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The 2020 Marquette Women’s Lacrosse Season Preview: The Returning Players

The Golden Eagles have a lot of familiar names back, but also a few holes to fill left by last year’s seniors.

Julianna Horning
Can Julianna Horning improve on last year’s goalkeeping numbers and thus MU’s defense overall?
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Hello! That noise you hear is the Marquette women’s lacrosse season getting closer and closer. The Golden Eagles kick off the season on the road against #7 Notre Dame on Sunday, so let’s get ourselves prepared with some season preview fun.

Here, we’ll be talking about the familiar names on the roster that return from last season. Before we dive in, though, let’s talk about the names you know that you won’t see out there for head coach Meredith Black in 2020. That list starts with Grace Gabriel, the all-everything midfielder, who finished her four years at Marquette as the program’s career leader in points, goals, draw controls, and free position goals, as well as the single season record holder in all of those categories as well as caused turnovers, too. Gabriel was one of three MU players that tallied at least 45 points a year ago that ended their careers last season along with Cate Soccodato and Charlotte McGuire, so that’s a whole mess of scoring that the Golden Eagles will have to replace. Also gone from the offense is Lindsey Willcocks, who put up 27 goals and 12 assists as a senior.

The defense is a little more solid, but the Golden Eagles will have to replace Anna Gallagher, who started all 18 games in the back as a junior, but is not on the roster for 2020. The same goes for Laine Dolan, but that makes sense since she was a senior.

ATTACK

Marquette’s leading returning scorer from 2019 plays up front for Black, and that’s Megan Menzuber. She’s been a regular contributor to the offense since her freshman campaign, and the Golden Eagles will need her to have a big year to wrap up her collegiate career. Menzuber had 32 goals and 12 assists a year ago, and chipped in 24 ground balls and five caused turnovers. Menzuber already has a feel for how to play with Shea Garcia, the 2019 Big East Freshman of the Year. She started in 17 of Marquette’s 18 matches a year ago, racking up 29 goals and eight assists. She had a pretty active stick without the ball, too, getting 16 ground balls and four caused turnovers. With Soccodato and McGuire gone, both of these two will have to step up this season as well as make sure others are getting involved in the offense to get things done.

Senior Bridget Danko and redshirt sophomore Lindsey Hill were bit players for the Golden Eagles a year ago. Both appeared in six games with one start, and each tallied two goals. With the changeover from last season, there’s clearly space in the lineup for both Danko and Hill to get more cracks at the field and the net. If either one can step up, that will be good news for the Golden Eagles.

There are three women on the roster listed as Midfield/Attack, so I’m going to put them in here. There’s a fabrillion middies to talk about, so this just makes sense for organizational purposes. Caroline Peterson is the most prominent name here after playing in all 18 games a year ago. She only had six points (4G, 2A), so she wasn’t asked to do too much. That might change this season, so we’ll see what happens. Fellow juniors Mary Dooley and Claire Hamilton saw action in six games and three games respectively. Hamilton’s the one who registered in the scorebook with one assist coming in MU’s 19-8 win at Stetson last March.

That’s it for this section, and when I started to write this, I started to get a little worried about how short it was. Turns out last year’s section was pretty short, too, so I guess that’s just the nature of women’s lacrosse, or at least women’s lacrosse as constructed by Meredith Black.

MIDFIELD

Everything about the 2020 midfield has to be filtered through the lens, or rather through the lack of a Grace Gabriel lens. However, Marquette’s returning middies are deeper than a glance at the 2019 stat sheet looks. That’s because Logan Dobratz returns after turning up at the start of the 2019 season with crutches and a knee brace. She was included in the group of seniors at the end of the season, but she’s a grad student at Marquette, and she brings with her 18 games of experience in 2018, where she had 11 goals, four assists, and 14 ground balls.

The Golden Eagles have two midfielders returning who played in all 18 games a year ago, and two more that got playing time in 16 contests. That’s a solid point to start working forward from, and the tip of that spear is 2020 preseason all-Big East honoree Madison Kane. She had 14 goals and nine assists as a sophomore a year ago, and you’d have to figure that with Gabriel now absent from the lineup, she’ll be able to improve on those numbers. Fellow junior Caroline Steller is the other 18 game player, although she mostly came off the bench (3 starts) as opposed to Kane, who was a 17 game starter a year ago. Steller still found time for 15 goals and two assists, which is some pretty strong work from a reserve/second line role. Junior Emily Cooper and sophomore Lydia Foust saw 16 games a year ago, with both coming off the bench in all 16 games. Foust was a little more active between the two, tallying five points (4G, 1A), and getting five ground balls and four caused turnovers. Cooper appears to have been more of a situational player for Black last year, getting 20 draw controls, but not much else. For whatever it’s worth to you, Cooper is second amongst returning players in draw controls, so it seems likely that either A) someone else is going to start playing a major role for Marquette this season or B) Cooper’s ability to win a draw is going to get her a lot more field action.

