It’s time to get things started, as they say on The Muppet Show.
After 11 non-conference contests have left Marquette women’s lacrosse with a record of 5-6, it’s time to start off Big East play this weekend. It will be a five match schedule, as there are six teams in the Big East, and MU will play each opponent once. The four teams with the best records at the end of the five game slate will qualify for the conference tournament. It’s safe to say that tiebreakers can and almost assuredly will play a big part in deciding who goes where in what seed or who even qualifies for the tournament, so each game is quite important.
I don’t know if it’s good news or bad news, but Marquette has drawn a Big East schedule that has them starting and ending league play against the two teams that are currently ranked in the Inside Lacrosse/IWLCA top 25. The upside is that you immediately get to put one of the two games in your rear view mirror and focus on the other four games, three of which are against teams not ranked in the poll. The bad news is, at least for this year’s version of Marquette, that you’re not likely to start out the schedule 1-0.
The definite bad news for Marquette is that they play both of these two teams on the road. That’s not an ideal situation, you’d like to get at least one in the Valley...... but that also means that the Golden Eagles host the other three squads by luck of the draw giving Marquette three home games this year in league play.
Big East Game #1: at #21 Connecticut Huskies (9-1, 0-0 Big East)
Marquette is 1-7 all time against Connecticut. The two teams met up in each of MU’s first six seasons as a Division 1 program, with MU’s lone win in the series came at Valley Fields in the sixth year aka the 2018 season. UConn left for the AAC at that point when the league started sponsoring the sport, but returned to the Big East for last spring along with the rest of the athletic department. The two teams played twice at Valley Fields as part of the COVID protocols last season with the Huskies winning both games.
It’s not that UConn is 9-1 on the season and ranked #21 in the country right now. It’s that the Huskies have barely been challenged by their opponents so far this season. This isn’t say they don’t deserve that ranking, I’m just saying they’re mowing people down. After sneaking past Fairfield on the road by two in their opener and falling to then-#13 James Madison in a neutral site game, 13-7, Connecticut’s offense has been roaring.
They’ve scored at least 15 goals in every game of their current eight game winning streak, and they’ve cleared 20 in half of the wins, including last time out against Columbia. Three of the wins have been by at least 10 goals, and they have another nine goal win (23-14 over UMass Lowell, their highest offensive output of the season) and a six goal victory (20-14 over Cornell) in there as well. Marquette might be able to put goals on the board regularly as UConn has allowed at least 10 goals in eight of their 10 games this year, but keeping up with the Huskies or even just slowing them down on the other end is going to be the biggest area of concern on Saturday.
To make matters more complicated, UConn has four women averaging at least two goals a game. The team leader right now is Sydney Watson, who is rolling up a hat trick on average at 3.4 goals per game. Kate Shaffer is just barely off that three per pace at 29 goals in 10 games, while Lia LaPrise (2.5) and Grace Coon (2.3) qualify as UConn’s tertiary scoring options. That’s frightening, honestly. Watson, Shaffer, and LaPrise are all averaging at least an assist per game as well with LaPrise holding the team lead at 12 assists. I would imagine that it gets easy to rack up assists when you have multiple teammates who are a threat to score a hat trick in every game, but that doesn’t make UConn any less dangerous to defend.
Landyn White has played all but about an hour’s worth of minutes in net, so it seems likely that she’ll get the nod again in this one. The 5’7” senior from Georgia’s stats don’t jump off the page at you: 11.45 goals against average, .505 save percentage, just over 10 saves per game. That’s not earthshakingly great, but with the offense pouring in goals, White merely has to be respectable for the Huskies to come away with wins.