Hi ho there, it’s time for more Marquette women’s soccer season preview discussion! We’ve already talked about the long list of returning players that first year head coach Frank Pelaez has to work with for this spring season. If you didn’t read that, you should go check it out!
Here, we’re going to talk about the newcomers on the roster. We’ll split it up by position, but as was the case with the returning women, it’ll get a wee bit confusing along the way. We’ll throw a blanket caveat on all of this relative to the returning roster from the fall of 2019: With so many returning players, it’s hard to say how many of these newcomers will break through into the rotation. However, since it’s a different coaching staff than the one we saw in 2019, all bets are off as to who is evaluated as the best player for the 11 spots on the field at any given time.
Alrighty, let’s dive right in......
There’s only one, and that’s Alexa Maletis, a 5’5” native of California. I’ve talked about this in the past with both soccer and lacrosse: When you’re a forward/attacker in these sports and your official Marquette bio page as a freshman refuses to tell me anything about how many goals or points you scored in your prep or club career, I develop an eye twitch because it seems like someone is hiding something. Maletis earned first team all-conference honors as a senior and led her high school team in scoring, and that’s fun.... but if you’re going to play collegiate soccer, you probably should do that as a forward.
This is where things get a little bit messy. There’s only one new true midfielder on the Marquette roster. Hailey Block is a sophomore transfer from Southeast Missouri. She scored eight goals and added an assist in over 1,000 minutes played across 17 matches with 12 starts in the 2019 season. That was good enough to earn her Ohio Valley Freshman of the Year honors and Second Team All-Conference honors, too. At one point in the season, Block scored a goal in six straight matches. Here’s the weird part about the 5’5” Block: She graduated from Grafton High School, just a little bit north of Milwaukee. How did Grafton High School’s all time leading scorer (94 goals & 26 assists) managed to get past the four Division 1 women’s soccer programs in the state of Wisconsin? If she just wanted to go to college somewhere further away from home, I get that, but that has to be the only explanation for it. Anyway, if Block’s scoring touch is the same at the Big East level that it was at the high school and OVC level, then she needs to play a ton for the Golden Eagles, as they struggled to put the ball in the net in 2019.
The other three women we’ll put in this category aren’t true midfielders according to the MU roster page. Elsi Twombly (5’10”) and Mae Sinclair (5’7”) are midfielder/forward combos, while Grace Allen (5’6”) is a midfielder/defender split. If Marquette is looking for ways to score goals this season, it seems like Twombly and Sinclair could be options for Pelaez and his staff. Twombly was a three year team captain at Kimberly High School up north in Wisconsin, and even with her senior season ended due to the coronavirus, she still put up 99 goals and 56 assists in three seasons. Sinclair hails from Rubicon, Wisconsin, and attended Arrowhead High School. She transferred in to Arrowhead after her freshman year in Arizona, but still ended up doing enough to break AHS’ program record for points in a career in just two seasons since she lost the 2020 spring to the pandemic. Sinclair’s junior campaign saw her scoring an Arrowhead school record 40 goals. That’s a lot of talent in just two women, and if that pop translates to Division 1, that could revamp MU’s offense in a hurry. Allen was good enough to play varsity soccer as an eighth grader in Pittsford, New York. She ended up playing four years of high school soccer, opting to spend her sophomore year focusing on her club team. As a part of the Olympic Development Program, Allen was able to make trips to England, France, and Costa Rica for competitions. They’re not letting goofs play on teams that are traveling distances like that, so it’s clear that she can hold her own. Does that mean playing time immediately for Marquette? It’s hard to say.
There are no new true defenders on the Marquette roster this season. There are, however, two defender/midfielder combos, and one of them has a team bio that makes her sound like a forward. We’ll start with that one, since there’s even more to Aeryn Kennedy’s story. The Missouri native was a three-year captain for her high school team, and was first team all-conference in each of her first three years of competition before the pandemic ended her final season. Kennedy (5’8”) led her team in goals in her first three seasons and in assists as a sophomore in junior. She scored 41 goals as a freshman, which is a team record, and she added another 62 goals during the next two seasons. I have ZERO idea why she’s listed as a defender/midfielder, other than the fact that Kennedy is a badass. You have to be a badass to play Division 1 soccer and major in mechanical engineering and be a member of the MU Navy ROTC program. The Marquette Wire has already done a feature on her, so go check that out.
Caitlin Cunningham (5’8”) is the other defender/midfielder new to the roster this season. The Virginia native played two years of high school soccer with a side jaunt for her club team in the middle of that. She also lettered in cross country for four years. While she doesn’t have a lot of accolades noted in her team bio, four years of cross country training means Cunningham has the stamina and cardio built up to play long stretches of soccer. There’s space on the MU roster for defenders who can contribute, and Cunningham’s legs might be enough to get her on the pitch.
Hailey Block is clearly the newcomer to the team that’s most likely to contribute immediately. She has Division 1 experience and has proven that she can play at this level already. After her, the next biggest potential for immediate impact is Lauren Schill, a 5’9” goalie from Pewaukee. Her Marquette team bio is loaded up with an extensive tale of success with North Shore United at the club level. If we presume that she’s the goalie on the field winning all of these state and region and national championships, then you can see why Pelaez and his assistants might put Schill in net right out of the gate. It’s not 100% clear that’s the case, though, as none of the bio talks about how many saves she had or how few goals she allowed. Marquette essentially has no goalie experience returning from 2019, with sophomore Mel McNamara getting just a bit over one half’s worth of playing time. There’s a chance for Schill to beat out McNamara and redshirt freshman Mikki Easter, but we’ll have to wait to see what happens. Schill is a great athlete, which works in her favor. She finished second all time in Pewaukee basketball history in points scored and earned three first team all-conference honors in that sport during her high school career.