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Marquette Women’s Lacrosse Preview: At Youngstown State & at Cincinnati

The Golden Eagles have two matinees in Ohio this weekend.

NCAA FOOTBALL: JAN 07 FCS National Championship - James Madison v Youngstown State
This is Pete The Penguin, Youngstown State’s mascot.
Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

You can’t really ask for much more than what we got from Marquette women’s lacrosse in their opener back on Sunday. Things that happened for the Golden Eagles against San Diego State in their 20-13 victory:

  • Shook off a slow start after leading 2-1 at the end of the first quarter
  • Exploded for 10 goals in the second quarter, including five in a row in just under five minutes of game time
  • Kept San Diego State at arm’s length in the third quarter to lead by nine heading to the fourth
  • Weathered a push by the Aztecs as the visitors outscored MU 6-2 in the front end of the final quarter to pull within five goals
  • Punched back on SDSU to close with just one goal allowed in the final eight minutes and none in the final three while tacking on three of their own to cinch up the win.

A high quality showing to start off the year with a win for the second straight campaign, and yet, a little bit of things that head coach Meredith Black and her staff can point at to coach the team up a little bit over the last week.

One thing that might have come up? San Diego State firing 20 of their 25 shots on goal. that’s clearly part of the reason why Brynna Nixon let in 13 goals in the game, but it’s possible that this is more about the Aztecs being picky about their spots than anything else.... but also SDSU was down 12-4 at the half and then put 13 of 16 on cage in the second half. Defense appeared to be an issue for Marquette last season, and there’s at least reason to suggest that things do need to be tightened up on that end.

A positive note from the opener? A three point day from freshman Tess Osburn. The 5’6” Colorado native had two goals and an assist in her collegiate debut while coming off the bench to provide the offense with some pop. She’s clearly not shy about getting involved, as she ended up third on the team in shots by the time the final horn sounded.

This second weekend of the season will be an interesting test for Marquette as they could put all of their preseason effort into preparing for San Diego State, but now they’ll play two games in three days with first draw just 49 hours apart. Not only will they have that quick turnaround, but they’ll have to make the trip from the northeast end of Ohio to the southwest as well, so we’ll get an idea of how the squad reacts to a little bit of adversity in terms of travel and recovering in the process.

Game #2: at Youngstown State Penguins (1-0)

Date: Friday, February 17, 2023
Time: 12pm Central
Location: Watson & Tressel Training Site, Youngstown, Ohio
Streaming: Youngstown State Penguins on YouTube
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWLax

This will be Marquette’s first ever meeting with Youngstown State. This is mostly because this is the third year of YSU lacrosse.

After what had to be a very weird first year of operation for women’s lacrosse at Youngstown State where they went 2-7 in the spring of 2021, the Penguins had their first ever winning season in Year Two last spring. They went 10-8 with an 8-2 record in the MAC, before falling to Robert Morris in the conference tournament. Given that Marquette has finished 10 seasons of Division 1 lacrosse and mustered just two winning seasons and one .500 season and didn’t finish with a winning record until Year Six, we have to tip our cap to the Penguins.

With that said, after locking up a three-way share of the MAC regular season title a year ago, YSU is only picked to finish fourth this season. Part of that, I suspect, is because Theresa Walton, the program’s first ever head coach, left to take the Old Dominion job in early August, and YSU didn’t announce the hiring of Kendyl Clarkson as the new head coach until late September, even though Clarkson was one of Walton’s assistant coaches. All of this is what you would call “tumultuous” and yeah, that’s probably adding some question marks to everything. Still probably better than Old Dominion, where their coach resigned in late May and then they apparently just forgot to hire a new coach until August.

ANYWAY, Youngstown State picked up 31 points in that MAC preseason poll while Robert Morris was picked to win the league with 46 points. I suspect that the voters are not in alignment on who may or may not be the best team in this league heading into the season, and a three-way tie for first last year probably didn’t help straighten anything out there.

Youngstown State returns their top three scorers from last season, including a whopping 68 goals and 22 assists from points leader Natalie Calandra-Ryan. She went for five goals and an assist in the opener, a 19-18 win over fellow Big East opponent Butler where the Penguins gave up six Bulldogs goals in the fourth quarter to end up with a tie game with two minutes to go, but it was Erin Clark who came up with the game winner with 14 seconds to go. Clark was already leading the team in points in that game when she scored, so she finished the contest with seven points (3 goals, 4 assists) to just narrowly beat out Calandra-Ryan for the team high in points even if Calandra-Ryan had the assist on Clark’s winner.

Mikaela Staranko played just a little over 100 minutes last season in four relief appearances for YSU, but she’s the starting goalie now. The junior from Pittsburgh made eight saves in the Penguins’ opener, including four in the fourth quarter while the Bulldogs were making their charge.

Game #3: at Cincinnati Bearcats (2-0)

Date: Sunday, February 19, 2023
Time: 11am Central
Location: Nippert Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio
Streaming: ESPN+
Live Stats: Stat Broadcast
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWLax

Marquette is 7-3 all time against Cincinnati. The two teams have met in every single season of Marquette’s existence in a program, including fitting in a February 14th contest in 2020 before the season was ended early. Things have been even in the last four encounters, two each, but Marquette won the most recent one at Valley Fields last February. The Golden Eagles have not won in Cincinnati since 2017.

2023 is already off to a better start for Cincinnati than 2022 showed them. The Bearcats lost their first three games a year ago, including a 16-13 defeat to Marquette in their opener, and four of their first five. They’re 2-0 so far this season with a 14-7 home win over Kent State and a 20-9 road conquest of Gardner -Webb. This is all pretty great news for Cincinnati, as the Bearcats started out the year being picked to finish sixth in the seven team American Athletic Conference. It wasn’t close either, as UC snagged just 11 points, well far off the pace set by league favorite Florida with 36 points.

The Bearcats do have two preseason all-AAC honorees in Ava Goeller and Dani Mlkvy, though. Mlkvy was a unanimous selection to the preseason all-league team after putting up 38 ground balls, 22 caused turnovers, and 81 draw controls from her spot on the Cincinnati defense. Goeller was #2 on the team a year ago in goals, assists, and points, and she is the leading returning goals and points leader from last year’s squad.

Goeller is off to a good start this year with eight goals and two assists through two games, but that’s not the best start on the team. That honor goes to Camryn Callaghan, a 5’4” freshman from Ohio, who has Goeller beat by two assists so far this season. We can’t overlook Lauren Ottensmeyer, who is a junior transfer from, ironically enough, Youngstown State. The Missouri native has seven goals and three assists so far this year after putting up three of each against Gardner Webb last time out.

Junior Ashley Lapp is UC’s starting goalie after transferring over from Akron during the summer. The 5’5” Texan is allowing a microscopic 6.28 goals per 60 minutes so far this season while stopping 56% of shots on frame. Cincinnati outshot their first two opponents 67-44 in their first two games, including holding Kent State to just 18 shots in the entire game. That will go a long way towards building up a very nice goals-against average for Lapp, so it will be up to MU’s offense to find ways to pressure the Bearcats into giving up some goals.