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2021 Marquette Women’s Soccer Season Preview: The Freshmen

Head coach Frank Pelaez has seven first year players on his roster this fall. Will any of them make an immediate impact?

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Hello and welcome back to our Marquette women’s soccer season preview! The season gets going on Thursday night at Valley Fields, and we have to figure out what’s going on with Frank Pelaez’s squad heading into his first full season in charge of the Golden Eagles.

We already talked about the returning players yesterday, and go check that out if you haven’t already. That’s an important stop on our discussion today, which is about the freshmen on the women’s soccer roster. First of all, there are only seven freshmen on the team this season. I say only, but that’s about a perfectly normal number. There were seven freshman last spring and nine back in the fall of 2019. The number of freshmen isn’t the crucial point here.... but it is notable relative to the returning players. The top fifteen women from the spring season in terms of minutes played are returning for the fall season. To put it another way: Marquette has lost just one goal and one assist from last year’s production, and that was split between two different women. On top of that, MU has lost absolutely zero goalkeeper minutes from the 10 match spring campaign.

In other words, Pelaez can very nearly go into the fall with his exact same lineups from the spring and not worry too much. The freshmen that we’re going to talk about here are going to have to be obviously better than what the Golden Eagles had at their positions in the spring if they want to earn minutes on the field in the fall. I’d like to be able to tell you something from the team’s two preseason exhibitions, but MU has not released any information about the results, and we only know one of the results — a 2-2 draw with Purdue back on Saturday — thanks to a lack of information coming from the home teams in both cases. Did the freshmen earn minutes in the 180 minutes of soccer? Which freshmen? Was there a notable upperclassman missing from the lineup for some reason? We have no idea, and I want to make sure I get that point across as you read what we’ve got going on with the freshmen.

Just as we did with the returning players, we’ll start with the forwards and work our way backwards through the field.

FORWARDS

The Golden Eagles have two forwards coming in this fall. We have to start with Maggie Starker in our conversation. The 5’4” Whitefish Bay native was a four year letter winner at WBHS, and for good reason. She wrapped up her prep career with 206 points on 73 goals and 60 assists and a Gatorade Player of the Year honor in Wisconsin. Eric Dale, the Wauwatosa East coach:

“In my opinion, Maggie Starker is the best player the state has seen in a few years. She’s incredibly strong on the ball and she sees the field so well, making her a player who creates for her teammates as well. She understands the game way better than other goal scorers.”

Yeah, so that’s a thing. Facts are facts: If Marquette is bringing in the best player in the state, then that’s good news for the Golden Eagles. Given the equivalency scholarship status for women’s soccer, it’s very easy to lose players to any of the other three Division 1 programs in the state, but that didn’t happen here. Anyway: Journal Sentinel Player of the Year, conference POY, and first team all-state as a senior, plus a team state title to boot. This is all very good, and if Marquette needs a pop in the lineup up top, then it seems like Starker has a solid chance to get on the field.

I don’t want to say that Kate Gibson’s chances are much smaller.... but I get an eye twitch every time I open up a Marquette bio for a freshman forward and I don’t see high school career point totals listed. That’s Gibson’s situation. The 5’8” Missouri native comes to MU with four HS letters at St. Theresa’s Academy and multiple all-state honors culminating with First Team as a senior and regional offensive player of the year, too. But no notes about her actual point gathering. I feel like you can’t be a First Team all-Missouri forward without scoring a metric ton of points.... but actual paid soccer coaches are much smarter than me when it comes to voting on these things, so maybe not? Like I said, eye twitch. Maybe Gibson can makes some things happen, and at 5’8”, only Elsi Twombly is bigger than Gibson in terms of forwards on the roster.

MIDFIELDERS

I mentioned a minute ago that it’s occasionally unnerving to see a lack of scoring information in a bio for forwards. It’s a mixed bag for midfielders, as you can get high scoring midfielders as well as incredibly talented midfielders who do every single you ever ask of them on the field..... which never involves scoring so much as a point.

Anyway, in the interest of “this jumps out at me,” we’ll start here with Julia O’Neill, a 5’5” middie from Smithton, Illinois. Her prep career ended with a state title this past spring at Althoff Catholic High School as well as 70 career goals and 50 assists. Seems good, and if she only played varsity for three years since she only earned three letters, that makes those totals even better.

MU’s other two freshmen midfielders are both local women. Carina Murphy hails from Germantown, while Mia Haertle is from Waukesha. Murphy’s official team bio is fascinating, as it mentions that she broke the school record for goals in a match with eight, but doesn’t mention how much scoring she did for her career. She did letter for four years in soccer and basketball and won a state title in hoops in 2021, which is pretty cool. Aside: Can you imagine being the poor defenders and keeper who gave up eight goals to Murphy in a match? At some point past goal #3, there’s just literally nothing you can do to stop her, no matter how those eight came through. Haertle attended Kettle Moraine High and chipped in to the team getting to the state semifinals in 2018 while earning four varsity letters along the way. She was team captain for a stretch there and was honorable mention all-state in 2019.... and that’s it for notable details here. Gonna guess that Haertle is one of those “doesn’t score but is good” midfielders. It’s worth noting that she’s one of eight kids in her family and four of her siblings have already played college soccer. I can’t even imagine how much soccer her parents have watched at this point in their lives.

DEFENDER

Yes, defender, singular. Caroline Cline is MU’s only addition to the defensive corps this year. If you like the idea of making your back line as tall as possible, then Cline is a quick favorite for you as she’s the tallest woman on the team at 5’11”. She played three years of soccer at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis and — here’s the fascinating part — led the team in goals and points in that time. Yeah. And she’s going to play defense for Frank Pelaez. Is this a case of “clearly the best player on the high school team, so she could do whatever she wanted to, but is best suited as a defender in college”? Something else? Cline was an all-Indiana honoree as a junior and a senior, and she earned four letters playing basketball at Cathedral as well, so she’s clearly a very talented athlete.

GOALKEEPER

It’s a little surprising to only have one new defender coming in to the team, but that’s definitely not the case for keeper. After all, you can only play one at a time, and having more than three on your roster can start to tend towards overkill. In any case, Chloe Olson is the new freshman keeper looking to compete with Mikki Easter and Lauren Schill for playing time, and I mean that literally. Both Easter and Schill are redshirt freshmen in terms of eligibility, so all three will potentially be around for the next four seasons. Olson stands 5’6” tall and hails from Minneapolis where she earned not four but five varsity letters at Minneapolis South High School. I don’t have stats for you, but Olson was a four-time all-state honoree and a finalist for Minnesota’s top honor for girls’ soccer players in 2020. That seems pretty good. She also seems to have a hell of a kicking leg on her, as Olson picked up a 2019 varsity letter on the football team as the placekicker.