If eight-ish matches of a regular season is enough to truly get a measure of a season, then we can take the NCAA’s freshly debuted women’s soccer RPI seriously. While I don’t know if it is or is not enough to truly give us quality data information, I think we can safely say that if you look at the entire league, the RPI at this point does tell us a lot about how the Big East is shaking out. More specifically, it can tell us what is and is not a likely chance for Marquette to pick up points in the league standings as Big East play gets started on Thursday afternoon.
There are a couple of tiers involved here, as you’d expect, and for context here, Marquette is currently situated at #153, the best team in the league outside the top 100.
Yeah, let’s call this group the “maybe if we cross our fingers AND our toes” group. Feels like the Golden Eagles might struggle to get any points off of either team if these RPI numbers hold.
These are the teams that Marquette has to target as “can steal points from” this season. With that in mind, this gives the Golden Eagles a great opportunity to measure themselves early in the season, as Butler is coming up this weekend. These are still teams with at least hope for an NCAA tournament bid depending on how Big East play goes, so we’re talking about the Golden Eagles suddenly rounding into that kind of form in order to get these theoretical points.
You will notice that there are five teams ahead of Marquette in the RPI, and only six teams qualify for the Big East tournament. Seems important to keep in mind.
Seton Hall: #155
St. John’s: #197
These are “The Neighbors,” aka the teams that Marquette is most similar to at this point of the year. SHU and PC are essentially interchangeable with the Golden Eagles with all three of them within seven spots of each other. I don’t want to say that these are must win games, but they’re pretty close if MU wants to find themselves in the top six.
If Marquette loses to one of these two, they have to replace that loss with a win against one of the five teams in front of them in order to get the points for a top six finish. The Blue Demons and the Wildcats qualify as “bad” right now, and you can’t be losing or honestly even going to a draw with a bad team if you think you’re a team worthy of a postseason berth.
As is the case with Butler, Marquette gets a chance to open up league play to prove that they are better than one of these Tier Four teams. It would be incredibly valuable to start off the 10 match league slate with three points out of Tier Four.
Last year, 16 points was enough to get a top six spot. If Marquette beats all five teams in the Tiers below them, that’s 15 points. That’s exactly what MU had last year to finish in seventh place, so that’s probably not going to be enough this year either.
Big East Match #1: at DePaul Blue Demons (2-5-0, 0-0-0 Big East)
Marquette is 18-6-2 all time against DePaul. The series dates back to 1996 and was heavily tilted towards the Golden Eagles through 2013 as MU opened up a 13-3-0 margin and didn’t even allow a goal in the first seven encounters. MU is 5-1-1 in the last seven meetings, including wins in both spring 2021 matches as well as the fall 2021 match.
A 3-1 win over Lindenwood back last Thursday is what separates the Blue Demons from a four match losing streak coming into this league opener for both squads. You can’t really blame them for one of them, because losing 3-1 to then-#6 Stanford, even at home, isn’t that big of a deal. Heck, it was only 1-0 until not long before the hour mark, and then the Cardinal knocked in two within 90 seconds of each other. DePaul scored all three of their goals in the first 41 minutes against Lindenwood a week ago, then gave one up just after halftime on the visitors’ only shot of the second half. That’s not ideal, but holding them to just no shots when you’re up 3-1 is pretty good.
DePaul has only been shutout twice this season, in their first two losses of the year at that, so while their record is not great, they are putting the ball in the net with regularity. Susie Soderstrom and Sydney Parker have both scored twice so far this season to lead the team in that column, and Soderstrom has added an assist to her year to lead the team in points with five. Katie Godden is one of the three Blue Demons with one goal so far and her two assists are tied with Grace Phillpotts for the lead there. That’s a lot of points from a lot of different people, so that’s something positive for them and/or something for Marquette to watch out for.
Elena Milam has taken over the net for the Blue Demons, playing every minute of their last two matches. She had been splitting time with Mollie Eriksson up to that point with both women appearing in five matches total this year so far. Going by goals-against average, neither one is a great option for head coach Michele O’Brien, but Milam has the advantage, 1.87 to 2.18. Eriksson has stopped a higher rate of shots, 78% to 71%, but at this point of the year, you have to almost go more by vibes than anything else for your keeper. Whatever gets your team energized to pick up wins, y’know? I presume it will be Milam, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Eriksson get back in there.
Big East Match #2: at Butler Bulldogs (3-4-1, 0-0-0 Big East)
Marquette is 3-8-1 all time against Butler. All but one of the matches have come since the two teams came together in the Big East after The Reformation. The first six matches were even with MU holding a 3-2-1 mark, but it’s been six straight for the Bulldogs since and the Golden Eagles haven’t scored a single goal in any of them.
Butler was picked to finish third in the Big East this season and even earned a first place vote in the preseason poll of the league’s coaches. With that in mind, that 3-4-1 record isn’t what you want to see, but it’s also not the worst thing ever. It’s also not great, because Butler started out the year with two wins, including a road 1-0 conquest of then-#9 Michigan on a 64th minute goal by Katie Soderstrom. That vaulted Butler into the top 25 at #17 and then they immediately lost to Illinois. Then, following a 7-0 demolition of Wright State, the Bulldogs dropped home matches to then-#22 Wisconsin and Dayton..... and then tacked on a road loss to Northwestern.
They haven’t won at all since that WSU match, as their most recent contest was a 2-2 draw at home to Ball State. The Cardinals look to be the worst non-conference opponent that Butler faces this year, so that’s not the kind of note that you want to be heading into your league opener against Xavier on, but it is the one that they have.
Thanks to a hat trick against Wright State, Katie Soderstrom is Butler’s leader in goals so far this season. She has six total, twice as many as redshirt junior Abigail Isger, who accounted for two more of the seven goals against WSU. A team high three assists also gives Soderstrom the BU lead in that department and has her comfortably in front of Isger in points, 15-7. All told, Butler has 15 assists on 16 goals, so while they’ll have to be careful to mark Soderstrom well, Marquette will have to keep a watchful eye on everyone else, too.
Anna Pierce has played all but 17 minutes this season, so she should be the netminder when this match rolls up. The redshirt freshman from Michigan has a goals-against average just a little bit north of one goal per 90 minutes and she’s stopping 76% of shots on frame. Pierce is averaging just a bit over three saves per match as the BU defense is helped out by outshooting their opponents by a nearly 2-to-1 margin.