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Big East Women’s Soccer: Where Are We Now?

The Golden Eagles have a pair of contests coming up to start Big East play, so let’s take a look at the league.

Marquette v Butler Getty Images

It’s time for the start of conference play in the land of Big East women’s soccer!

Things get started on Thursday with a lineup of five matches across the league with only DePaul sitting it out as the 11th wheel. With that right around the corner for Marquette, it’s time to take a peek at what the rest of the league has been doing so far this season.

But before we do that, we have to give you the quick rundown on the hot details for MU’s first two Big East matches of the season.

Big East Match #1: vs Butler Bulldogs (7-1-0)

Date: Thursday, September 23, 2021
Time: 6pm Central
Location: Valley Fields, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWSOC

Marquette is 3-7-1 all time against Butler. The Bulldogs have won each of the last five meetings including both encounters during the 2021 spring season.

Big East Match #2: at Villanova Wildcats (6-2-0)

Date: Sunday, September 26, 2021
Time: Noon Central
Location: Higgins Soccer Complex, Villanova, Pennsylvania
Live Stats: StatBroadcast
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWSOC

Marquette is 9-2-0 all time against Villanova…… except…… MU did start out the series with eight straight victories against the Wildcats. VU won the 2017 and 2018 meetings, but MU was back out in front in the last encounter in October of 2019.

Okay, with that out of the way, we’re going to go through the teams in the Big East in alphabetical order. At the top you’ll see the team name, their current record, and their current RPI ranking, fresh and hot off the presses on Monday. After that, we’ll let you know who is leading each team in the three important offensive categories, and then we’ll note who is the primary keeper for each team. We wrap up each infobomb with pointing out each team’s best win and worst loss (if there is one!) so far this fall by way of RPI rankings.

And now…. On to the team capsules……

Butler Bulldogs (7-1-0, #35)

Points Leader: Katie Soderstrom, 18
Goals Leader: Katie Soderstrom, 8
Assists Leader: Alli Leonard, 5
Primary Keeper: Emma Martin; 0.69 GAA, .792 SV%
Best Win: at #51 Illinois, 3-1
Only Loss: vs #14 Michigan, 5-0

After being picked to finish second in the Big East this season, it shouldn’t be a surprise to you that Butler’s campaign is going pretty well so far. They’re one of four teams in the conference averaging more than two goals a game and they’re actually averaging more assists than goals per game which tells you how much passing is crucially important to their goal scoring.

Now, you’ll notice that I didn’t mention their defense there, because there’s kind of a weird thing going on with Butler’s back end. Stephanie Rodriguez was co-Goalkeeper of the Year in the Big East in the spring and was named as the preseason Goalkeeper of the Year heading into this fall season. She played just over 69 minutes in Butler’s opener against Michigan, allowing two goals in the first half, another 32 seconds into the second half, and a fourth just past the hour mark.

She hasn’t played since. Emma Martin made her collegiate debut in relief of Rodriguez in that Michigan match, allowed a goal in the 89th minute, and then has only allowed four more in the seven matches since then. She has been GREAT, stopping nearly 80% of shots on goal. It’s unclear why Rodriguez has not come back into the lineup and Butler’s previews/recaps/game notes are not very clear about what may or may not have happened to her. It seems very obvious that Rodriguez is injured and probably won’t be back this season.

Given that she was tabbed as the best keeper in the league heading into the season, in theory, that should have been bad news for Butler. That hasn’t been the case, though. Whether because the field defenders in front of Martin are stepping it up to make her life easier or the one-two punch of Katie Soderstrom (8G, 2A) and Abigail Isger (5G, 4A) on the offensive end are helping the Bulldogs tip the field away from Martin, I’m not 100% sure. I am sure that it’s working for them.

Connecticut Huskies (4-3-0, #72)

Points Leader: Jada Konte & Duda Santin, 5
Goals Leader: Jada Konte & Duda Santin, 2
Assists Leader: Jaydah Bedova, 2
Primary Keeper: Kaitlyn Mahoney; 1.69 GAA, .765 SV%
Best Win: vs #108 Central Connecticut State, 2-1
Worst Loss: vs #52 Brown, 5-0

UConn was picked to finish third in the Big East this season, and for the moment, they don’t look like they’re going to live up to that pick. That has less to do with other teams that we’ll get to eventually than it does with their own performance, but the Huskies aren’t helping themselves out, either.

