It’s here, it’s here!
The 2021-22 Marquette Golden Eagles athletic calendar officially starts tonight with, as it usually does, a women’s soccer match. Real competition that actually counts!
Tonight’s match will be the only competition that counts for the Golden Eagles in general for a full week, though. UW-Green Bay has announced that Sunday’s women’s soccer contest against MU in Milwaukee has been cancelled. With that off the board, there’s nothing else for any Golden Eagles squad until the men’s soccer team gets started next week Thursday, as the women’s soccer team wasn’t scheduled to play again until August 29th against Notre Dame.
But we have this one, and that’s fun. It’ll be MU’s first action since the spring 2021 season wrapped up with a 1-0 win over Xavier on April 8th. That moved the Golden Eagles to a record of 6-4-0 overall and 4-4-0 in Big East action. It was already not enough to put Marquette into the four team conference tournament in Frank Pelaez’s first season in charge as head coach, but MU went into the match knowing it would be their last one until the fall. The fact that they locked up the W on a 52nd minute goal even while getting doubled up on shots is a good way to put a bow on the season.
Now they’re back in their regularly scheduled timeslot in the fall, and Pelaez gets a chance to fully deploy what he wants his version of Marquette soccer to look like. We don’t know how much he was limited by the short 10 game spring season, not to mention all of the COVID protocols that the university and the athletic department had in place. It’s a full season, his first since taking over the program in late December of 2019, and for the most part — and hopefully not just for now — the health and safety protocols won’t be as limiting as they were in the spring.
The team is mostly the same roster that Pelaez coached in the spring. After Josie Kelderman suffered a season ending knee injury in the exhibition against Wisconsin, that brought MU’s production loss from last season up to one goal and three assists. Kelderman accounted for two of the helpers in her nearly 600 minutes played, while the other assist and the goal came from women who ended up playing less than 225 minutes each in a 916 minute long season. Outside of Kelderman, Marquette returns their top 12 field players in terms of minutes played and each of the top seven point scorers. Elsi Twombly returns after leading Marquette in points as a freshman with eight by way of tying with Kylie Sprecher for the team lead in goals and tying with Kelderman and Alexa Maletis for the team lead in assists. Sprecher was #2 on the team in points at seven, just one behind Twombly, while midfielders Katrina Wetherell and Hailey Block each tallied two goals and an assist to end up with five points in MU’s 10 spring matches.
In net, it’ll be up to Pelaez to decide which of his keepers that had their first college experience in the spring are his best option now. Mikki Easter started five matches and logged nearly 400 minutes, while Lauren Schill got the other five starts and appeared in two of Easter’s starts as well. Schill ended up with more minutes played by more than a full match somehow along the way, as well as beating out Easter in the save percentage department, 82.9% to 77.8%. I presume it’ll be one or the other pulling the gloves on at first kick tonight, although I suppose we can’t completely ignore the existence of freshman Chloe Olson here.
A NOTE ON WATCHING THURSDAY NIGHT’S MATCH FOR YOU: The Big East has signed a deal with FloSports for carriage of the Big East Digital Network for at least the 2021-22 season. As such, most if not actually all Marquette contests are moving from the historically expected free streaming on GoMarquette.com to the paid streaming service. HOWEVER, you do NOT need to pay the full $30 a month or $150 for a full year. Marquette’s announcement of the deal with FloSports says to Follow This Link for a discounted price of $12.50 a month or $95.88 ($7.99 a month) for a whole year. FloSports is going to carry Marquette soccer, volleyball, and lacrosse in addition to women’s basketball just like last season. Is it ideal, particularly since MU streamed tons of things for free for years and years? No. Does it make sense for MU to go to free admission for soccer this fall while cashing a check for streaming? Well, actually kind of, in a roundabout way.
Match #1: vs Central Michigan Chippewas (0-0-0, 0-0-0 MAC)
Marquette is 4-0-1 all time against Central Michigan. The most recent meeting was a 1-0 Marquette victory in September 2017 in Milwaukee, which is where four of the five meetings have taken place. MU and CMU have faced off in the NCAA tournament once before, with the Golden Eagles winning 1-0 in 2010.
Central Michigan went 5-4-0 in a nine match schedule in the spring that was only against MAC opponents. That left them with a fourth place finish in the West Division, even after beating Northern Illinois 3-0 in their finale. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you about how the MAC thinks that the Chippewas will go this year since they have not announced a preseason all-conference team or poll of any kind. Very rude, honestly.
What I can tell you is that Jaelyn Dobrowolski was named MAC Freshman of the Year in April, and she’s back again this fall for her second season of college soccer. The 5’7” forward earned seven points on three goals and an assist in the spring to take home the trophy. This is particularly notable since leading scorer Natalie Belsito (4G, 4A) was a senior in the spring and is not returning for a bonus season of eligibility, thus making Dobrowolski CMU’s leading returning point getter.
Samantha Kaye-Toral shares the returning team lead in goals, as the California native tallied three in the spring in just seven matches. Dobrowolski is in a three-way tie as the Chippewas’ returning leader in assists as Katie Coleman, who had two in the spring, has not returned for her senior season in Mount Pleasant for whatever reason. Maria Kaschalk, a defender from Macomb, Michigan, is part of that three-way tie and is also CMU’s only returning all-conference honoree from the spring after being voted to the MAC’s Second Team.
I can safely say that Allison Lapoint will be in net for CMU on Thursday night...... because the sophomore from Royal Oak, Michigan, is the only keeper on CMU’s roster. The 5’10” sophomore recorded three shutouts while playing every minute for the Chippewas in the spring. Lapoint ended up letting in less than a goal per 90 minutes, but she stopped only 72% of shots on goal.