With five matches gone in Big East play, Marquette women’s soccer sits in a four-way tie for sixth place in the conference. That’s not ideal, as only the top six squads qualify for the conference tournament. To make matters worse, two teams — Xavier and Georgetown — are already 10 points up on MU and everyone else in that tie, 16-6. That’s a lot of space to make up, although the good news is that everyone in the tie has an extra match to play. The point of the story is that spots in the top six are starting to narrow down very quickly here. For example: 0-5-0 DePaul and 1-5-0 Seton Hall are already prevented from finishing any better than third place even with 15 and 12 possible points still in front of them.
So yeah, things are not looking super great for Marquette, particularly as the Golden Eagles find themselves on a three match losing streak right now. Here’s some positivity: Marquette gets two cracks over the next few days to separate themselves from the pack. Both of their next two matches are against teams in that four-way tie. If the Golden Eagles were to pick up the wins in both, all of a sudden they’ve left both of those two in their dust as well as snagged the head-to-head tiebreaker if things come down to that in a few weeks.
I don’t want to blow things out of proportion here, but to a certain extent, Marquette’s season is riding on the next 180 minutes of soccer. The Golden Eagles still have to play Georgetown and Xavier in the final three matches of the regular season. Counting on getting points out of those matches is not a good plan right now, not with both the Hoyas and the Musketeers sitting at 5-0-1 through six matches. If MU wants to be a Big East tournament team, they have to pick themselves up after that very awful loss to Seton Hall last week and go out and get these six points. Remember: Marquette has not played in a Big East tournament match since 2017. That’s a long streak to break out of, and here in Year Three of the Frank Pelaez Era, it certainly would be neat to do exactly that.
Working in Marquette’s favor this weekend? They’re celebrating the 30th anniversary of the program, so there’s bound to be bunches and bunches of alumni in the stands, particularly on Sunday. That should lead to a very partisan crowd supporting the Golden Eagles and hopefully propelling them to a victory.
Big East Match #6: vs Providence Friars (4-8-1, 2-3-0 Big East)
Marquette is 11-4-2 all time against Providence. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the Friars have won each of the last four meetings dating back to the 2017 meeting in Milwaukee. The Golden Eagles have not beaten PC in Milwaukee since 2015.
The Friars come into this match with losses in three of their last four matches, including getting shutout at Creighton and at home against St. John’s, where the latter was their most recent match. In fact, dating back to September 8th, Providence is on a 2-5-1 stretch which is not good for them but potentially very good for a Marquette squad that really needs to pull points out of this match. In a weird bit of symmetry, one of PC’s wins in there was off an 87th minute goal on the road against Seton Hall, which is preetttttty much the same thing that happened when MU visited South Orange except it was the Pirates that got the goal.
When you see 4-8-1, then you’re probably not surprised to find out that Providence has a major goal differential problem. They’re -12 on the year right now, 23-11, and that’s -2 in Big East play through five matches, 6-4. Weirdly, Providence might be winning the possession battle as they’re outshooting teams by nearly two full shots per game.
As could be expected from that information, Providence has a goalkeeping problem, or at least a defensive structure problem that’s causing a goalkeeping problem. Emma Bodmer is only stopping 61% of shots on goal this season, and she’s played all but 15 minutes across three matches this season. The junior from New Jersey is averaging less than three saves per match and has a goal-against average of 1.71. Goal (ha ha get it soccer humor) #1 in this match is “do not get shut out.”
Defending Providence may be a nightmare. Three women are tied for the team lead in goals with two, including Meg Hughes and Gillian Kenney who are 1-2 in total shots so far. However, that means eight women in total have combined to score PC’s 11 goals, so it’s hard to say for certain where MU’s eyes should be focused. Kyla Gallagher has used a team high four assists to get herself into a tie with Hughes and Kenney for the team lead in points with six, and Elayna Grillakis is no slouch herself with three helpers.
Big East Match #7: vs Villanova Wildcats (3-6-2, 2-3-0 Big East)
Marquette is 10-2-0 all time against Villanova. The two losses came in 2017 and 2018, snapping a run of eight straight wins with eight straight shutouts, but the Golden Eagles have won both of the last two matches with scores of 3-1.
Big East play has been a binary situation for the Wildcats. If they score, they win, getting past Seton Hall 2-0 and edging St. John’s 1-0. If they do not score, they take a loss. 1-0 to Xavier and Butler and in their most recent outing, they allowed more than one goal for the first time in over a month and lost 2-0 to Creighton in Omaha. I will wager that their situation will remain the same by the time this match rolls around, as they are hosting Georgetown and GU’s perfect 10-0 goals for/against ratio on Thursday afternoon before hitting the road.
Goals in general have been hard to come by in Villanova matches this season. While the Wildcats have only mustered seven themselves, they have only allowed 11 in 11 matches. They are getting badly outshot to the tune of nearly five attempts per game, but they’re only allowing 13.2 shots per match, which is probably helping keep the total allowed down. Depending on the Georgetown match goes, Villanova might be able to dip their shots-on-goal-against percentage below 40%, and that’s definitely helping stop balls from going in the net.
No one has scored twice yet for Villanova this season with seven different women hitting the net and Megan Donnelly leading the team in shots with just 14. Emma Weaver is the points leader on this team as her four assists — they only have 10 as a team — helping her get past a five-way tie for second on a goal and an assist for all five members of said tie.
Megan McClay is the presumable starter in net for the Wildcats. She was the keeper for VU’s first three matches of the season, and after a 0-2-1 start, head coach Samar Azem went with Payton Woodward for the next three contests. Villanova went 1-1-1 including a win in the last of the three, but it’s been McClay in net since. There’s a chance that’s not a coaching decision but instead a fitness decision, but since McClay has played five straight at this point, we’ll have to presume that she’ll get it again when Sunday gets here. Both women have a goals-against average of exactly 1.00, but McClay has stopped more shots on net, .833 to .727.