Well, here we are. Meet 2019, same as 2018.
As was the case a year ago, Marquette women’s soccer heads into the second weekend of the season without a goal to their name. It’s not what you want.
MU got off to a lousy start in match #1, getting outshot badly by Colorado State, a program starting its seventh season, and giving up a goal less than 10 minutes into the year. That compounded into a 2-0 loss by the end of the match. That was followed up with a 1-0 loss to Ball State on a late goal in a match where Marquette seemed to hold an advantage in the course of play for most of the early section.
Since the first 45 minutes of the season, Marquette has essentially been playing evenly with their opposition in terms of shots, which is good. It hasn’t resulted in goals, which is, of course, bad. To make matters worse, the difficulty level on the schedule gets ratcheted way up on Thursday night, as MU goes to visit a top 25 program before making their home debut for the season against a team projected to finish in the top half of a very competitive conference.
As mentioned in last week’s match preview, there’s optimism in the Marquette locker room. Hopefully that optimism still exists after last weekend’s rough start to the season. The odds are probably against the Golden Eagles snagging wins in these two matches. If the Golden Eagles can continue to make progress as a team in terms of how they’re playing, then perhaps this weekend can end up paying dividends as the season continues onwards.
Match #3: at #15 Wisconsin Badgers (1-1-0)
Marquette is 5-7-2 all time against Wisconsin. For years and year, the two sides did not play at all in the regular season, meeting up only in the NCAA tournament between 2005 and 2017. Last year was the first regular season match since October 2004, and the 2-0 loss gave the Golden Eagles a 1-5-1 record in the last seven meetings.
When you push the #1 team in the country to overtime, then you’re probably pretty good. That’s Wisconsin’s deal right now, as their loss on the year is to #1 Florida State in overtime. Even with the loss, the Badgers moved from #16 in the preseason United Soccer Coaches poll to #15 in Tuesday’s brand new top 25. This actually makes sense.
Wisconsin’s other match from opening weekend was in a 1-0 road win over UCF, and a 64th minute game-winner from senior Dani Rhodes is currently the only goal that UW has scored this season. Rhodes was Wisconsin’s leading scorer a year ago, putting up 10 goals and two assists, so it’s just business as usual for her.
As expected based on last year’s minutes, redshirt junior Jordyn Bloomer has played all 189 minutes of action for Wisconsin so far this season. She has made seven saves, recording six against UCF to earn the clean sheet, and only one against the Seminoles, even though FSU outshot the Badgers 14-8.
Wisconsin was picked to finish third in what is clearly a very competitive Big Ten this season in the preseason coaches poll. Rhodes was joined by junior forward Cameron Murtha and redshirt junior defender Claire Shea on the Big Ten’s preseason honors list, but that’s one of those “three players from every single team” lists that B1G loves so much.
Match #4: vs Michigan Wolverines (2-0-0)
Marquette is 4-2-0 all time against Michigan. The most recent meeting was just one year ago in Ann Arbor, where the Wolverines snapped a four match winning streak in the series by the Golden Eagles with two goals in the final 30 minutes. All six matches have occurred since the turn of the century.
The Wolverines have already put seven goals on the board in two matches, but they did it in two very different ways. Their opener was a 5-0 home win over Marshall where they outshot the Herd 23-3 and rifled in four goals in the second half. Match #2 on the year was also a home win, but it took an overtime strike from Sarah Stratigakis to send Utah Valley back to Orem on the business end of a 2-1 match.
The big worry for Marquette here is that the Wolverines held a serious shooting advantage over Utah Valley in that match, even though it was a tight match in the goals department. UM outshot the other Wolverines 16-5, with just two of the shots coming in the extra session. Marquette struggled badly with shot differential in the first half of their opener against Colorado State, not to mention pretty much all of the 2018 campaign. If that problem seeps back in against Michigan on Sunday, it’s not going to be a very fun home opener.
Thanks to that 5-0 opener, Michigan already has two women with two goals in Stratigakis and Meredith Haakenson. Stratigakis has two assists as well, which has her contributing to four of UM’s seven goals on the season. Still early and very one-sided, sure, but I think it’s safe to put Stratigakis on the top of the scouting report.
Even with the lopsided opening win, Hillary Beall has played every minute so far for the Wolverines. With just one goal allowed, she has a very tiny 0.49 goals-against average and her defense has only surrendered six total shots on goal thus far.
Michigan isn’t that far behind Wisconsin in terms of the Big Ten’s hierarchy, finishing fifth in the league’s preseason poll. Beall and Stratigakis are two of the three Michigan women on the preseason honors list. They’re joined by junior midfielder Nicki Hernandez, who has just one shot so far this year. However, she did lead Michigan in points last season as a sophomore, so her time is coming.