From the outside looking in, I don’t think we learned anything particularly valuable from Marquette’s win over Kent State last weekend. It’s hard to say that the team grew or improved or whatever word you want to use when the team’s leading scorer throws in six goals on her first six shots of the game to put you up 6-0..... and then you only allow five goals the rest of the game. Quite literally, the game was over after nine minutes.
I’m sure that there’s a lot of fine tuning stuff that head coach Meredith Black would love to tell you that the team worked on there or showed improvement on or what have you. That’s good!
Even better, at a glance, it looks like the Golden Eagles are going to get two chances to prove to the coaching staff that they did take those steps forward as they play their next two games. When you’re playing a team that’s 2-4 on the year.... and then you follow that up with a game against a team that the 2-4 team beat.... well, you’d like to think those are two games that you can win as long as you do the things that win games for you.
The biggest thing to come out of Marquette’s romp against Kent State has to be the return of Emma Soccodato and Lydia Foust to the field. With Leigh Steiner and Hannah Greving apparently down for the year already, it was going to be a rough go of things for the Golden Eagles if they had to play the rest of the year missing four of their expected top seven offensive players. Both women missed Marquette’s 1-1 weekend in New York, so to get them back exactly one week later is a good sign for their health going forward this season. Believe it or not, Big East play is kiiiind of just right around the corner at this point, as MU has just three games left, including Tuesday’s contest, before taking on a conference foe this season.
Game #9: at San Diego State Aztecs (2-4)
Marquette is 0-1 all time against San Diego State. The only other meeting between the two sides came waaaaaay back in March of Marquette’s first season as a team. Unsurprisingly, SDSU won, 19-5.
As you can tell from the record, it’s been a rough start to the year for the Aztecs. Even with the quality weather in southern California, they started out the season with five straight road games, picking up the win just twice. After losing by 11 in their opener to USC, they beat Cal by nine, 15-6, to even their mark at 1-1. They got nicked by three at UC Davis two days laster, and then left the state for the first time.... and lost by 10 to Arizona State.
They did pick up their second win of the year two days later, going up to Oregon and winning 18-15. That’s an interesting data point for the Golden Eagles here, as MU will face the Ducks in Eugene this coming weekend. Finally, in SDSU’s most recent game, they opened up the home portion of their schedule by getting crushed, 27-18, by then-#10 Princeton. Yeah, it’s only a nine goal loss, but when you give up nearly a goal every other minute, it’s a crushing. That one was actually close for a while, and the Aztecs actually led 6-5 in the first quarter and were tied 7-7 in the second. Things fell apart in the third when they gave up seven unanswered goals in just over 10 minutes.
Item #1 on the scouting report is Deanna Balsama. There is no other option. The senior from New Jersey is averaging — AVERAGING — 5.7 goals per game. She has scored at least four in SDSU’s last five games, and went for eight each against Oregon and Princeton. When the #10 team in the country can’t stop you from scoring eight goals, even in a firewagon game, you’re pretty damn good at this. Balsama has only shot the ball 59 times this season, which means 58% of her shots have gone in. 83% of her shots have been on frame as well, so at this point, odds are that if she’s winding up, MU goalie Amanda Rumsey is going to need to be ready to stop the shot.
Outside of Balsama, there are just eight women on the roster who have scored a goal at all, and only four that have found the back of the net more than three times. As a team, they only have 19 assists on their 77 goals, so Marquette pretty much just needs to worry about stopping people one-on-one, and even then, they really just need to worry about stopping Balsama.
On the defensive end of the field, it’s going to be Sam Horan in net. She’s played every minute of the season so far for the Aztecs, so there’s no reason to expect any changes there. The 27 goals by Princeton are really doing a number on her goals-against average this season. Before Princeton? 11.83, which is a totally fine number. After? 16.33. Again, with SDSU scoring 18 goals in that game, that’s really almost more of a product of the game being up and down the field than anything else, but it’s not great. Horan did make 21 saves in that game, and sure, that’s less than 50%, but that’s also a ton of saves for one game. She’s stopping 42.7% of shots on goal, and that’s a number that’s actually helped by the Princeton game, as she was at just 42.2% on the season before that.