In a minute, you’re going to read a preview for Thursday night’s Marquette Golden Eagles women’s soccer match that sounds an awful lot like I find the opponent dangerous for Marquette. That’s true! It’ll make sense when you get there.
However, the facts of the standings in the Big East are what they are through six games played for the Golden Eagles: They’re in a tie for fifth place after dropping both of their matches on their East Coast swing last week. It’s not great! But it is what it is. We also can’t ignore the fact that Marquette is currently in front of Thursday’s opponent in the standings.
As such, I stand by my comment above that Thursday night is a get right game for the Golden Eagles. Sure, St. John’s has played one fewer match than Marquette has, and that might explain the standings thing instead!
But Marquette has a big time match against first place Xavier coming up this weekend. Marquette did not look particularly good against either Providence or UConn last week. That MU team is going to get slammed into the earth by the Musketeers. So, Marquette needs to figure themselves out before then. The only “before then” remaining is Thursday night against a potent offensive threat.
Gotta get right there. No choice about it.
Hey, maybe Sunday goes poorly anyway! It might! Xavier’s really good! But before we get there, there’s 90 minutes against the Red Storm that needs to be taken seriously if Marquette wants to be in the Big East tournament. After Xavier? Second place Georgetown, and that might not be a picnic, either. Getting points from the Johnnies might end up being the difference between desperately needing a win when the regular season finale comes and having an advantage going into the final match day.
Big East Match #7: vs St. John’s Red Storm (6-4-2, 2-2-1 Big East)
Marquette is 15-1-1 all time against St. John’s. The Red Storm earned a 1-1 draw in 2014 and a 3-0 win in 2015, and that’s it for results in their favor. The Golden Eagles won the first 10 meetings between 2005 and 2013, and they have won the last five meetings including in double overtime in the most recent encounter in 2019.
St. John’s comes in to Thursday night on a bit of a skid, at least in terms of results. They haven’t scored a goal in over 250 minutes, which isn’t great. They’re also winless in their last three matches, but there is a teeny asterisk that we can apply to that. Their last three matches? They’ve come against the top three teams in the Big East standings: Butler (a 1-1 draw), Georgetown (1-0 loss), and Xavier (1-0 loss). It’s hard to fault a team for bumping against the top end of the league and going “WELP, we lost.” It’s not great that they went scoreless against both the Hoyas and the Musketeers, but such is left. Those two teams have a grand total of one loss this season and they’ve allowed just 14 goals combined in 28 matches.
Even with that short circuit holding them back, St. John’s is still third in the Big East in goals per game, and they were averaging 2.8 goals per game before the Musketeers and the Hoyas shut them down. The goals, they are a-comin’, and they are a-comin’ from Zsani Kajan. The 5’7” Hungarian has 11 goals so far this season and, obviously, those were all scored before the last two matches. She is still tops in the Big East in points overall, points per game, goals overall, and goals per game. Kajan averages nearly three shots per game and her 11 goals in 12 matches pace matches her shooting percentage: just a little bit under one-third of her shots go in the net.
The Johnnies’ offense is designed to get Kajan the ball. Pure and simple. #2 on the team in shots has 20, a long cry from Kajan’s 35. As such, yeah, they’ve got two women who are doing a hell of a job setting up the team to score. Jessica Garziano and Nicole Gordon both have five assists to this point of the year which is inexplicably not the best mark in the league. SJU is #2 in the Big East in assists, though, as 16 different women — including Kajan with three — have assisted on at least one goal.
Naya Lipkins is the starting keeper. She’s started every match and has played all but 27 minutes this season. Her goals-against average is under 1.00, which is exactly what you want when you’re scoring as many goals as the Johnnies are. Lipkins is doing a lot of the work herself on that end, as she has a save percentage of 83%. The Red Storm are getting outshot on the year in total, so there is a possible chance that Marquette may be able to find ways to counterattack with success.
Big East Match #8: at Xavier Musketeers (12-1-1, 5-1-0 Big East)
Marquette is 9-2-0 all time against Xavier. The Musketeer wins came back to back in the last two years of Markus Roeders’ tenure as head coach, but Frank Pelaez got the Golden Eagles back on the winning track with two wins in the spring season.
Yep. 12-1-1. The draw? On the road against Bowling Green with both teams scoring in the first half and XU outshooting the Falcons 21-8. The loss? At home to then-#25 Georgetown, and it took overtime for the Hoyas to find the winner in a game that featured just 15 total shots between the two squads.
Gia Vicari’s game winner there was the last time that Xavier surrendered a goal. Four straight shutouts since then, and the Musketeers scored at least two goals in three of the four matches. With that said, while XU is the top shooting team in the league, they’re only tied for fourth in points, fourth in goals per game, and sixth in assists per game. They are winning with defense, with just seven goals allowed all season. Keeping the ball in the middle of the park may be the best thing that Marquette can do in this match, because Xavier’s realllllly good.
To that end, it’s going to be hard to pick out a specific Musketeer to key on to disrupt the offense. Chloe Netzel, Emma Marcus, and Shelby Sallee have combined for 13 of Xavier’s 24 goals at five, four, and four respectively, and Ella Rogers is right behind them with three. Weirdly, none of those four lead the team in shots. That honor goes to Molly McLaughlin, who has 38 shots in 14 matches but just two goals to her name. Eight different women have registered at least two assists, so passing is a big component of things for Xavier. Carrie Lewis, a 5’4” grad student from North Carolina, leads the team in that department with four on the year.
Olivia Jenkins is the keeper benefiting from the XU offense launching shots at will on the other end of the field. She’s allowing just 0.49 goals per 90 minutes of action while playing every minute so far this season. When it comes time to make a play, Jenkins is holding up her end with an .829 save percentage.