A programming note for you: I don’t know if you’ve heard, but there’s a lot of things going on between Thursday and (hopefully) Sunday in the Marquette athletics department. As such, there’s not a lot of free time for passionate blogger types who are trying to keep track of everything. With that in mind, we’re going to preview both of Marquette women’s lacrosse’s two coming games at the same time here. They’re playing on Thursday and again on Sunday, and let’s be honest about it: Whatever your opinions are about head coach Meredith Black’s team are right now, they’re not changing THAT much no matter what happens against Niagara. We’re just not going to be able to present that much new information in terms of resetting the table for the Golden Eagles with another preview on Friday or Saturday, and by “or,” I mean definitely on Saturday because there’s not going to be free time on Friday with two NCAA basketball tournament games, and if we’re lucky, Saturday’s going to be occupied by writing two previews for second round basketball games anyway.
So, combine all of it together, and we’re just better off looking at Niagara and Louisville at the same time right now.
We made a big deal about Marquette getting off to the first 3-0 start in program history after they beat Cincinnati back on February 19th. The Golden Eagles then dropped their next game for their first loss of the season, but it was a relatively competitive 21-14 loss to then-#3 Northwestern, and if you give a top five team a quality challenge, you can’t hang your head. With the loss in hand though, it’s hard to muster up the excitement that you had for an undefeated start to the season, for obvious reasons.....
..... but Marquette is still off to the best six game start in program history after beating UC Davis on Sunday to move to 5-1. It’s not even close, either. In a weird bit of coincidence, perhaps stirred on by Meredith Black’s scheduling decisions than anything else, Marquette has either been 3-3 or 2-4 through six games in every single season in program history other than this one we’re watching right now. MU has been 3-3 through six games in each of the past five seasons.
The only downside to the whole thing is that Marquette getting into a 19-17 shootout with UC Davis really put a ding into MU’s defensive metrics. The offense is still cruising, ranking #4 in the country in efficiency according to Lacrosse Reference, which means that they got a little bit better after the game against the Aggies. The defense is down from #84 to #92 after letting in 17 to UC Davis, but hey: The Aggies are currently #6 in offensive efficiency, so there are worse teams to get into a shootout with.
Marquette’s biggest problem against UC Davis was giving up free position shots, as they got 10 chances to let it rip like that and turned that into seven goals, including one that was on an unattended net since the violation that created it was called against goalie Brynna Nixon. That was something of an aberration for the Golden Eagles, as even after that, MU has only allowed 34 free position attempts on the season. That’s nearly one-third of the tries, all in one game. The good news, I guess, is that Marquette was only allowing less than five FPS attempts per game and they’re still under six right now. MU isn’t a strong defensive unit, at least not yet this season. They have enough problems on that end of the field, so if they can limit free cracks at Nixon’s net going forward, that’s going to do them a lot of favors. Hopefully this 10 FPS attempt explosion is just a byproduct of UC Davis’ offensive capabilities. We will get an interesting picture of what MU’s defense might be capable of this week as their two opponents are currently #44 and #76 in LR’s Offensive Efficiency metrics.
Game #7: vs Niagara Purple Eagles (6-2)
Date: Thursday, March 16, 2023
Time: 12pm Central
Location: Andy Glockner Memorial Bubble, Valley Fields, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWLax
Marquette is 3-1 all time against Niagara. The series with the Purple Eagles started in 2018, and the Golden Eagles won the first three meetings, all relatively handily including a pair of double digit wins. The 2022 encounter changed things, as Niagara picked up a 12-9 win over MU last March.
Niagara comes in with wins in three of their last four games, and the only loss in there was on the road against then-#6 Denver. No fault to anyone there, not even with a 17-5 margin. However, we do have to ask serious questions about Niagara’s other loss this year. That came back on February 26th, and it was on the road against Colgate, with the Raiders getting the 12-8 victory. That is also Colgate’s only win over the year in six tries. That’s not a great sign for the Purple Eagles, but they have also won three of four since then, so maybe it’s nothing to worry about.
