ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL??!?
Hopefully head coach Frank Pelaez and the Marquette women’s soccer team are, because they are getting thrown straight into some highly competitive soccer to start the season. We found out last week that the Golden Eagles are picked to finish eighth in the Big East this season, so that’s not a great sign for their chances in their opener..... but I also highly disagree with that pick.
After all, Marquette has been thisclose to qualifying for the Big East tournament in each of Pelaez’s first two seasons as the top man on the MU sideline. The reasonable expectation of “we are getting a little bit better every year” would seem to indicate that the goal for this season should be, at the very least, qualifying for the six team conference tournament field this season. Then again, given Marquette’s notable problem in stopping other teams last year, I can at least see why the coaches aren’t high on the Golden Eagles since they’re turning over almost all of the back line from last season.
But, maybe, without saying anything mean about last year’s seniors, maybe fresh faces in front of keeper Mikki Easter is exactly what Marquette needs. It’s also possible that “the best defense is a good offense” applies here, and the Golden Eagles just need to generate more possession through the middle and pressure in the attacking third in order to make Easter’s life a little bit easier on the back end. MU has no shortage of scoring options as they return last season’s top four point gatherers, led by Katrina Wetherell’s team high 12 points on five goals and two helpers. If someone can break through and turn into a 10 goal scorer this season — maybe sophomore Maggie Starker who put 13 of her 18 shots on goal last season? — then that could possibly tilt the field in Marquette’s favor just a little bit more and push them through to a top six finish in league play.
Match #1: at #16 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (0-0-0)
Marquette is 3-8-0 all time against Notre Dame. The two teams have traded the last four meetings back and forth with each of the last three, including last year’s match in Milwaukee, going as 1-0 shutouts. Last season’s contest was the first meeting in the series since 2012.
Well, the good news for Notre Dame is that the national voters in the United Soccer Coaches poll like them more as a group than the collective wisdom of just the coaches in the ACC. The Irish are the #5 ACC team in the USC top 25 to start the season, but are picked to finish sixth in their conference. It’s going to be a rough season when you start the year #16 in the country but you know you’re going to have to play three preseason top four teams, including both of the top two. That’s a big ol’ bag of yikes.
Korbin Albert is the only ND player on the ACC’s preseason all-conference team, which is secretly good news for Marquette. No, really, it’s good that Notre Dame is returning the second best freshman goal scorer in the country and the team’s second best as well. Why? Well, that kind of a performance during her freshman year was good enough to get her on the radar for the U-20 team for the 2022 World Cup, and so she’ll be in Costa Rica at least through the 17th. HOT TAKE: I think the United States should advance in the World Cup. Even if they don’t, I don’t see how Albert makes it to South Bend to play Marquette the very next day.
That makes Olivia Wingate Notre Dame’s leading returning scorer, and she did finish #3 on the team last season. She had seven goals and five assists to finish nine points behind Albert. I’d imagine that the 5’7” forward from Massachusetts will be a primary focus of the offense after tallying 50 shots in 22 matches last season.
Ashley Naylor played a bit over 70% of the minutes in net for Notre Dame last season while starting the final 16 games of the year, so I figure she’ll be the opener on Thursday night. She had a goals-against average of just 1.04 per 90 minutes and stopped over 74% of shots on goal last season.
Match #2: at Central Michigan Chippewas (0-0-0)
Date: Sunday, August 21, 2022
Time: 12pm Central
Location: CMU Soccer Complex, Mount Pleasant, Michigan
Streaming: CMUChippewas.com, apparently
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats, maybe
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWSOC
Marquette is 5-0-1 all time against Central Michigan. The draw came in Milwaukee back in 2012, and last year’s 4-3 MU victory marked the first time that the Chippewas had ever scored a goal against the Golden Eagles in this series that dates back to 2001.
It’s a little bit hard to tell you anything important about Central Michigan this year. I’m writing this on Monday morning (may as well work ahead since it’s essentially a season preview, y’know?) and as of 9:30am Central time, the MAC has not announced any preseason awards or polling or anything. In fact, the most recent women’s soccer story on the MAC website is Akron hiring a new coach on July 12th, and boy do I have questions about that. Oh wait, I can say one thing, because I clicked through some things: Central Michigan lost their only preseason exhibition match to Illinois-Chicago by a score of 4-1.
ANYWAY, the Chips went 9-8-1 overall last season with a 6-4-1 mark in MAC play. They made it into the conference tournament, but fell to a very good Buffalo team in the quarterfinal round. This will be head coach Jeremy Groves’ fourth season in charge of CMU, and they’ve been hovering right around that .500 mark the whole time that he’s been running the show. Feels like that’s probably the solid expectation for the Chippewas again this year, but who can really say?
One thing I can say for sure about CMU is that Marquette has a decided roster advantage. There are just 22 women on Central Michigan’s roster as we head into the season, Marquette? 31. The good news for the Chippewas? They have three of their top four scorers from last season back again, including top option Jaelyn Dobrowolski. The junior from Traverse City posted two goals and six assists to top the chart with 10 points. She also led the team in shots with 47 and nearly half of those were on frame. Yes, she only put two in the net, which probably isn’t great for CMU but maybe is pretty good for MU. Elizabeth Chlystun and Gaelle Wells round out the group of top three returners, and the pair are tied for the team lead amongst returners for goals scored last year with three each.
Allison LaPoint played every minute in net last year for Central Michigan, so I feel pretty comfortable saying that she’ll be the starter on Sunday afternoon. The 5’10” junior from Royal Oak had a goals-against averaged under 1.00 last year and a save percentage north of 81%, so it would definitely seem like CMU’s big problems were on the offensive end. Scoring three goals against Marquette last year and just 17 in their other 18 contests definitely lends credence to that idea. If Marquette can get back to holding CMU scoreless, that’s probably a good sign for the defense’s development under Frank Pelaez.