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Marquette Women’s Soccer 2021 Spring Preview: The Returning Players

Head coach Frank Pelaez has a lot of collegiate experience to build on in his first season.

Josie Kelderman
Josie Kelderman played big minutes as a freshman in 2019.
Facebook.com/MarquetteWSOC

We’re inching towards the start of the 2021 spring season for Marquette women’s soccer!

The Golden Eagles will start things off on Friday, February 5th at home against Chicago State... but that’s down the road. Before the season starts, we have to do some season previewing around these parts. We’re going to go through the very long list of returning players from the 2019 season that first year head coach Frank Pelaez will have at his disposal this spring. Keep your eyes peeled for our look at the newcomers in a couple of days!

FORWARDS

This section starts with senior Kylie Sprecher and junior Alyssa Bombacino. Sprecher hasn’t quite lived up to the promise of her freshman season since then. Three goals, all game winners, and six assists in her first season in blue and gold led to an injury halted sophomore season that only resulted in one goal from the Menomonee Falls native. Junior year was kind of a bounce back, as she gathered in two goals and two assists for the Golden Eagles, but she tallied just 13 shots in 18 games.

Bombacino has scored 10 goals in her two seasons with Marquette, including leading the team with seven in 2019. However, we have to throw a big ol’ asterisk on that. Six of those team leading seven goals came in consecutive games as Bombacino put up back-to-back hat tricks against Seton Hall and Villanova. On one hand, it’s cool that she became the first Marquette player to ever record back-to-back hat tricks. On the other hand, Bombacino scored just one other goal in 2019. I have many questions about that, though, as the Naperville native had a 41% shooting percentage on the season since she only had 17 shots attempted all year.

Macey Shock could provide the Golden Eagles with some pop up front as well. Officially, she’s listed as a forward/midfielder on the roster, but we’ll put her in this group because she posted seven points on three goals and an assist as a sophomore last season. It took until late September for Shock to start getting minutes off the bench last season, but she made an immediate impact with goals in her first two games.

The only other returning forward on the roster is Shelby Fountain. The 5’3” Maryland native and IMG Academy product appeared for just three minutes in Marquette’s 2-1 overtime loss to Northern Illinois as a freshman in 2019. We can generously say that she has room to grow here.

MIDFIELDERS

Midfielder is a complicated position for Marquette, at least in terms of reading the roster page and dividing everyone up into groups. There are just three true returning midfielders, and only one of them had playing time in 2019. That’s Katrina Wetherell, who appeared in all 18 matches and made 17 starts. She’s third on the team in returning minutes and contributed two goals and two assists to the previous campaign. That’s relatively what we could have expected from her after a six point (1G, 4A) freshman season where she was a Day 1 starter. She’s going to carry a load again for Marquette, and it’s probably going to require her to start putting the ball in the net more. She led the team in shots last season with 26, and while there’s a whole different discussion to be had about 26 shots in 18 games being the best mark on the team, MU needs their top shooter to score more than two goals.

The only other straight up midfielders on the team are Sammi Bugay, who saw 21 minutes of action in one match as a redshirt freshman last season and Maddie Tabor, who redshirted during her first year on campus in 2019. That’s a big bag of “I’ve got no idea what to expect” especially when compared to some of the women we’re about to discuss.

Marquette has two women labeled as midfielder/defender on the roster, and five as midfielder/forward. Let’s deal with the forward types since we’re moving backwards on the field. We’ll start with Alex Campana and Rachel Johnson, who appeared in 18 and 17 matches respectively in 2019. Campana was a freshman bright spot in the last campaign, playing in all 18 matches with five starts and logging 915 minutes. She scored two goals and added an assist for five points. It wouldn’t hurt Marquette to lean in her direction a little bit more this year as she put a whopping 63% of her 19 shots on goal. Before you say “yes, but only 19 shots,” remember that Wetherell led with 26, making Campana’s total the second best on the team. Johnson saw action in 17 games, earning eight starts and logging 1,142 minutes. She was nearly as accurate as Campana, putting 58% of her shots on goal. Yes, that’s 7 of 12, but step #1 on scoring more than 1.11 goals per game like MU did in 2019 is putting more shots on net. It certainly looks like Johnson can do that at this level.