Riley Latray is Niagara’s top point scorer this season, but she might not be Niagara’s biggest offensive threat. She’s got the points lead with 28, but Latray has gotten there with 22 assists, more than three times as many as anyone else on the roster. I don’t know what to take from the fact that she’s not even a starter on this team, but I suspect it’s more about draw control matchups than anything else. Andra Savage leads the team in goals with 21, but Lois Garlow (19) and Lexi Braniecki (18) are right behind her. Marquette is well aware of what Garlow can do with her stick, as she threw in five goals against the Golden Eagles last year, with four of them coming in the final 20 minutes to push the Eagles along to the win.
Emma Mielke has started in net in six of Niagara’s games this season while playing in all eight. She has started in each of the last three, but I suspect that she won’t be the starter on Thursday. She was lifted after just over 17 minutes against Delaware last time out after letting in seven goals and letting the Eagles fall behind 7-0 a couple of minutes into the second quarter. Things did not immediately get better for Niagara as Jordan Roy gave up a goal on the very first shot she faced.... but then the game did turn around. Niagara outscored Delaware 12-3 over the remainder of the game, including staking themselves to an 11-9 lead with just under three minutes left in regulation. They ended up needing overtime to get the win as Roy let in two goals, including one with Niagara playing with a woman advantage, but they did get the win, possibly specifically because Roy made 13 saves. For me, that’s a reason to give her the start, especially since Roy does have two starts already this year. In just short of 188 minutes played, she’s allowing less than nine goals per 60 minutes and stopping 48% of shots on cage.
Game #8: vs Louisville Cardinals (4-3, 1-2 ACC)
Marquette is 1-10 all time against Louisville. The Cardinals won the first five meetings, including a 13-12 encounter in Milwaukee in 2017 when Louisville was ranked #18 in the country. MU snagged their win in 2019 at home, and the Cards have won the last three meetings, including 18-9 in Kentucky last season.
Louisville has gone “loss, win two” all season so far. That has given them a home loss to then-#9 Denver, a road loss to then-#12 Virginia, and a road loss to then-#5 Boston College for their three losses this season. It also gave them a home win over then-#25 Colorado, and the loss to Denver was a hilariously slow paced that finished 5-4. The only thing wrong about that season opening result for the Cardinals is that they were winning 4-0 with 2:25 left in the first half. All told, I don’t think this is a bad stretch to start the season for the Cardinals, not with the number of ranked teams that they have had to face, and definitely not for a team that was picked to finish eighth in the ACC with only 2nd year program Pitt and first year program Clemson behind them. We do have to note that since we’re previewing this long before we get to Sunday that UL is going to have to host #1 North Carolina on Thursday afternoon before they make their way to Milwaukee. How is that going to affect them heading into their game with the Golden Eagles? Maybe that’s dependent on the final margin, one way or another.
The Cardinals have a trio of double digit goal scorers so far this season, and another woman who threw in four against the Golden Eagles last season that’s just barely short of that mark. Nicole Perroni has put 19 of her 38 shots on the season into the net, but she’s not the most dangerous shooter on the team. That’s Kylea Dobson, who has 14 goals on just 19 swings this season. 74% of her shots go in! That’s crazy! Those two are UL’s top two goal scorers, while Kokoro Nakazawa comes in third at 12. Hannah Morris is the aforementioned top threat against MU last season, but she’s missed one game this year on her way to nine goals. Perroni has the team lead in points with 22 thanks to three assists, but it’s Nakazawa who has the team lead in helpers with five.
Sara Addeche has played all but about 45 minutes in net for the Cardinals this season. That’s a little bit of a surprise, as J Pleck played the majority of the minutes a year ago and she’s still around, but Addeche still got over 450 minutes of action last year, so it’s not a total shock. Given the stacked up schedule that UL has played so far this season, the fact that she’s averaging 9.55 goals per 60 minutes and stopping 47% of shots on goal is pretty darn good. Of course, allowing just five goals on 11 shots on goal against #9 Denver is doing a lot of heavy lifting on both of those numbers.