As you would expect, the Big East women’s soccer standings are just an absolute mess right now.
Four teams split their first two games. Three teams didn’t lose either one of their first two games, but all three are not 2-0-0. Two teams have only played one match so far. It’s all over the place.
But it’s only been two matches. It’s supposed to be a mess after two matches. Or after just one in the case of Connecticut and DePaul, I suppose.
Marquette should probably feel pretty good about themselves, even with their heartbreaker last second loss to Butler in the opener, perhaps even because of it. Butler is one of the two teams that’s sitting at 2-0-0 right now, and they’re only there because Marquette handed them a chance at a last second goal. That game was very well played by the Golden Eagles, particularly against a Butler squad that has looked good through all 10 of their matches so far this season.
Maybe Marquette still loses that game if it goes to overtime. Who can say? But MU can definitely say they were inches away from not losing it and they looked like they belonged on the field next to a team that should challenge for the Big East title this fall.
That’s all good stuff for the Golden Eagles, but now they have to keep it going. Another match on Thursday, one after that on Sunday. The calendar just keeps going, and it’s best to grab up points early. Maybe Marquette let at least one point slip through their hands already this season, and they can’t afford to let that happen again, not if they want to be one of the six squads in the Big East tournament when the time comes.
Big East Match #3: at Creighton Bluejays (6-3-2, 0-1-1 Big East)
Marquette is 5-5-3 all time against Creighton. The series started in 1993, and the Golden Eagles went 1-2-1 before both teams joined the Big East in 2013. Over the past five seasons, things have tilted towards Creighton as MU has won just one of the last six encounters, including the Bluejays taking both meetings in the spring season.
That conference record through two matches for Creighton looks a lot better than the word “winless” does. Yes, they didn’t win either of their first two contests, but they did go to a 1-1 draw with preseason league favorite Georgetown. There’s an argument to be made about whether that says more about Creighton or more about the Hoyas as it was GU’s fifth draw of the season already when it happened, but that’s a different issue. The point of the story is that the Jays went toe to toe with Georgetown and came out with a point in their pocket.
They were also a shade on the unlucky side to take the following loss to Providence. Sure, Providence outshot the Jays 16-7 when it was done, but shots were even 5-5 in the second half and a 3-0 overtime advantage for the Friars in that department helped tip things over as well. That “overtime” in there tells you how much luck played into it, as sometimes you just catch a bad break and lose on a golden goal in the 94th minute when it goes to extra time.
Corraling the Bluejay offense is going to be Marquette’s primary occupation on Thursday night. Creighton is outshooting their opponents 17.1 to 8.4 on average this season, and they have a 16-5 (+11) goal differential as a result. Nearly half of Creighton’s shots are on frame so far this fall, and MU’s defense is going to need to make them work for those quality shots here.
As far as individuals to mark, there’s two big names. Abagail Santana can not be allowed to get clean shots at the net and Ansley Atkinson, quite honestly, should not be allowed to touch the ball. Santana has seven goals through 11 matches this season, including three going for game winners. 30% of her shots go in the net, and that can not be allowed to happen without a serious amount of traffic in front of her. Atkinson has missed two matches this season, which means she is “only” averaging an assist per game. 19 team assists this year for Creighton, and Atkinson has nine of them. They only have 16 goals. More than half of CU’s goals have come from an Atkinson feed, and she’s missed two entire matches. The good news for Marquette is that the two matches that she’s missed are the two Big East matches last weekend, and if she couldn’t play on Sunday, she probably can’t play on Thursday. The bad news is that I doubt that head coach Ross Paule is going to tell MU head coach Frank Pelaez a dang thing about the availability of his senior midfielder.
Keelan Terrell has played every minute in net for Creighton this season. Thanks to that wild goal differential, she has allowed a goals-against average of just 0.43 in over 1,000 minutes played. That’s not just her field defense doing the work for her to protect her from shots, either. Terrell has saved 84% of shots on goal this year, so she’s doing more than her fair share to stop goals from going in the net.
Big East Match #4: vs Seton Hall Pirates (6-4-0, 1-1-0 Big East)
Marquette is 8-1-1 all time against Seton Hall. After a 1-1 draw in the first ever meeting back in 2006, the Golden Eagles have won all but one meeting with Seton Hall, and that was a 1-0 defeat back in 2015. MU has not allowed a goal to the Pirates in the last three encounters while scoring 11 goals of their own. In fact, Marquette has only allowed three goals to Seton Hall in all 10 matches all time.
Seton Hall was Marquette’s near-perfect mirror last weekend. The only difference between the two teams is that the Pirates went on the road twice to play Villanova and Butler, while Marquette got the Bulldogs at home. The end results for both teams were the same: A fairly emphatic win against Villanova and a loss to Butler. SHU’s loss to Butler was probably less frustrating than Marquette’s was, though. MU lost on a free kick with just seconds left in regulation, while Seton Hall took a 1-0 lead in the 17th minute before trailing 2-1 at the half and giving up a third goal just minutes after intermission.
Seton Hall isn’t particularly tipped one way or the other in terms of offense and defense. Their shots and goals for/against are both within shouting distance of each other, which I suppose is its own kind of problem from the Pirates’ perspective. In terms of what Marquette needs to watch for, it’s hard to pin down one real threat on the SHU offense. Naomi Welch leads the team in goals (4) and points (11), and she’s tied for second on the team in assists as well. However, Julia Aronov has three goals and an assist to be second on the team in points with seven….. but she also didn’t play against Villanova or Butler. Natalie Tavana is the other woman in that tie for second in assists, while Sophie Liston tops the chart with four helpers on SHU’s 14 goals this year. The ball may be coming from a lot of different places, and the Marquette defense is going to have to all pitch in to keep everyone properly covered.
All 900+ minutes in net this season have been taken up by Grace Gordon. The junior from Pennsylvania is allowing just a shade over a goal per 90 minutes, so the odds of Marquette getting at least one in are pretty good. Gordon is stopping over 80% of shots on goal, though, so the Golden Eagles are going to have to keep working for good shots in order to get that goal against her.