Elaina Eckert has a confusing 2019 stat line. She played in 15 matches and started one, going for 20 minutes in the starting 11 against Michigan. The 20 minutes as a starter probably tipped you off to the confusing part, as Eckert played just 202 minutes in her 15 appearances. Reliable enough to play nearly every night, but not too much. Like I said, confusing. She’s a senior this season, so we’ll see what Pelaez thinks about her ability to contribute to the offense. Maggie Lena is the other mid/forward that we haven’t mentioned yet. The 5’6” California native appeared in six matches in 2019, logging 52 total minutes. She has only appeared in 13 matches for the Golden Eagles in three seasons, but hey, new coaching staff, new rules.

Moving on to the mid/defender department, we have Madison Burrier and Josie Kelderman. Both women should be major components of what Marquette does this spring. Kelderman played in all 18 matches in 2019 and ended up logging what is now the second most minutes amongst returning players. Even though the roster say she is a defensively minded midfielder, she still added a goal and three assists to the proceedings. Her lone goal on the year was a 42nd minute shot that ended up being the difference in a 1-0 road win against Minnesota. Burrier missed eight matches in 2019, but still started eight times in 13 appearances. Five of those starts were the final five matches of the season where she was in the lineup at center back. When she was available, Burrier was left on the field most of the time, logging over an hour in 10 of her matches. She even chipped in an assist on one of Bombacino’s goals against Villanova.

Both Burrier and Kelderman might end up shifting a little bit backwards on the field in 2021 because.....

DEFENDERS

.... Marquette does not have a whole lot in terms of returning experienced back line defenders. Maddie Monticello is your leader in returning minutes on the team after putting up 1,533 in 17 appearances and 17 starts in 2019. Last season was the first time that Marquette really relied on Monticello for playing time, as she was in and out of the lineups in her first two seasons. Still, she comes into her senior year with over 3,100 minutes played in college, so the Golden Eagles are going to need to lean on her experience defending the net.

The next most experienced defenders on the roster are Addie Shock and Bonnie Lacey. Both women were freshmen in 2019, although Lacey was an early enrollee in the 2017-18 school year and redshirted in fall 2018. Shock ended up appearing in 11 matches for Marquette with nine starts. That’s 802 minutes of center back experience, although she didn’t play after logging just 13 minutes off the bench on October 13th. Same goes for Lacey, who was playing regular minutes in the front half of the season, appearing nine times with five starts. She logged 28 minutes against Seton Hall in that October 13th game, and then that was it for the year for her. Again, 506 minutes of playing time in the back is still something, so it’s up to Pelaez to figure out what he has with Shock and Lacey in terms of assembling his defense. There’s also Madeline Warren, who played 86 minutes as a redshirt freshman in 2019, including one start against Northern Illinois. She went for 48 of her minutes against the Huskies. That’s not a lot of experience, but it is experience, and like I said at the top, Marquette doesn’t have much of it here.

Katie Smith and Emma Tabor were on the roster in 2019 as freshmen, but neither one played a minute. Smith is listed at 6 feet tall, and you’d like to think that having size like that on the back line would be valuable for the Golden Eagles. We’ll see if it turns into playing time. In case you were wondering: Yes, Emma is Maddie Tabor’s twin sister.

GOALKEEPERS

Figuring out Marquette’s field defense is going to be a pretty critical component for Frank Pelaez’s first season in charge at Marquette because he’s going to be rolling out an inexperienced goalkeeper no matter what he does. Mel McNamara played 51 minutes in 2019, getting a start on September 20th against Northern Illinois for some reason, because regular starter Maddy Henry stepped in at halftime. The 5’7” Maryland native faced four shots, saving two, and did not allow a goal. McNamara also got six minutes of run in MU’s 3-0 loss to Georgetown nine days later and did not face a shot.

That’s it for regular season collegiate game experience on the roster this spring. Mikki Easter is a 5’8” redshirt freshman who was around in 2019 but did not play a minute behind Henry and McNamara. Someone is going to have to play minutes for the Golden Eagles this season. It might end up being one of these two, or it might end up being 5’9” freshman Lauren Schill. It might be a sharing situation as Pelaez figures out what he has going forward. The tendency would be to lean towards McNamara as the Game 1 starter since she had the evaluation edge back in 2019, but we’ll have to wait and see what the new coaching staff has to say.