If the RPI rankings on their three losses stand up at the end of the season, they’re not going to look that bad. No one is going to fault anyone for three top 60 losses as your only three non-con losses. With that said, Connecticut looked awful in those losses. They got cracked 4-1 by Boston College in a match that UConn was kind of already out of less than 25 minutes in, and getting shelled 5-0 by Brown two matches later doesn’t count as a pick me up, especially when it was 3-0 less than 40 minutes in. Loss #3 was to a top 50 Buffalo squad, and that one is easily their best performance in a loss. Shots were mostly even in both halves, but Buffalo scored in the sixth minute before tacking on in the 72nd. That one was still up for grabs most of the way through.

There’s nothing super inspiring about UConn’s wins because I don’t think anyone expects Central Connecticut State to stay hovering around the top 100 all season, and things don’t get much better after that. If they keep having a strict “lose to top 100, beat everyone else” split the rest of the season, things are going to keep taking a turn for the worse in Storrs.

Creighton Bluejays (6-2-1, #105)

Points Leader: Abagail Santana, 13
Goals Leader: Abagail Santana, 6
Assists Leader: Ansley Atkinson, 9
Primary Keeper: Keelan Terrell; 0.32 GAA, .850 SV%
Best Win: vs #86 Drake, 2-0
Worst Loss: at #170 Iowa State, 1-0

Creighton probably wishes they had the Tulsa and Iowa State matches back. Picked to finish in the middle of the Big East this year, maybe it’s not surprising that Creighton lost to #167 Tulsa and #170 Iowa State, with the Cyclones match coming as their non-conference finale. But both losses were by scores of 1-0 with Tulsa scoring in the 87th minute to make that one sting a little bit more. The Jays outshot Tulsa overall with a strong hold on things in a 10-2 second half, but they couldn’t find the net even with seven shots on goal after the break.

The Iowa State loss is a real drag, particularly given that the two sides combined for just 12 shots in the whole match. ISU’s goal was on their only shot on goal in the entire match and their only shot of the first half. That stinks, especially when you have to travel back to Omaha from Ames afterwards.

The point of this is look where Creighton might be if they had found ways to win those heartbreakers. Those are their only two losses of the season so far, and 8-0-1 looks a heck of a lot better than 6-2-1.

I’m looking forward to see what Abagail Santana turns into going forward. She played in five matches in the spring season, but did not score on any of her five attempted shots. Now she has six of Creighton’s 15 goals on the year on just 22 shots through nine matches. That’s the kind of offensive play that can force teams onto their back foot regularly, and Ansley Atkinson’s passing wizardry — she literally has half of CU’s assists this year — has to be a big help in keeping things open and moving for the Bluejays.

DePaul Blue Demons (3-5-0, #191)

Points Leader: Morgan Turner, 8
Goals Leader: Morgan Turner, 4
Assists Leader: Beth Smyth and Grace Phillpotts, 2
Primary Keeper: Mollie Ericksson; 0.86 GAA, .793 SV%
Best Win: at #264 Oakland, 1-0
Worst Loss: vs #90 Iowa, 2-1

DePaul challenged themselves with their non-conference schedule and it did not work. They have losses to RPI #13, #54, #68, #77, and #90. That’s not even really a problem, at least not individually! All together it’s not good, though, and that’s where the Blue Demons find themselves eight matches into head coach Michele O’Brien’s tenure after she was promoted to the top spot in June.

They’ve got some good things to be proud of here. Morgan Turner is having a nice season, sitting in a tie for eighth in the Big East in goals so far. Senior Mollie Erickson is doing some good stuff in net, because any time you’re stopping 80% of shots and allowing less than 0.90 goals per match, you’re doing pretty well. Even better for her, this is much better than the numbers that Erickson put up in her seven appearances in the spring for the Blue Demons. The win/loss record isn’t in their favor, but overall DePaul is playing back and forth soccer with their opponents as they’re only being outshot by three attempts overall and the Blue Demons are much more precise with their shot attempts as well.

Can that turn into wins in league play? Odds are that it won’t because if you’re struggling against top 100 foes, entering into Big East action isn’t going to give you very many days off.

