Through two Big East matches, Marquette women’s soccer is 2-0-0 and in first place in the league with six points.
This is good.
Marquette can’t improve their grip on first place over the next few days merely by defeating the opponents in front of them. Both teams that will line up as the opposition have already taken at least one loss, so they can’t be considered as part of either the three-way (teams at 2-0-0) tie or the five way (teams without a loss or a tie) tie in the conference at the moment. All they can do is put more space between them and the two teams they’re facing instead of possibly knocking someone from the ranks of the unbeaten.
With that said, this is a pair of big opportunities for the Golden Eagles. Marquette was picked to finish eighth in the Big East’s preseason poll back in August. On Thursday, MU will face the team picked to finish seventh, albeit just one point better off than Marquette. Sunday brings a chance to face the team that was picked to finish sixth. Coming away from these two matches with points, especially at home, will go a long way towards determining that the Golden Eagles are a top six team and that they do deserve a Big East tournament berth. After all, they are coming off a 4-1 come-from-behind win over Butler, the team that was picked to finish third in the league this season. If that kind of result can replicate itself, there’s a very real chance we’re looking at a 4-0-0 Marquette squad on Monday morning.
The Golden Eagles are doing this with a big ol’ team effort, by the way. 11 different women have scored a goal this season, and 12 have recorded at least one assist. There’s currently a six-way tie for the team lead in assists because the most that anyone has is two so far through 10 matches. That sounds incredibly tiring to defend if just because you have no idea where the goals are going to possibly come from, but at 1.9 goals per game overall this year and 3.5 goals per game in Big East action so far, the goals are going to be coming for you.
That team mindset extends to the goalkeeping as Chloe Olson has stepped into the net after a kind of shaky start by Mikki Easter. Olson has responded by posting a shutout against Green Bay and not allowing a goal in her 45 minutes of action against Western Michigan as well as making big save after big save to keep the Golden Eagles on the positive side of the ledger in Big East play. Can she keep it going? She probably needs a little bit of help since that means she’s still allowing more than a goal per 90 minutes and only stopping 67% of shots on frame. But hey: “A little bit of help” is just another way to say that Marquette is winning with a team first mindset.
Big East Match #3: vs Creighton Bluejays (4-2-4, 0-2-0 Big East)
Marquette is 6-5-3 all time against Creighton. The series started in the mid-90s and those four meetings favored the Bluejays. MU won the last one as well as the first three after The Reformation. Since then, Creighton has controlled the series with MU going 2-3-2, but the Golden Eagles did get a 1-0 win in Omaha last year to snap a four match winless streak.
Things started out really well for Creighton this season. The Bluejays went unbeaten in their first eight matches of the season and came flying into Big East play on a +7 goal differential. Only four wins, but four draws to keep that middle column with a goose egg, and that’s some pretty good work.
Right up until giving up an 85th minute goal to Connecticut after equalizing the match in the 83rd minute in their Big East opener..... and then giving up a pair of goals less than three minutes apart on their way to a 4-0 loss to #23 Georgetown in D.C. this past Sunday afternoon. That has Creighton with a pretty solid overall record but hanging out in in a four-way tie for last in the Big East standings and only eight matches left remaining for them to salvage enough points to get to the top six and a Big East tournament berth. The Bluejays were picked to finish seventh in the conference this season, so maybe things were against them from the get-go, but Marquette was picked — by just one point, but still — to finish behind Creighton. Seems like a pivotal match for both sides.
Senior forward Jenny Grissom came into the year with just barely more than 100 total minutes played in nine career appearances for the Bluejays. This season is a big change for her, as she has seven starts while appearing in all 10 contest, and she leads the team in goals with three so far. With that said, Grissom has only taken two shots in CU’s last three matches and one of her three relief appearances was last time out against the Hoyas. Ariana Mondiri is the only other Bluejay to find the net more than once, but Azumi Manriki has the lead on the stat sheet in shots with 19. In fact, Creighton has a six-pack of women who have fired off at least 12 shots this season, so that’s going to present the Marquette defense with an interesting riddle to solve.
Goalkeeping falls to Keelan Terrell, who has been Creighton’s full time starter since the beginning of the fall 2021 season. She had seven shutouts a year ago, including a run of over 500 minutes to set a new program record for a shutout streak, and she has three clean sheets already this year. She went into the match against Georgetown with a goals-against average of 0.78 but came out of it at 1.10. Terrell’s save percentage on the season sits at .718, but she has stopped just four of the 10 shots on frame in Big East play so far.
Big East Match #4: vs Connecticut Huskies (5-3-1, 1-1-0 Big East)
Marquette is 6-3-1 all time against Connecticut. The series is contained entirely to the time where both teams were in the Big East at the same time, but even misses the spring 2021 season as the league used divisional play for that. After the Huskies took two of the first three meetings, Marquette has gone 5-1-1 since then, but UConn won 3-0 in Storrs last fall.
This will be UConn’s fourth match of Big East play, by the way. They’ll be hosting Georgetown on Thursday night. The Hoyas should still be ranked when the new USC top 25 comes out on Tuesday (I’m writing this before it actually has been released) since they’re on a five match winning streak and already #23 in the country. I make this point relative to the fact that the Huskies lost on Sunday to St. John’s to snap a three match winning streak. They kind of needed those wins over Central Connecticut State, Yale, and Creighton after falling to 2-2-1 to start the year, even if one of those losses was against then-#4 South Carolina back in August.
The Johnnies picked up the win on Sunday by scoring the only goal of the match in the 14th minute and then just grinding UConn to dust at Belson Stadium in Queens. They scored on their second shot of the game, fired off just one more in the entire match (and in the 60th minute, at that), and held the Huskies to just eight shots the entire time. That sounds just absolutely no fun to be a part of, and it’s definitely not how UConn wants to play. They average, even after that, over 14 shots a match while holding their foes to just under nine. For context: Marquette is at 10.3 for and 10.5 against, which does mean the Golden Eagles aren’t having a great time controlling possession in their matches like we hoped they would, but that is much better than the past few years.
UConn has 20 goals on the season with a trio of women accounting for nearly half of them. Abbey Jones, Jada Konte, and Maddie Carroll have each tallied three times so far this season, but none of them have put a goal up in Connecticut’s last three matches. Jones has the wildest stat line on the team by far as she’s leading the team in points thanks to a team high four assists..... but she’s only taken six shots. Four of them have been on goal and yes, three of those four, or half of her full total, have gone for goals. Konte is right on her heels for the points lead with three assists, while Jaydah Bedoya has two goals and one assists while leading the team in shots with 19.
I have no idea who is going to play keeper for the Huskies on Sunday. Freshman keeper Adyson Duran made her collegiate debut against Creighton and then showed up in net again against St. John’s in UConn’s most recent match. While it’s only 180 minutes of soccer, her goals-against average of 1.00 and save percentage of .778 is more than useful in these situations. Duran is the fourth keeper used by the Huskies this fall and the third to start a match. She was out with a hamstring injury as recently as three matches ago, so she may not be 100% right now even after playing the last two matches. Kaitlyn Mahoney broke her wrist while warming up for a match against Yale on September 16th, and MaryKate Ward state against the Bulldogs.... and her knee promptly buckled 12 minutes into that match. That means that sophomore midfielder Sophie McCarthy has played 45 minutes in net for the Huskies this season, and it’s very likely that if Duran can go, then it’s McCarthy backing her up.
We’ll file this entire situation under “tenuous at best.” At least UConn has a Thursday night match against Georgetown to help us figure out the goalkeeping situation.