It certainly looks like Marquette women’s lacrosse flipped a switch after losing their first two games of the season.
Sure, you can make an argument that opponents #2 and #3 on the season weren’t as good as the first two teams that Marquette faced. Rummage around in the recent history for Oregon and Kent State and you’ll get the idea. However, Game #5 on the year provided us with some context.
Game #2 was a hastily scheduled road loss to Central Michigan with the Chippewas getting an 11-10 win. Game #5? A scheduled home game against CMU, and Marquette pounced all over the visitors to the tune of 15-4. Less than six minutes into the second half, it was 10-1 Marquette. A far cry from what happened in Michigan a few weeks earlier, to say the least.
It’s time to wrap up non-conference action after six games. Sunday’s competition will be the last one against a team outside the Big East, and it’s fitting that it will be Marquette’s toughest test of the season so far. It wasn’t the toughest test on the original schedule, as that would have been Notre Dame set for the second game of the year. COVID put the Irish out of that spot, though, and I still figure that things probably wouldn’t have gone well against the team that is currently ranked #4 in the country. At least not at that point of the season. Things seem to be different for Marquette now, or at least things are going better. Has head coach Meredith Black unlocked something with her team, or is it just circumstance giving MU some teams they could beat? Are they more prepared for a ranked team now than they might have been in the second game of the year?
Sunday will give us a good feel for where Marquette is at this point of the season. After Sunday, it’s five sets of two games against every Big East opponent over the next six weeks. It’s one final tune up before that starts, and it’s against a team that, at least according to the IL poll right now, is better than any team that MU will face in league play. Let’s lace ‘em up and see what happens.
Game #6: vs #17 Louisville Cardinals (3-2, 0-1 ACC)
Marquette is 1-6 all time against Louisville. The Cardinals won the first five meetings between the two teams before the Golden Eagles broke through in 2019, one of two times that this matchup has happened in Milwaukee. The Cards scored the first eight goals of the game in a 16-6 victory in last year’s game.
Here’s a weird one: Louisville got themselves ranked in the most recent Inside Lacrosse media poll by losing a game. The Cards were 2-1 on the year last week and found themselves tied with then-#9 Virginia with six minutes to play. The Cavs scored the game winner off a penalty shortly thereafter and hung on to win. That dropped UL to 2-2 on the year.... and jumped them up from receiving votes to #17 in the country. That’s whacky. They moved to 3-2 on the year with a Friday afternoon road contest against Central Michigan. Yes, that Central Michigan that Marquette barely lost to on the road and then thumped in the Valley. Your final from Mount Pleasant: 11-8 Louisville, but that bad boy was tied at 8-all when CMU scored with 4:54 to play.
UL’s has two other wins on the season. They won 12-9 in a home date against a Colorado team that also lost in overtime at Vanderbilt... but doubled up #14 Denver, 14-7. That’s wild. The Cardinals also beat Cincinnati with a 13-5 margin. That’s the same UC team that beat Marquette by one goal in MU’s season opener. Louisville also has a 14-7 loss to then-#8 Florida in their season opener. I’ve got nothing to say about that one other than I remember what it was like for Marquette when they played Florida and yeah, that looks about the same.
Last year, Marquette couldn’t stop Hannah Morris or Ally Hall, as both women went for four goals to combine for half of UL’s markers in that game. Well, bad news, y’all: both are back this season and both are prospering. Morris has 11 goals in five games, plus an assist as well. Hall is trailing behind at nine goals and two assists. Ready for the real bad news? Neither of them are leading the team in goals, assists, or points. Those titles belong, at the moment, to Caroline Blalock. The senior midfielder from Maryland has 13 goals and six assists for 19 points in five games. Yeah, she’s averaging nearly four points a game. That appears to be a problem. Marquette held Blalock to “only” one goal and one assist in last year’s meeting, but hey, you “only” have to record two points when you have two teammates running wild.
Rachel Florek has taken all the minutes in net for the Cardinals so far this season. She’s stopping a whopping 52% of shots on goal, and even though UL is averaging giving up 29 shots per game, Florek is allowing just 9.80 goals per 60 minutes. When the Cards play a non-ranked team, say, like Marquette, Florek’s GAA drops to 7.33 and her save percentage goes up to 57.7%. Seems good.