Marquette has a few more pieces in deep rotation places from last season to keep an eye on for bigger roles in 2020. Abbey Lippold played in nine games last year as a freshman, and that sounds an awful lot like the coaching staff likes what she brings to the table. Caroline Blandford had six appearances in 2019 as a freshman including a start. She scored a goal against Detroit Mercy in her first ever collegiate game, so you can’t knock that willingness to fire in a new situation. Junior Brynn Sunderland has appeared in seven games in her first two seasons. Lauren Shaw got into three games last year as a freshman, and fellow sophomore Rebecca Cappaert saw action in two contests.

The Marquette Wire’s season preview tells us that sophomore Ellie Henry is expected to make an impact in the midfield for Coach Black this season:

“(Henry) will win a lot of draw controls for us,” Black said. “She’s going to be a big presence on the field.”

I’m giving Henry her own section of note here because, as of February 3rd, she’s still listed as a defender on the Marquette roster. If she’s going to get midfield playing time in a defensive role, I guess it’s six of one, half-dozen of the other, but the change is worth noting.

DEFENSE

Much like the midfield, the defensive corps will benefit from a familiar face that didn’t play in 2019. That’s Kaitlyn Viviano who, like Logan Dobratz, is back as a Marquette graduate student after missing all of last year due to injury. In 2018, she played in 14 games with six starts. Viviano fell just short of averaging a ground ball per game that year, and caused three turnovers along the way.

Viviano will most likely join Jocelyn Miller and Erin Dowdle in the starting lineup. Both of those ladies started every game last season, and Miller earned herself preseason all-Big East honors this year. Quite honestly, the way I figure these things out, Dowdle wasn’t that far off from the preseason team this year after being on the all-conference Second Team at the end of the 2019 campaign. Those three make a pretty strong defensive set for the Golden Eagles, but they’re going to need a fourth starter alongside them without Anna Gallagher returning.

The question then becomes who gets that fourth defender spot. The answers aren’t immediately obvious, at least not amongst the returning players. Sophomore Maria Mulvihill goes to the front of the line at least for now, as she appeared in nine games last season. She didn’t make much of a statistical impact other than that, but nine of 18 games played as a freshman is nothing to sneeze at. Junior Nia Polk played in two games last year, which were the first two contests of her collegiate career. She’s familiar with the defensive concepts that Black wants to use, but she doesn’t have much in the way of actual on field experience right now. If the coaches want an experienced defender out there with Viviano, Miller, and Dowdle, then Mulvihill and Polk are the only two options on the roster with Ellie Henry shifting up into the midfield.

GOALKEEPER

Having three goalies back from last season is a pretty strong position for Marquette. Obviously, the starting job is going to Julianna Horning. The senior has started every game in each of the last two years after winning the starting job during her freshman season. If we’re being honest about things, Horning’s 2019 campaign wasn’t all that hot. She had a goals-against average of 14.37, and that looks not great on the surface. When you compare it to Marquette’s 13.44 goals per game, it gets worse. It didn’t help that she was taking shellings and then getting lifted before the game was over. 12 goals in 33 minutes in the opener against Notre Dame isn’t good relative to goals-against average, but it’s a lot worse than 19 in 60 minutes, which ended up being the full 60 minute total for the Golden Eagles. You see my point here. Still, Horning is already Marquette’s career leader in wins, and she’ll break Sarah Priem’s record for career saves at some point this season.

Sophia Leva was MU’s backup netminder last season, and she ended up with 291 minutes played while appearing in 14 of Marquette’s 18 contests. That’s a lot of action for a backup keeper, quite honestly. Last year, Black obviously had no qualms about going to Leva if Horning wasn’t getting it done, and you’d have to figure that would be the situation again in 2020. Leva has the inside track on being the one to get her number called if the coaching staff wants to shake things up in the cage, so she’ll need to be ready day in and day out. The best thing for everyone involved would be for the Golden Eagles to be a better defensive team overall, but sometimes a shakeup is what’s necessary to get the result you want.

That leaves Delaney Friel as the #3 keeper heading into the season. She got seven minutes of run in two appearances as a freshman last season. At 5’7”, she’s Marquette’s tallest goalie, and if her skills are enough to get her callups to the Irish national team tryouts, you’d think that would have to help her earn playing time for the Golden Eagles if Marquette needs something other than Horning or Leva in net. We’ll see what Black and her assistants want to do this season if they feel that the Golden Eagles would benefit from a major alteration to what seems to be the obvious plan for the year.