Georgetown Hoyas (4-0-4, #30)

United Soccer Coaches Ranking: #25
Points Leader: Gia Vicari, 11
Goals Leader: Gia Vicari, 5
Assists Leader: Maya Fernandez-Powell & Julia Leas, 3
Primary Keeper: Allie Augur; 0.46 GAA, .871 SV%
Best Win: vs #9 Rutgers, 1-0

I would to get a truth serum assessment of the season from the Hoya players and coaches. They started out the year as the preseason pick to win the Big East and probably a dark horse candidate to win the national championship with a #11 ranking in the preseason United Soccer Coaches poll. Now they’re barely clinging to a national ranking at #25, they’ve been surpassed in the poll by a Big East team that was not expected to challenge for the title, and all because they’ve let four wins slip through their hands (feet?) to this point of the calendar. Not all the way to losses, mind you, just to draws.

It’s not what you want, not if you think you might have national championship hopes. But it’s also not good, especially that 1-1 tie with Dartmouth. The Big Green scored first and Georgetown had an 87th minute penalty kick get saved AND Dartmouth had someone on the bench thrown out of the match after time had expired at the end of the first overtime period.

I would like to say that I like to see that Gia Vicari is making me look pretty smart. I thought she should be Preseason Offensive Player of the Year after probably getting robbed of the postseason version of that award in the spring. The Big East coaches disagreed with me, but Vicari has five goals and an assist already this season to lead a nationally ranked powerhouse in points and goals. She’s only tied for sixth in total goals and goals per game, but I’ll take my win anyway.

Marquette Golden Eagles (4-3-0, #140)

Points Leader: Maggie Starker & Katrina Wetherell, 5
Goals Leader: Maggie Starker, Katrina Wetherell, & Rachel Johnson, 2
Assists Leader: Elsi Twombly & Kylie Sprecher, 2
Primary Keeper: Mikki Easter; 0.51 GAA, .870 SV%
Best Win: vs #181 Central Michigan, 4-3
Worst Loss: at #85 Utah State, 2-1 (2OT)

We talk enough about Marquette in these digital pages, so we’ll keep it moving here after dropping in their info download. I will say that MU’s outcomes in conference play are going to come down to how much they learned about themselves while grinding out wins in their last three matches.

Providence Friars (5-2-1, #34)

Points Leader: Meg Hughes, 14
Goals Leader: Meg Hughes, 6
Assists Leader: Gillian Kenney, 3
Primary Keeper: Emma Bodmer; 1.37 GAA, .776 SV%
Best Win: vs #52 Brown, 2-1
Worst Loss: at #15 Wisconsin, 3-2

Lookin’ pretty good, Friars. Really making Georgetown head coach Dave Nolan look pretty smart for giving you his first place vote in the Big East preseason poll while you ended ranked fourth. Your only losses are to a pair of RPI top 15 opponents? Your only draw came in your opener on the road against your in-state rival? Cool, whatever, chalk it up to the cost of doing business, and the fact that both were on the road just adds to that point.

I will say, though, that their best win is doing a bit of heavy lifting for them here. Yes, they did beat Brown, and yes, they went on the road to beat #75 Monmouth as well....... but other than that they don’t have a top 100 win. That’s not a big deal, because they do have two. There’s just reason to wonder what will happen once the Friars start having to bang their heads against opponents in the top 100 regularly as league play gets going.

Also causing the eyes to twitch a little bit when wondering what happens when the going gets tough is Emma Bodmer’s stats. Providence is averaging five more shots per game than their opponent.... but Bodmer’s letting in well over a goal per game. She leads the Big East in total saves as well as saves per game at this point of the campaign as one of two women making more than four stops per contest. Generally speaking, you don’t want to be in that situation. That’s a whole lot of pressure on your keeper to make plays to keep you in games, and eventually, enough things are going to go against you.

St. John’s Red Storm (4-2-1, #158)

Points Leader: Zsani Kajan, 20
Goals Leader: Zsani Kajan, 9
Assists Leader: Jessica Garziano & Nicole Gordon, 3
Primary Keeper: Naya Lipkens; 1.12 GAA, .758 SV%
Best Win: at #145 Delaware, 3-0
Worst Loss: at #185 Yale, 2-0

Okay, so, it seems that Zsani Kajan is good again. The 5’7” Hungarian had what amounts to a bad spring for her with four goals in 11 matches and a minute .105 shooting percentage. I left her off the preseason all-conference team when I did my picks because there were players that had better springs. Well, she’s better than ever, tallying a whopping nine goals in just seven matches. Through Big East play, she will get 10 tries to record just three goals in order to break her all-time career high for goals in a season as she had 11 as both a sophomore and a junior. She is, in a word, terrifying if you’re a Big East defender.

