Back to the lab, as the kids say.
Since about halftime of the Marquette women’s soccer’s season opener, things have not been going their way. They conceded two penalty kicks against Central Michigan in the opener, then got caught on the business end of an unlucky bounce that led to a 1-0 loss to Notre Dame, then got hammered 7-0 by a clearly better BYU team, and then MU lost in overtime to Utah State in a game that only went to overtime because the Aggies did Marquette a solid and grossly misplayed a ball right in front of their own net.
So, yeah, it’s been an ugly 320+ minutes of soccer.
But that’s in the past.
Marquette now gets a chance to put that all behind them and restart their season with a three-pack of home games over the next nine days. They will be the last three non-conference contests of the season for the Golden Eagles as well, so it’s a fantastic time to learn whatever lessons that need to be learned from the last three and a half matches and then forget that they ever happened.
There’s a lot of soccer left to be played this season, and Marquette’s next three opponents have not exactly been outstanding in the field of excellence so far this year. The Golden Eagles will get 270 minutes of soccer, all at home, to get themselves settled down and settled in before they tackle the 10 match league season. Three wins would do the team a world of good in terms of confidence and mindset before Butler comes to town on September 23rd to officially get Big East action going.
Can Marquette do that? Sure, absolutely, I have no doubt it’s possible. Will Marquette do that? Well, that’s why they play the games…..
Match #5: vs Illinois-Chicago Flames (0-4-1)
This will be the first ever meeting between Marquette and UIC. I know you’re currently wondering, “wait, how is this possible? UIC is less than two hours away, how have they never played the Golden Eagles at all?” Well, there’s a very good explanation for that: UIC is currently in their eighth season of Division 1 competition. By merely not existing since the early 1990s when MU started their program, that cut down on the number of chances for the two sides to clash.
Somehow, UIC’s season is actually going worse than that 0-4-1 record makes you think it’s going. Shutout losses to Wake Forest, DePaul, and Penn all came on the road, as did a scoreless draw with Minnesota. Their lone home date was this past Sunday, and there are two things to know about that one: First, they lost 1-0 to Western Illinois, and second, that match was in Rockford, Illinois, instead of at Flames Field in Chicago due to repairs going on there.
And now, a visual aid:
That’s where UIC’s lone home game of the season was so far relative to their campus. Neat, huh?
Now, I want to circle back to something that I said a moment about but didn’t actually hang a sign on it. Did you notice anything about those game results? Yep, that’s right, UIC has not scored a goal yet this year. Outscored 8-0 in five matches. They’re getting outshot 97-23 overall, or 19.4 to 4.6 if you prefer a game by game average. I guess, officially, Makena Shaw is the biggest scoring threat on the Flames’ roster. She has seven shots on the season and no one else has more than four.
Lena Kurz has played every minute in net so far for UIC. She has a save percentage of 79.5%, which is pretty great seeing as she’s averaging over six saves per game and the pitch is tilted heavily in her direction most of the time. Kurz’s goals-against average of 1.53 is barely her fault at this point, and honestly, given the shots situation, it’s actually pretty good.
Match #6: vs St. Thomas Tommies (2-2-1)
This is the first ever meeting between Marquette and St. Thomas, and this one has an even better explanation than the UIC explanation. This is St. Thomas’ first year at the Division 1 level for any sports at all, and that’s why MU has never played them before.
The first ever season of Division 1 soccer at St. Thomas started off pretty well. Their first ever match was a 0-0 home draw with Northern Iowa, and then they went down to Chicago State and came away with a 2-0 victory for the university’s first Division 1 win in any competition. Things turned on them from there, going down 2-0 at Green Bay and falling 1-0 in overtime on the road against Drake. They played one more match before coming to Milwaukee on Wednesday evening, and they hosted and roasted Wyoming. The Tommies came away with a 3-0 victory, the largest margin of victory in program history and a new record for goals in a game as well.
The Tommies have a three-way tie atop their scoring chart right now, with three women tallying a goal and an assist each. Kristin Epperly, Jasmine Gates, and Lexi Huber have all hit the back of the net so far this season, although as luck would have it, none of the trio have scored one of UST’s two game winning goals so far this season. She hasn’t scored a goal yet, but Marquette is clearly going to have to contend with Abby Brantner at some point on Sunday. The freshman from Minnesota already has 23 shots on the season, and no one else on the team even has 10.
One thing that appears to be settled for St. Thomas is their goalkeeping situation. Olivia Graupmann has played every minute in net so far, so there’s no reason to think that won’t continue. Thanks to three shutouts on the year, she has a minuscule 0.57 goals-against average, and her save percentage of 87.5% is no joke. She’s averaging just over four saves per match, but the Tommies are holding opponents to just over 10 shots per contest. It would definitely be in MU’s interest to get at least 11 shots on the board on Sunday.