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Marquette Women’s Lacrosse 2021 Season Preview: The Returning Players

Head coach Meredith Black returns 11 of the 13 women who tallied a point last season.

Megan Menzuber
Megan Menzuber gets one more season to do damage to the Marquette record book.
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The start of the 2021 season for Marquette women’s lacrosse is just around the corner! The Golden Eagles will be in Ohio on Sunday to square off with Cincinnati, so before that happens, we need to take a peek at what head coach Meredith Black has coming back from the 2020 campaign. Last year’s season was cut short after 10 games by the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic, but I do want to re-state a few things that were in our 2020 season roundup:

It’s the second season in program history that ended with Marquette holding a winning record. It’s the third straight season where the Golden Eagles finished at .500 or better. It’s the fifth straight year where head coach Meredith Black guided her squad to at least six wins.

Was it only 10 games? Sure! It was the third straight season and just the third season in program history where the Golden Eagles were over .500 after 10 games. That’s notable as we head into a year with a wildly different looking schedule than last year. Marquette will be playing a double round-robin with their Big East rivals in 2021, which means that they’re only playing 15 games this year whereas they hadn’t even played a Big East squad yet through 10 games. It’s going to be weird to be playing the same league team twice in one weekend, but that’s what the schedule says.

That brings us to taking a look at the players returning from that team that was 6-4 through 10 games last season. A word of warning ahead of time: It’s A LOT of women, so you may want to go get yourself a beverage before you dig in.

ATTACK

We have to start our conversation here by acknowledging that there are two women in the position group that, technically, shouldn’t be here. Megan Menzuber and Bridget Danko were seniors a year ago, and both opted to take advantage of the extra year of eligibility afforded to them by the NCAA because the 2020 season was terminated early. Menzuber is the more notable name of the two, as she currently ranks #8 in MU history in points, #7 in goals, and #5 in assists. Now, you might think that this automatically makes her a contender to shatter MU’s records because she’s getting a fifth season, but that’s not the case. Menzuber would have to break MU’s single season points record by 10 in order to break the career points record. I’m not saying it’s not possible, but when MU is already playing two fewer regular season games than they have in years past, it’s not looking too great for that. Still, Menzuber comes back after finishing 2020 with 22 goals and 15 assists. Those were good enough for #3 and #2 on the team, and it was a personal career best in helpers for the Minnesota native.

Danko is a little bit of a different story. The Maryland native has only appeared in 17 games in her four year MU career, totaling three goals and an assist in that run, none of which were last season. Marquette has a pretty strong group of returning attackers behind Menzuber, but it’s not deep. In a year with the potential for weird roster availability, Danko’s experience with Meredith Black’s coaching style and systems might come in handy, even if she doesn’t have the playing time experience to go with it.

Menzuber started all 10 games a season ago, and she was joined in the starting lineup each time by Caroline Steller and Shea Garcia. Steller went for 23 goals a year ago and added a team high 17 assists to lead the squad in points with 40. To give you an idea of what Steller was doing in the scoring department, she fell just eight points shy of the single season top 10 in points and she played seven fewer games than any other player in MU history. She was on pace to break the single season points record, just barely, but still on pace for it. I think it’s safe to say that Black will be looking to get the ball to the senior from Pennsylvania again this year. Garcia is in her third season at Marquette and has already cleared the 50 goal barrier, even with the shortened season last year. The New York native went for 22 goals and six assists last season, and she’ll clearly big a big component of what Black and her coaching staff are trying to do this season.

Lindsey Hill is the most notable name amongst the rest of the attacking corps. The senior from Long Island played in eight of Marquette’s 10 games last season, adding two goals and five assists. That’s a step up from what she did in 2019 for Marquette, so we’ll have to wait and see if Black has a bigger role for her yet again in 2021 or if the return of Menzuber will end up limiting her.

Mary Schumar, Lauren Shaw, and Elizabeth Escudero round out the vets in this department. All three played last year, but Schumar led with five appearances while the other two popped up in just one game each. Escudero and Schumar are both sophomores, so there’s a touch of “well, they’re freshmen” there. Shaw is now a junior and has yet to score a goal in four career games.

MIDFIELD

The Golden Eagles have two women who led the team in a notable stat category amongst their returning midfielders. The big one is Lydia Foust, who had a monster sized sophomore campaign for Marquette a year ago. After being a regular contributor off the bench as a freshman, Foust led Marquette in goals in 2020 with 25 and she added six assists just for kicks and averaged more than a ground ball per game, too.

The other team leader is Emily Cooper, who came up big for the Golden Eagles last year. She moved into the starting lineup as a junior, and scored her first five goals of her career. That’s not the great part. Cooper grabbed up 63 draw controls in 2020 to lead the team in that department and help carry the squad following the departure of MU instant legend Grace Gabriel. Cooper is already #5 all time on the MU draw control chart and if she can average six a game this year, she could double her career total and maybe move as high as #2 all time behind only Gabriel.

