It’s fitting that the 2021 Marquette women’s lacrosse season is starting off with a game against Cincinnati.
This is the ninth season of lacrosse in Milwaukee, and Marquette has just two opponents that have appeared on the schedule each and every year, even if that season was shut down by a global pandemic. One of them is Notre Dame, and yes, MU will be squaring off against head coach Meredith Black’s alma mater this year, but that’s next week. The other team is, as you can guess, Cincinnati. Marquette does have eight games played against Georgetown, but that’s thanks to the 2019 Big East tournament giving the Golden Eagles a second crack against the Hoyas that year.
The point is that there has been one constant through the years of MU lacrosse, and that’s Cincinnati. They’ve always been there, even though the two teams aren’t even in the same conference any more. That’s part of the reason why they were playing every year, but since the American Athletic Conference started sponsoring the sport, that’s not the case. Even without that, Black has kept scheduling the Bearcats. It’s probably because they’re a decent enough squad and they’re relatively local-ish for Marquette.
It also doesn’t hurt that, uh, well, Marquette tends to beat Cincinnati, too. Marquette is 6-2 all time against Cincinnati. The Bearcats snapped a five game winning streak by the Golden Eagles during the 2019 season, but Marquette won the 2020 meeting, 17-6. Marquette is only 50-81 under Black’s guidance as she has run this program from the beginning, but even while struggles have popped up elsewhere, Marquette has always been, at the very least, competitive with the Bearcats. That has to count for something.
And so, with the team playing their first game since March 11, 2020 this weekend, it just makes all the sense in the world to start with Cincinnati. We don’t really know what MU has this season, although they were picked to finish fifth in the Big East and they return their top 10 scorers from a year ago. It’s been a long time since they’ve played a game, so there’s questions to be asked about what’s going on with everyone. That makes Cincinnati a pretty good measuring stick for the 2021 season as a whole, and thus a pretty good place to start.
Game #1: at Cincinnati Bearcats (0-0)
Date: Sunday, February 14, 2021
Time: 11am Central
Location: Sheakley Athletics Center, Cincinnati, Ohio
Streaming: Nope, because apparently Cincinnati isn’t cool like that
Live Stats: Stat Broadcast
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWLax
The Bearcats were 0-1 when they played MU last season, so they went 3-2 the rest of the way before the 2020 season was shut down. In fact, they ended the year on a three game winning streak, topping Central Michigan, Stetson, and Kent State. The first two were actually nailbiter wins, topping the Chippewas by one and the Hatters by two.
This year, Cincinnati is picked to finish fourth in the six team American Athletic Conference. Florida is the obvious favorite int he league, but the Bearcats snagged 14 points to be pretty easily in front of East Carolina and Old Dominion. There are four women on the preseason all-AAC squad, led by preseason Co-Defensive Player of the Year Morgan Dukes. The 5’4” Maryland native led UC in ground balls and tied for the team lead in caused turnovers before the 2020 season was brought to a halt. Her ground ball game was actually leading the AAC at the time the season ended, and Dukes was a First Team All-AAC performer back in 2019.
She is joined on the preseason all-conference team by three more Bearcats: attacker/midfielder Alyssa Adams, attacker Monica Borzillo, and midfielder Peyton Mottice. Now, you might be saying, “oh wow, how does the preseason pick to finish fourth have four preseason all-conference players?” Well, it’s probably because the AAC is dumb and has a 22 woman preseason all-conference team. That tends to make it a liiiiiiitle bit easier to make it onto the list. Still, that’s helpful for season opener previewers like myself, because now I know the big names on the Bearcats’ roster.
That trio of women went 1-2-3 in points on the UC attack in 2020. Borzillo led the way with team highs in goals (18), assists (13), and points (31). She’s clearly going to be the person to shut down. She averaged more than one free position shot per game in Cincy’s seven game season, and she converted at a 40% clip. Mottice and Adams both scored 14 goals in 2020, which is two per game and that’s pretty good stuff. MU’s defenders will have to keep their heads on a swivel, as I presume Mottice and Adams will be Borzillo’s favorite targets this season.
Cincinnati had something of a timeshare going on in the net back in 2020. Kate Brocato was the starter in five of UC’s seven games, with the other two starts going to Gianna Pope. However, Brocato only went the full hour once with Pope playing at least 12 minutes in six of the seven games. The 12 minute outing was, by chance, the game against Marquette a year ago. MU was up 10-2 at the half in that game, but UC head coach Gina Thomas left Brocato in the net until the Golden Eagles were up 15-4 late. I have no idea where Thomas is leaning for this season, but it seems awful likely that we could see both Brocato and Pope again on Sunday.