning scorers found the back of the net at least three times in 2018, so the Golden Eagles defense will be tested by their variety of options.
Keeper Tristin Stuteville returns for a graduate season this year after playing all but 10 minutes of the 2018 season. She had a goals-against average of just 0.71 last year and stopped over 82% of the shots on goal. While it remains to be seen what kind of defense Rife uses in front of her, Stuteville did her fair share of solving problems on defense, making 3.5 saves per game.