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Marquette Women’s Lacrosse Preview: vs Butler & vs #18 Notre Dame

The Golden Eagles look to win a second straight Big East game before turning around to host the ranked Fighting Irish on Easter Monday.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 20 Providence at Butler
Doggo picture > Leprechaun picture
Photo by Brian Spurlock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s a big Easter weekend for Marquette women’s lacrosse. Anytime you’re hosting a ranked team, it’s a big deal. But that’s Monday’s game, and it’s a non-conference game, too, so we’re not going to worry too much about the impact of that game on the season. Marquette isn’t an at-large candidate for the NCAA tournament this season, so all that game will be for is bragging rights and pride.

Saturday’s game, though, that’s a big one. Marquette is 1-1 in Big East play and currently sits in a tie for third place in the standings with the team that they lost to already. The win comes against one of the 0-2 teams behind the Golden Eagles in the standings, and as luck would have it, MU will be playing the other 0-2 team this weekend.

If MU gets the win on Saturday — and I would say that they’re favored based on Lacrosse Reference’s team rankings — then they have wins over both the teams already behind them in the standings. That’s good news when tiebreakers are a real big deal like they are in the Big East when four of the six teams qualify for the conference tournament. A win over Butler on Saturday would make Marquette 2-1 in the league with two games to play, one of which is 1) clearly winnable and 2) at home as well.

A win wouldn’t clinch a conference tournament berth for the Golden Eagles, not quite yet, or at least not without help elsewhere in the league. But it would move Marquette much closer to that top four spot. You can’t ask much more from the third game of the league slate, and all they have to do is play just like they have for the last 90 minutes of lacrosse.

Big East Game #3: vs Butler Bulldogs (6-6, 0-2 Big East)

Date: Saturday, April 16, 2022
Time: Noon Central
Location: Andy Glockner Memorial Bubble, Valley Fields, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Streaming: Marquette Athletics on YouTube
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWLax

Marquette is a perfect 5-0 all time against Butler. The two teams met for the first time in 2017 when Butler started up their program. MU won each of the first four meeting by at least 13 goals before the Bulldogs tightened things up in the second game last season and kept the margin at just six goals.

At 6-6 on the year, this is already the best season in Butler lacrosse history. The Bulldogs were a relatively unsurprising 5-46 in their first three seasons before opening up the doomed 2020 season 5-2. When they reconvened in 2021, BU went winless against Division 1 opponents and just 1-11 overall. Six wins on the year is equivalent to more than 50% of the program’s total in the first five seasons, so this year is a huge triumph already.

With that said, Butler does come into Saturday at 0-2 in the Big East with those two as part of their four losses in the last six games. One of the wins in there was 21-2 against Saint Ambrose, which is an NAIA team from Iowa, so I think we can safely say that Butler is scuffling a little bit lately. Losing to Denver and Georgetown has definitely put a dent in things. Outside of Big East play, Butler is outscoring teams 141-114 on the season.... but in Big East play, they’re -19 in goal differential in just two games.

Let’s just say it: Marquette can’t let Campbell Connors or Lindsey Schreiber shoot the ball. They are Butler’s top two goal scorers on the year, and they’re both shooting north of 53% on the year with both putting more than 82% of their shots on frame one way or another. That’s a lethal 1-2 combination. Connors has 31 goals on the year to lead the team and seven assists to keep her on top in total points as well. Schreiber is nearly up to a pair of goals per game at 22 in 12 games, and she has 12 assists as well.

The MU defense won’t be able to ignore Gabryelle Bodine or Greer Bireley, either. Bodine has 21 goals on the year to stand in third place in that department, and her six assists mean that she’s averaging just over two points a game. Bireley — yes, that’s the older sister of MU freshman Meg Bireley — has an absolutely ridiculous 27 assists so far this season, and I can tell you that’s ridiculous because there’s only one other player in the entire Big East with more than 15 assists this season. SPOILER ALERT: The other one is MU’s Mary Schumar, and she actually has more total assists than Bireley in one more game played.

It looks like senior Katie McGrath is going to be Butler’s netminder on Saturday. She’s started each of Butler’s last three games after sophomore Aleigh Monroe started the first nine contests of the season. McGrath went the distance against Denver in a 17-8 loss that was 11-3 Denver at the half. She played the first half against that St. Ambrose squad before giving way to relief as the game was 13-2 in BU’s favor, and then got pulled down 10-2 after 25 minutes against Georgetown. Granted, that change up from McGrath to Monroe last time out does lead to a question as to what head coach Cecil Pilson is going to do for this game, but hey: He already pulled the trigger on the switch in the first place and it’s not like McGrath didn’t relieve Monroe five times in the first nine games.

In any case, whoever the goalie is doesn’t really matter. The two women are essentially identical in stats: 12.44 vs 12.66 in goals against average and .383 vs .373 in save percentage. I’m not even going to tell you which one is which since they’re so similar.

Game #15: vs #18 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (5-8, 1-5 ACC)

Date: Monday, April 18, 2022
Time: 1pm Central
Location: Andy Glockner Memorial Bubble, Valley Fields, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Streaming: Marquette Athletics on YouTube
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWLax

Marquette is 0-8 all time against Notre Dame. Last season was the first time that the two teams did not meet during the season, and that’s only because the Irish had to dip out of the game due to a COVID issue and it never got rescheduled. Notre Dame has been ranked for every single meeting and Marquette has never scored more than 10 goals in any contest, as the 2018 game that finished 15-10 is also the closest that MU has ever come to getting the win.

Okay, so let’s just get straight to it: Notre Dame being ranked while being three games under .500 is insane, and I don’t really care about who they did or did not lose to. Yes, they’ve played eight games against teams currently in the Inside Lacrosse/IWLCA top 25. They’re also 2-6 in those games, including an oh-fer against the top four teams in the country. That means they’re 3-2 against unranked teams. If all their losses on the year were to ranked teams, I could squint and see it. But with losses to an unranked Vanderbilt (8-5) team and an unranked VaTech (9-7) team? C’mon. Who are we kidding here? Is this because the Irish started the year at #5 and everyone’s afraid to admit they were wrong or something?

By the way: I’m writing this on Friday because of the early start on Saturday and the quick turnaround to Monday. There’s a new poll coming on Monday morning, and because ND is playing First Season Ever Pitt (7-8) on Saturday, there’s a halfway decent chance that the Irish will actually move UP in the poll because they’re probably nearly guaranteed to beat the Panthers.

This isn’t to say that Notre Dame isn’t a good lacrosse team! They just have a silly number of losses to be ranked right now! Lacrosse Reference has them at #21 in overall team strength, so I might even be wrong about the ranking thing.... but their efficiency numbers don’t hold up to get them there. Notre Dame is #35 in the country in offensive efficiency and #48 on the defensive end.

The Irish are loaded up with a trio of women averaging at least two goals a game. Madison Ahern is actually sitting on exactly a hat trick per outing at 39 goals this season, and her 11 assists are pretty neat, too. Kasey Choma is just short of that hattie per day mark at 37 goals, while Jackie Wolak “only” has 27 goals in 13 games. What a shame. Maddie Howe is actually beating out Wolak in points, just barely by one, because she has a team high 18 assists to go with her 22 goals.

Barring weirdness, Bridget Deehan will be the opposing goalie on Monday afternoon. She’s played all but about an hour this season spread across a handful of games. Deehan is stopping 45% of shots on goal, which is pretty good, and her field defense is helping her out to the tune of allowing just 11.70 goals per 60 minutes of lacrosse. Considering that eight of Notre Dame’s 13 games have been against ranked teams, those are really great goalie stats.