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Marquette Women’s Lacrosse Preview: at #10 Denver

The Golden Eagles head to the mountains with a chance to grab a share of the Big East regular season title.

2014 NCAA Division I Men’s Lacrosse Championship - Semifinals
One day, someone else will take a picture of the Denver mascot and I will get to stop using this eight year old picture.
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

On Saturday afternoon, Marquette women’s lacrosse is going to play for a share of the Big East title. Denver has already clinched a share of it at 4-0, but with the Golden Eagles at 3-1 in the league and facing the Pioneers, they can create a tie at 4-1 and thus a split regular season championship. If Marquette pulls off the upset victory against the ranked Pioneers, it will be MU’s first ever Big East championship of any kind, and the first time that either MU lacrosse team will have won a regular season championship.

That raises the question: Is this the biggest game in Marquette women’s lacrosse history?

Here’s the other options, as far as I can tell:

...... and that is it. Sure, we could try to qualify one of the dozens of games against ranked opponents into that list, but seeing as the Golden Eagles are 1-a lot against ranked teams in program history, I don’t think that any individual game there counts. Even the win against Georgetown doesn’t carry weight because MU didn’t need to win that one to get into the Big East tournament. This will be yet another one of those attempts to beat a ranked team, but this time, there’s something bigger on the line.

In the past, Marquette has just been playing to make history. They’ve never played a game with a trophy on the line. That changes here, as they will be able to say “2022 Big East Champs!” if they get the W. I think this clearly is the biggest game in program history.

No pressure, y’all.

No, really, no pressure. Marquette has already clinched a spot in the Big East tournament no matter the result here. It’s unclear what a loss here will mean for the standings, but we’ll know for sure when this game starts, as UConn and Georgetown will play each other on Friday evening. The Huskies are 3-1 right now and playing for a share of the Big East title if Marquette knocks off Denver, while the Hoyas are 2-2 and looking to create a tie in the standings at 3-2. If Marquette wins, they could end up as the #1 seed in the tournament depending on what happens with the Huskies. If Marquette loses, they could end up as the #4 seed and facing off with the Pioneers yet again next week in the conference tournament.

By the way: Denver is hosting the tournament, and the Golden Eagles will be staying out in Colorado in between the two contests. I don’t know if “we’d like to be able to celebrate a title while on this extended road trip until the semifinals on Thursday” plays into head coach Meredith Black’s motivation for her team, but it probably can’t hurt, y’know?

Big East Game #5: at #10 Denver Pioneers (14-2, 4-0 Big East)

Date: Saturday, April 30, 2022
Time: 2pm Central
Location: Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium, Denver, Colorado
Streaming: DenverPioneers.com, but it’s part of their $10/month subscription service.
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWLax

Marquette is 0-6 all time against Denver. The two teams met for the first time in the 2016 season, and met once a year every year until the 2020 campaign was cut short. They played twice at Valley Fields last year, and the Golden Eagles forced things into overtime in the second of the two encounters for the only game decided by fewer than six goals. This is the fifth straight game that Denver has been ranked when going up against Marquette.

Sometimes, you want to write as far ahead as possible when you have the free time to do it. Lacrosse presents that opportunity a lot, since the teams mostly only play on the weekends. To that end, I had planned on using some free time on Tuesday to write this preview, but since Denver played a game on Wednesday night, that kind of threw a wrench in the works. No point in writing about who’s averaging a point a game or whatever have you when maybe one game shifts things a little bit.

Turns out, this time around, one game shifted things a lot. When Marquette beat Georgetown over the weekend, Denver was 14-1 on the season with the only loss coming against national power Boston College. After Wednesday’s game at home against Colorado? Denver is 14-2, as the Buffaloes went into Peter Barton and came out with a 12-10 victory over the #10 team in the country.

I’m not sure that Colorado’s victory should given Marquette any kind of game plan to beat the Pioneers, though. Colorado got outshot, 36-25. Colorado committed more turnovers, 19-10, largely because the Pioneers caused 11 of them against just two caused by the Buffs. Denver had more free position attempts, 13-9. Colorado got out-ground ball’d, 17-8. There’s basically nothing in the underlying stats of the game that say “oh, this is why CU won.” The most telling stat is Denver shot under 28% in the game, which was their worst team shooting percentage of the entire season. Colorado shot 48%, which is a massive advantage for the Buffaloes, but it’s also not the worst shooting percentage that the Pios have given up all season. It is the second time in the last three games that a team has shot at least 48% against Denver — Georgetown was at 57% but lost 14-12 — so it’s possible, not likely, but possible that there is a crack or two in the defense to be exploited.

Denver’s probably not going to be outrageously bad on offense for a second straight game, even while ranking just #60 out of 118 teams in offensive efficiency, so that means that Marquette is going to have to do something about Bea Behrins. She leads the Pios in both goals (53) and assists (18), and her 53 goals this year make her one of the 30 best goal scorers in the country. While she is averaging a hat trick per game, she’s only gotten to at least three goals in one of DU’s last four contests. Behrins’ passing has allowed her to post at least four points in six straight games, though, so she’s going to be a threat to do something whenever she has the ball.

Lauren Black has 40 goals for Denver this season, and she’s coming off a hat trick on Wednesday night. Junior Julia Gilbert is DU’s #3 scorer at 32 goals this year, but she was held scoreless on five shots against Colorado, the first time she hasn’t scored a goal in well over a month. Kayla DeRose is averaging more than a goal and an assist per game this season, but she has missed Denver’s last two games.

On the other end of the field, Marquette’s going to be shooting at Emelia Bohi. The freshman from Maryland has played all but about 100 minutes this season, but I wouldn’t exactly say it’s been a gigantic success even though the Pioneers rank 3rd in defensive efficiency according to Lacrosse Reference. Her 8.20 goals-against average is obviously really great, but part of that is because teams are coughing it up over 20 times a game against the DU defense. That’s a wild number since they’re only getting credit for about seven caused turnovers a game. Anyway, the point of the story is that Bohi is only stopping 41% of shots on goal, which is just third best amongst regular netminders in the Big East. If you can hold the ball long enough to get clean shots on her, they’re going to go in. Seems to me the key here will be whether or not Mary Schumar’s passing will be on point enough to send some goals home.