It’s already been a historic season for Marquette women’s lacrosse. They started out the year with a win for the second straight season and just the second time in program history, and then they followed that up with two more wins, moving Meredith Black’s team to first 2-0 and then 3-0 each for the first time in program history.
That’s pretty dang cool.
That sends us along to Thursday’s game against a top five opponent. With the combination of going for the program’s first ever 4-0 start as well as the program’s first ever win over a top five opponent — Marquette’s lone win over a ranked team in program history was against a #24 ranked Georgetown team — that leads us to ask the question: Is this the biggest game in program history?
I think it’s automatically not. Marquette has three Big East semifinals appearances to this point of the program’s history, so I think those are automatically more important.
If we limit it to regular season contests, I actually don’t think this meets the standard either. Last year’s regular season finale gave Marquette a chance to clinch a share of the Big East regular season championship, and that’s obviously a bigger deal. Same goes for the 2018 game where MU needed a win to clinch the program’s first conference tournament berth. Seems bigger than this one, even with the two items of program history on the line.
Is it the biggest non-conference game in program history? Okay, now I think we’re talking. There’s nothing in MU’s past that lends itself to anything important on the non-conference level. With the Golden Eagles generally speaking on the hustle just to make the Big East tournament every year, it’s not like any non-con game ever meant all that much to MU in any given season.
This one is different, though. On top of playing for a 4-0 record and the first ever win over a top five ranked team, I’m pretty sure that Marquette is playing for their first ever votes in the national polling, too. I feel like going to 4-0 and beating the #3 team in the country should be enough to jump you into the top 25, but at the very least it’s worth top 25 votes. That would be an incredibly big deal for the Golden Eagles.
But it’s going to mean playing nearly perfect lacrosse for 60 straight minutes, so we’ll see what happens.....
Game #4: vs #3 Northwestern Wildcats (2-1)
Date: Thursday, February 23, 2023
Time: 5pm Central
Location: Andy Glockner Memorial Bubble, Valley Fields, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Streaming: FloSports with Peter Ferreri & Megan Poli calling the action
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWLax
Marquette is 0-7 all time against Northwestern. The two sides met for the first time in 2014, and they played every year after that through 2019. COVID broke up the streak, but the two teams renewed the series last year in Evanston. The closest Marquette has ever come to beating the Wildcats is a 17-11 contest in Evanston in 2016, and yes, Northwestern has been ranked for every single meeting, including three previous games where they were in the top five.
Yes, Northwestern is coming in with a loss on the season already while Marquette is not, but we’ll cut the Wildcats some slack. Their lone loss is by one goal on the road against then-#5 Syracuse in their season opener, and the still undefeated Orange are now #2 in the country. Beyond the “ah, yes, well, these things happen” even with the game tied at 14 with three minutes to go, Northwestern has more than proven their top five bonafides since then. Game #2 was an 18-14 home win over then-#14 Notre Dame, and this past Sunday, they beat then-#3 Boston College by a score of 15-14. The Wildcats rallied from down 10-6 at halftime and outscored the Eagles 9-4 after intermission to get their second straight win over a ranked foe. For the record: Boston College is now #4 in the country and Notre Dame is #14, so it’s not like the Inside Lacrosse media poll voters are thinking any less of any of the teams involved for taking a loss.
Northwestern has two women averaging a hat trick per game against nationally ranked opponents, so that seems pretty dangerous. Izzy Scane is tearing it up to the tune of 19 goals already this season, although that’s because she threw in — this is not a joke — 10 of NU’s 18 against Notre Dame. Even if you ignore that, that’s still nine total goals in their other two games, and that’s good. Madison Taylor has 10 goals to this point of the year, coming out of the gate hot with five against Syracuse and getting her second hat trick of the year against BC last time out. If Marquette can figure out a way to disrupt Scane’s offense, that could — gigantic “easier said than done” disclaimer here — cause big problems for Northwestern. Scane has attempted twice as many shots — 34 — as both Taylor and Dylan Amonte, both of whom have 17 attempts on the year. They really are depending on their tippy top attackers to do the scoring through three games with just 19 of their 48 goals coming from women other than Scane and Taylor. It’s possible that this is just an after effect of playing three straight ranked squads to start the year, so of course you’re heavily tilted towards your best attackers.
Molly Laliberty has played all but four minutes against Notre Dame so far this season. She’s letting in over 13 goals per 60 minutes played, but again: Three straight top 20 opponents. Keep that part of it in mind when I say that Laliberty has only stopped 41.8% of shots on goal.... and point out that MU’s Brynna Nixon is sitting at 43.6% against a schedule that has not included any top 25 ranked teams.