I think it’s safe to say that we left Marquette women’s soccer and their first two games of the season with more questions than answers.
The Golden Eagles are 1-1-0 on the year after getting shutout by Notre Dame on Sunday afternoon. In their season opening win over Central Michigan, Marquette looked like the better side for the first 45 minutes, and in dominant fashion as they took a 4-0 lead into the intermission. Then the second half started, and CMU started creating breakaways down the field, and the lack of defensive containment turned into two penalty kicks that helped the Chippewas make it a 4-3 game with just a shade under 20 minutes left.
Not great, but first match, it’s a win, blah blah blah
Then Marquette got outshot kind of badly by the Irish after a week and a half off. With that said, Notre Dame’s lone goal in the match came off of a deflection/attempted clearance by a Marquette defender, and the ND attacker happened to be right place, right time, to find space to slot it past keeper Mikki Easter. That was the only goal of the match, and MU was neck-and-neck with Notre Dame in terms of shots on goal when the contest was over. It’s safe to say that the final result and the shot totals don’t tell the full story of what happened in that one.
So, we’re 180 minutes into the year and maybe we don’t quite know exactly what this team is yet. That’s not the worst thing in the world, especially not in Year Two (okay, really like Year 1.5, maybe still Year One honestly) under head coach Frank Pelaez. After a spring season where Pelaez was handcuffed by COVID protocols as to his ability to coach his whole team at any given moment, it’s easy to say that these first couple of matches in the fall of 2021 are just an extension of his first season in charge. Maybe Marquette is figuring some things out about themselves, and maybe we just have to ride out the rough patches here.
Of course, as luck would have it, Marquette is headed out on the road this weekend for the first time this fall, and road trips aren’t necessarily the best time to smooth things out. That goes double for when you’re playing a ranked team coming off a loss and a team with an eye on staying undefeated this season…….
Match #3: at #14 BYU Cougars (2-2-0)
Date: Thursday, September 2nd, 2021
Time: 8pm Central
Location: South Field, Provo, Utah
Streaming: BYUTV.org, although I suppose if you’re fancy enough you can watch this on BYU TV?
Live Stats: It looks like it’ll be StatBroadcast
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWSOC
Marquette is 2-2-1 all time against BYU. With that said, the Golden Eagles haven’t beaten the Cougars since 2008 when they ran their record to 2-0-0 in the series. Marquette has not scored in either of their last two meetings against BYU, which includes a scoreless draw in the Sweet 16 of the 2012 NCAA tournament that saw BYU advance on penalty kicks and a 3-0 loss in Milwaukee in 2018.
Well, you certainly can’t say that BYU is ducking anyone. Four matches into the year, and the Cougars have done nothing but play power conference programs. They’ve picked up home wins over Ohio State and USC while falling on the road to Auburn and Arkansas. The Arkansas loss is causing a little bit of silliness in that #14 ranking that BYU has at the moment. Officially, United Soccer Coaches closes their poll with the conclusion of action on Sunday….. but they don’t release the new poll til Tuesday….. which gave the Cougars time to lose to the Razorbacks even while rising from #24 to #14 in the poll. The win over USC is the reason for the rise, presumably, as it was their most recent game before the poll, and the Trojans were #25 in the country at the time.
To that end, we should point out that Ohio State and Arkansas are both earning points in the most recent poll while Auburn is ranked #11. Quite simply, Marquette is pretty much the least heralded team that BYU has played so far this season.
Five different Cougars have scored so far this season, and Mikayla Colohan is the only one to hit the net twice. Marking Olivia Smith might be the most important thing for Marquette in this match, as she has assisted on three of BYU’s six goals this season. Then again, BYU has six assists on six goals, so it’s not like Smith is the only one finding the open shooter.
Cassidy Smith has played every minute in net so far this season. It’s still early in the year and BYU has definitely been testing themselves, so I don’t want to make any strong statements…… but her goals-against average of 1.25 and save percentage of 68.8% is not good. This might have more to do with BYU playing four top 40 teams than anything else, though.
Match #4: at Utah State Aggies (3-0-1)
Marquette is 0-1-0 all time against Utah State. The lone meeting came back in early September in Milwaukee, and the Aggies smashed the Golden Eagles 5-1. That match was scoreless at the 25 minute mark and 3-0 favoring the visitors at the 40 minute mark. It’s not what you want, and if you cared to, you could easily speculate that the loss helped guide the way to the end of Markus Roeders’ tenure as head coach when the season wrapped up.
So far this season, Utah State has been bopping around the Mountain Time Zone for matches. They started with a scoreless draw on the road against Idaho State, then they followed that up with home wins over Northern Arizona and Northern Colorado. Their third win came this past Sunday when they posted their second straight shutout and third clean sheet of the season by blanking Weber State on the road. Utah State will have a fifth match in the books by the time Marquette gets to Logan, as the Aggies are hosting Utah Valley on Friday night.
Senior Imelda Williams has scored twice so far this season to lead USU in goals. That’s something, but it’s worth noting that she accounts for a full 40% of their scoring output through four matches. She doesn’t have the team lead in points, though, as fellow senior Ashley Cardozo has a goal and three assists on the year for a team high five points. Cardozo has assisted on half of Utah State’s goals that she didn’t score herself, so it’s clear that the Golden Eagles are going to have to be mindful of where she is at all times.
Junior Diera Walton has been minding the net in every minute of all four games so far for the Aggies. With three shutouts on the year, she has a microscopic goals-against average of 0.24, and she’s doing her fair share of the problem solving back there, too. Walton has stopped 15 of the 16 shots on goal so far this season for a save percentage of 93.8%. The Aggies defense is only surrendering 9.3 shots per game this season, so getting a goal on the board is going to be something of an accomplishment.