So, here’s the deal.
Marquette women’s lacrosse was supposed to play #2 Notre Dame at home on Sunday afternoon. Except Notre Dame went and popped a positive COVID-19 test somewhere in their program, so they can’t play. This left both Marquette and Central Michigan without a game this weekend, as the Chippewas were supposed to be in South Bend on Friday for a game against the Irish. So, MU head coach Meredith Black and CMU head coach Sara Tisdale put their heads together and said, “hey, neither of us are playing our one game of the weekend now, y’all wanna throw down?” Since Central Michigan was already scheduled to visit Marquette on March 5th, Black and the Golden Eagles agreed to head to Mount Pleasant for a game on Sunday. That March 5th game is still on and the two sides will play a home-and-home this season.
By the way, the Notre Dame game is officially postponed. Maybe it’ll pop back up on the schedule, maybe it won’t. It’s one thing for something like basketball where the Big East is trying to make good on a television contract that says they’ll be providing X number of games to Fox Sports. That’s not the case here, as the game wasn’t going to be on television anyway. Also, it’s a non-conference game, and if MU needs to fill dates to make up games later on, the priority is going to go to Big East games. We’ll see what happens, I suppose.
From a game play perspective, I have to wonder if playing CMU is actually better for Marquette than tangling with the Irish. I appreciate Black’s desire to continue to challenge her squad by facing off against Notre Dame every year, and I like that she’s putting her team up against her alma mater. However, after Marquette went through a few things against Cincinnati in their opener, including 1) taking a 4-0 lead in the first three minutes and then letting Cincy take the lead less than 10 minutes later, 2) falling behind 15-10, 3) taking an 18-16 lead with 11:35 to go, 4) taking a 19-17 lead with 7:24 to go, and finally 5) losing 20-19 after giving up two goals in the final 100 seconds..... well, I don’t think Marquette’s chances against the #2 team in the country were all that great in the first place, and maybe tilting against the Chippewas is actually better for MU’s long term team growth this season.
Or maybe not! Maybe MU would have been ultra fired up to play the Irish, and they would have learned some things about themselves and what it takes to win by keeping it within five goals against Notre Dame, oooooorrrr maybe they shock the world and beat a ranked opponent for the second time in program history. Who can say what would have happened?
In any case, this means that Marquette will now open the season with three straight road games before finally getting a home game in that previously scheduled date against CMU. MU will be at Kent State next weekend, but that’s down the road.
Game #2: at Central Michigan Chippewas (0-0)
Marquette is 4-1 all-time against Central Michigan. The two sides have met in every season since CMU started their program in 2016, and MU took the first three meetings in the series. The Chippewas won for the first time in 2019, while Marquette won the most recent meeting in 2020.
Central Michigan’s season is already off to a good start, even though they have not played a game yet this year. 2021 will be the first season where the MAC, CMU’s natural home conference, will be sponsoring women’s lacrosse as a sport, and that would be a win on its own. However, CMU is also the preseason favorite to win the MAC in its inaugural season, earning four first place votes and 33 points to beat out second place Robert Morris and their 32 points. Akron and Kent State are the only other full-time MAC members in the leauge, RMU, Detroit Mercy, and Youngstown State round out the league’s membership as affiliate members.
As a side note, honestly, the MAC sponsoring women’s lacrosse is good news in the long term for Marquette. Over a length of time, it will help develop the game in the Midwest, and having a bigger core of prospects available a little bit closer to Milwaukee can’t be a bad thing for the Golden Eagles. I know that part of the reason to have lacrosse at MU is to develop recruiting for general student body enrollment from the East Coast, but in terms of winning lacrosse recruiting battles, getting players closer to home has to be a little bit easier.
Anyway, where were we? Oh, right, CMU. Well, the MAC isn’t putting out a preseason all-conference team, so we’re left guessing on what names the Golden Eagles need to know for this game. While the Chippewas are picked to win the league, they’re going to have to answer some questions about their scoring as the season goes along. Top 2020 scorer Natalie Karlen returns after posting 13 goals and 11 assists in CMU’s five games a year ago before the pandemic shut everything down. Tyra Prince returns as well, coming off an eight goal and four assist season last season. That’s it for CMU’s top five from 2020, as well as everyone who tallied a point per game. In fact, there were only four other women who even scored for CMU last season, so they were a bit top heavy in the first place at least through five games.
Sophomores Sierra Savage and Erin Owens are the only goalkeepers on the roster for Central Michigan. We’ll give Savage the nod heading into the season as the likely starter after she started two games in 2020 and appeared in two more. It wasn’t a fun two starts for Savage, as she gave up 15 goals in a 15-14 loss to Cincinnati, and she lasted 21 minutes against Marquette, giving up 10 goals in the first 22 minutes and letting CMU fall behind 10-3 before she was pulled. Owens only played in one game a year ago, notching a little bit more than two minutes in CMU’s 14-2 win over Butler. Like I said, I’d lean towards Savage, but maybe Owens made a big jump and has been impressive in practice so far this spring.