The Johnnies are kind of a confusing team because one of their losses and their draw are to a pair of top 40 teams. They went to a 3-3 tie with RPI #33 Columbia while outshooting the Lions 15-6 in a second half that saw four of the six goals in the game come in a 23 minute stretch. Then they lost to #9 Harvard on the road in overtime after SJU scored twice less than four minutes apart in the second half to knot the game at two each.

Then, in their third joust with an Ivy team this season, St. John’s took the worst of their two losses in a match where they got outshot 10-6 on the road and Kajan was held without a solitary shot for 77 minutes. I tell you what, if Yale unlocked the code on how to beat the Red Storm, we’re going to see a lot more of those types of games from them the rest of the way.

Seton Hall Pirates (5-3-0, #155)

Points Leader: Naomi Welch, 11
Goals Leader: Naomi Welch, 4
Assists Leader: Naomi Welch & Sophie Liston, 3
Primary Keeper: Grace Gordon; 0.85 GAA, .811 SV%
Best Win: at #145 Delaware, 1-0
Worst Loss: at #135 Fairleigh Dickinson, 1-0 (2OT)

Seton Hall was picked to finish last in the Big East this season with every coach except for one picking them to finish in the absolute basement of the league. They’re 5-3-0 on the year so far. This might be the high point of the year for them by the time everything is said and done. Or maybe not! Maybe they’re coming together and they’re going to surprise some people! Who knows!

Villanova Wildcats (6-2-0, #91)

Points Leader: Chloe O’Neill, 17
Goals Leader: Chloe O’Neill, 7
Assists Leader: Chloe O’Neill, 3
Primary Keeper: Megan McClay; 1.36 GAA, .761 SV%
Best Win: vs #112 Drexel, 2-1 (OT)
Worst Loss: at #67 Penn, 2-0

A 5-0 start to the season has had the enthusiasm muted out of it with losses in two of the last two matches for the Wildcats. In their defense, the losses were 1) both on the road and 2) both against top 70 opponents and the only top 100 teams on the schedule. Villanova won the matches they were supposed to win and got outscored 7-1 in the other two. You’d like the second part of that to not be as bad as it has turned out, but the Wildcats were also picked to finish 10th in the Big East, so this is pretty good for them.

A weird note on Villanova: They lead the Big East in both offsides calls and yellow cards. VU and Georgetown are the only two teams averaging being whistled for offsides more than four times a match, and honestly, they’re the only ones north of three per game. Nova joins Marquette as the only two teams in the Big East averaging more than one yellow card per game, too. What does that mean for the Wildcats and how they play? I’m not really sure, but I thought the combination of “a little too excited while sending it forward” and “a little too physical when trying to defend” is something that you don’t really see. Or maybe you do and I’ve never tried to look for this kind of thing before?

Xavier Musketeers (7-0-1, #13)

United Soccer Coaches Ranking: #21
Points Leader: Chloe Netzel, 7
Goals Leader: Chloe Netzel, 3
Assists Leader: Carrie Lewis, 3
Primary Keeper: Olivia Jenkins; 0.61 GAA, .773 SV%
Best Win: vs #43 Cincinnati, 1-0

I alluded to a team that’s surprising everyone so far this season, and that’s Xavier. The Musketeers were picked to finish seventh in the Big East this season, and with four teams piled up between 47 points and 41 points (Xavier had 45), it wasn’t out of the question to wonder if any of those teams, XU included, were actually the 9th best team in the conference.

So what did they do? They went out and won their first seven matches of the season, and as it turns out, all of those matches were against RPI top 130 teams and five of them were against top 100 teams. That’s how you end up at #13 in the RPI yourself and also how you end up pushing yourself into the top 25 rankings where they currently sit at #21.

Here’s the whacky part: That’s actually regression in the polls for Xavier, as they were #17 last week. You can read and do math, so yes, they went to a draw in their most recent match. XU outshot Bowling Green 16-8 in regulation and 5-0 in 20 minutes of overtime, but that didn’t fix the fact that Bowling Green had scored in the 21st minute and Xavier had to level the match in the 41st.

Here’s the fun part: We’re going to get to see exactly how good Xavier is pretty quickly. They play Providence on Thursday night, and remember: Georgetown head coach Dave Nolan thought the Friars were the best non-GU team in the league. On Sunday? Xavier hosts Georgetown, the other ranked team in the league and the preseason favorite to win the league. Right out of the gate, we’re going to get some pretty notable points decided in terms of the Big East regular season championship. Is Xavier ready to show that they need to be taken seriously as a contender now?