Foust, who didn’t even start every game last season, and Cooper aren’t the only two notable midfielders back for another round. Caroline Peterson and Madison Kane were both starters every time out in 2020, and both had big scoring years. Peterson, a senior from Maryland, had 16 goals, four assists, and 12 ground balls, while Kane, a senior from Chicago, added 11 goals, 13 assists, and 14 ground balls. She just barely missed out on averaging a goal, an assist, a ground ball, and a caused turnover per game a year ago, as Kane only forced eight giveaways. Emma Soccodato is the one who lost her starting spot to Foust after four games, but she still got into every contest as a freshman and chipped in four goals and two assists. Hannah Greving was a freshman a year ago as well, and gave the Golden Eagles more than a goal per game at 14 on the year to go with two assists.

Meredith Black has a ton of depth to work with behind those six women, but none of the other mids chipped in a point to the offense. Mary Blee and Mary Dooley lead the way there after playing in seven games each last season as a freshman and a junior respectively. Everyone else only saw spot action. Three games for Caroline Blandford, two games for Carrie Froemming, one game each for Aubrey McLaren and Emily Becker, and a redshirt freshman season by way of injury for Leigh Steiner. Blandford was a sophomore a year ago, while the other four were freshmen. We’ll see what the future holds for them, although as you can see from the big names returning, playing time might be limited here.

DEFENSE

Marquette’s field defense is the spot on the roster that’s most affected by departures, as Kaitlyn Viviano’s collegiate career is over after starting all 10 games a year ago. The good news is that she’s still around as a student assistant coach for Black. Hopefully having her voice on the sideline will be helpful as the Golden Eagles reset without her on the field. MU caught a break by Erin Dowdle electing to take advantage of her bonus year of eligibility as well. The now-redshirt senior led Marquette’s field players in ground balls last season with 21 as well as creating a team high 16 caused turnovers. Oh, and she had 38 draw controls just for kicks, too. Dowdle is 16 ground balls away from the program’s all-time top 10, and just six caused turnovers away from the top 10 there. She was a force to be reckoned with inside the fan, so it’s good to see her back.

She’ll be joined by two familiar faces in the starting lineup. Ellie Henry started all 10 games last season, tallying 12 ground balls, seven caused turnovers, and 44 draw controls. She also got into the offensive action, chipping in a goal and an assist, too. Henry is in her third year with the program now and has already been named one of three captains on the squad. Jocelyn Miller returns for 2021 as well, and hopefully a return to form, too. Miller was Preseason All-Big East last season but missed MU’s last four games. In her six appearances, Miller did add four ground balls and six caused turnovers, so if she’s back to 100%, she should be an impact player.

Maria Mulvihill was the beneficiary of Miller’s departure from the lineup, as she played in all 10 games and picked up the other four starts. Seven ground balls and three caused turnovers while coming off the bench 60% of the time is pretty good stuff. I would imagine that she’s the most likely candidate to drop into Viviano’s spot in the lineup, but that’s up to the coaching staff to decide for certain.

Junior Rebecca Cappaert and sophomore Kate Pearson both played in five games a year ago to qualify as the most experienced players down one spot from the top four. Brynn Sunderland, Claire Hamilton, and Nia Polk got into two games each, while Colleen Graham made her NCAA debut against Niagara in 2020.

GOALIE

The fourth of Marquette’s four 2020 seniors that return this season is Jules Horning, Marquette’s all time leader in goalie wins with 24. She’s actually been there for a while, as her four wins in 2020 just moved her even further away from Sarah Priem’s 18. Horning started eight of MU’s games last year and appeared in all 10 while logging a team high 22 ground balls to move her within 27 of Priem’s all-time program record, too. She was splitting time last season with Sophia Leva, who started against Niagara and Arizona State in the middle of the schedule and still appeared in relief of Horning in the other eight contests. By stats only, it would appear that Leva had the better year in 2020. Horning had a goals-against average of 14.10 against 11.50 for Leva. Horning stopped just 41.1% of shots on goal, while Leva stopped 50.9%. However, a couple of Leva’s relief appearances came after the opposition had already built up a lead while Horning was in net. EXAMPLE: Horning gave up 15 goals in 43 minutes against #7 Notre Dame in the season opener last season, and then Leva went the final 17 and only gave up 3. You can see how stats get lopsided at that point and don’t tell you the whole story as to who was doing a better job at what they were asked to do.

I don’t know what it means for the starting job that Leva is a team captain here in 2021 along with Ellie Henry and Megan Menzuber. I have to presume that Horning opted to return to Marquette because she had some sort of promise from Black regarding playing time this year. If I had to guess, I’d go with the same kind of time share that we saw a year ago, perhaps with the two women alternating starts. We’ll see!

They’re not the only two netminders on the roster, by the way. Delaney Friel is a junior this year and has logged 12 minutes of action in four appearances. Bella Dervin is listed as a sophomore on the roster, but did not appear in a match for the Golden Eagles in 2020.