We are precisely halfway through the Big East schedule for Marquette women’s soccer, and things are fine. Not good, not great, not bad, not awful. They’re fine.
Marquette is 2-2-1 after losing to Seton Hall last Thursday night. That gives the Golden Eagles seven points in the standings, which has them in a tie for the sixth and final spot in the conference tournament. Not good, not bad, fine. Last year, 14 points was enough for the final spot in the tournament, and after half of their matches, Marquette has half of the points needed to get there for the first time since 2017.
Here’s the problem with that.
Marquette has five matches remaining. They have to play the top three teams in the table right now, all of whom have not lost a Big East match yet this season, as well as the team that they’re currently tied for sixth place with before the season comes to an end. MU has already flubbed chances at points against Butler and Seton Hall, and going to a draw with UConn is only marginally helpful with the Huskies currently a point ahead of the Golden Eagles in the standings.
Things are going to ramp up in a big way for Marquette down the stretch. Goof off time is clearly over. The problem with that is Marquette has repeatedly — somewhat with the exception of the match against a Creighton team that is now 1-5-0 in the league — looked unwilling to meet the moment, at least on offense. Is that tactics? Is that a weird refusal by head coach Frank Pelaez to try to play offensive soccer?
I’m looking at Taylor Schad’s minutes ever since she had a goal, an assist, and a goal in consecutive matches, playing more than 50 minutes in each one. Those five points continue to lead the Golden Eagles even though she hasn’t tallied another point in the four matches since. She’s failed to hit 50 minutes twice since then and has attempted just three shots. Is it a coincidence that Marquette scored three goals, their highwater mark of the year, while she played 76 minutes against Creighton, even if she didn’t have a shot? Sure doesn’t feel like it, does it?
I highly doubt that Marquette’s big picture tactics are going to change any time soon, but something has to change if they want to snap this streak of not even making the conference tournament. They get a big opportunity to make a difference this weekend with one match against one of the unbeaten squads in the league and another with the only team left on the schedule that’s clearly behind them in the standings. If Marquette comes back from the east coast with at least three points.... well, we’ll see what happens if they manage that.
Big East Match #6: at Providence Friars (7-2-3, 2-0-3 Big East)
Marquette is 11-4-3 all time against Providence. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the Golden Eagles are winless against the Friars in the last five meetings with four straight losses and then last year’s 2-2 draw in Milwaukee. MU hasn’t won in Rhode Island since 2016.
As you can see from their Big East record, Providence comes into this one unbeaten in their last five matches. That’s great news for them, as they ended non-conference play with back-to-back losses to Rutgers and Columbia, both by scores of 1-0. Last time out against St. John’s on Sunday snapped a run for the Friars against conference foes. In their first four matches, if they scored one goal, they went to a draw. If they scored more than that, they won. Against the Johnnies, it looked like that was going to hold steady as Providence scored in the 63rd minute to go up 2-1, but the Red Storm equalized on a corner kick in the 89th minute.
All of that has Providence in third place in the Big East table at the moment, but part of that is because they’re one match behind both Georgetown and Xavier right now. Both the Hoyas and the Musketeers are 3-0-3, while the Friars are still unbeaten just as they are, but three points short partially because of only five matches played. Clearly that puts a lot on the line for PC on Thursday, as they’d like to keep pace with the league leaders at the very least.
Meg Hughes is, as expected, Providence’s most dangerous offensive component. She has a team high seven goals which gives her a team high 14 points. That puts Hughes tied for the fifth most points in the Big East and has her with the fourth most goals. She is second in goals per game behind only Seton Hall’s Natalie Tavana.
Hughes has a pretty strong supporting corps behind her. Both Kyla Gallagher and Gillian Kenney have four goals, while Kayla Briggs and Thaea Mouratidis have each assisted on four of Providence’s 22 goals this season. That’s a lot of possible directions for things to be coming and going from, which may test MU’s defensive mettle.
On the other end, Marquette is almost assuredly going to see two different goalies. Emma Bodmer has started every single match, and Katherine McElroy has come in at halftime of every single match. Bodmer is having the better year, statistically speaking, with a save percentage of .889 and allowing just three goals in her 12 appearances. McElroy has given up five goals for an average of 0.91 per 90 minutes, which is still good, just not the 0.50 that Bodmer’s posting. McElroy has faced a few more shots, which is why she still has a very good save percentage of .861.
Big East Match #7: at Villanova Wildcats (4-3-6, 1-3-1 Big East)
Marquette is 11-2-0 all time against Villanova. The two losses came in 2017 and 2018, snapping a run of eight straight wins with eight straight shutouts, but the Golden Eagles have bounced back to win the last three meetings, including a 1-0 contest in Milwaukee a year ago.
The Wildcats have won just one time in their last eight matches, and for the record, they’ll play at Georgetown on Thursday before coming home to host the Golden Eagles. The bad news on that 1-3-4 run for Villanova, relative to Marquette? The one win was 2-1 at home against the Seton Hall team that just beat MU. The Wildcats head into Thursday’s match against the Hoyas winless in their last three matches with three losses and a draw. They were shut out in two of the losses and needed an 89th minute goal against Butler to secure the tie.
As you’d expect from a team with six draws on the year, scoring goals has not been a feature of Villanova’s season. They have just 17 through their first 13 matches, and 10 of them have come from two women. Jackie Richards and Makayla Stadler have each scored five times to lead the team in that category, and Richards has added one assist to get the team lead in points as well. Richards snapped a five match streak without a goal by scoring last time out against Creighton, while Stadler hasn’t scored since the September 24th match against Seton Hall.
It shouldn’t be surprising that Villanova’s pretty dead even with their opponents in shots this season. That’s helped things out on the defensive end where they’ve only allowed 11 goals this season. Payton Woodward is the netminder, and at a glance, I suspect that she’s actually played every minute because somehow I doubt she was subbed out for 30 seconds in the middle of the first half against Xavier and then returned. Feels like a live scoring boo-boo that was not corrected. In any case, Woodward is stopping 74% of shots on goal and allowing just 0.85 goals per 90 minutes this season. The Wildcats might not be a powerhouse of an opponent, and they might be going through a struggle in terms of wins right now, but they’re not going to be a pushover, either.