GOOD NEWS, EVERYONE!
The NCAA finally remembered that the women’s lacrosse season is about 75% through and they published an official RPI! As much as we love Lacrosse Reference and everything that they do, the fact of the matter is that the NCAA is only going to use their official RPI when it comes to national championship selection time. The NCAA’s first RPI reveal of the season for women’s lacrosse covers games played up through April 9th. Ready for the big reveal?
YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles, at 12-1 on the season and earning votes in the IWLCA/ILWomen top 20 poll...... are #19 in the country in the RPI. That puts them at third best in the Big East, trailing 13-0 Denver at #3 and — well, would you look at this coincidence — UConn, this weekend’s opponent, at #13.
The Huskies are also ranked at #24 in the brand new top 25 poll, which raises the question: Is Saturday’s Big East showdown at Valley Fields the most important and/or biggest game in Marquette’s program history? I think we have to officially say it’s not the most important or biggest game in program history, because it would seem that MU’s three appearances in the Big East tournament semifinals would take the advantage there. But I think there’s a clear argument that MU/UConn is the biggest regular season game in program history.
On Saturday, Marquette has an obvious chance to move into the top 25 for the first time ever, one week after earning votes for the first time ever. That’s a big deal! It would also give MU a top 20 win in the ol’ RPI sorting situation, and the Golden Eagles are currently 0-1 in that department after losing 21-14 to Northwestern (#2 in the RPI right now) earlier this season. Just to use last year as an example, Marquette went 1-7 against top 40 foes — they beat #40 Georgetown — so you can see how getting a top 20 win would be a gigantic deal.
A win on Saturday would also do Marquette a world of good as the NCAA tournament picture starts to solidify with just a few games left to play this season. On Tuesday, Jeremy Fallis published a bracketology effort for USA Lacrosse Magazine. Now, to be clear, there’s not a full sorted list here, so I don’t know exactly where Marquette falls into the picture. But we do know that 1) Marquette is in his field of 29, 2) they would face Michigan in the first round, and 3) Marquette is not one of the Last Four In.
So there’s a lot on the line. I think we still have to argue for last year’s regular season finale as the biggest game in program history, as MU’s contest with #9 Denver had a share of the Big East regular season title on the line. Marquette has never won a Big East title, and getting a chance to play for it is a big deal. Now, Marquette went into that game with a record of 8-8 and was clearly not favored to beat the Pioneers. The Golden Eagles hung with the Pios in the Mile High City for a while, but an 11-3 run by the home team led to an 18-9 loss for MU.
There’s an argument for that game, obviously. But Marquette is arguably favored to beat UConn on Saturday — LaxRef has them just three spots apart in ELO, but MU is at home — so it’s a much bigger opportunity for the Golden Eagles than even that shot at a conference championship was. It’s a shot at taking a step closer to the program’s first ever NCAA bid, it’s a shot at beating a ranked opponent for the second time in program history, it’s a shot at the biggest win of the season so far.... We can sum it all up as a chance to prove that Marquette is a team deserving of their gaudy record and a team that can run with anyone in the country this season. That’s a big thing to accomplish with three league games left to go after this weekend, including a regular season finale showdown with Denver, the current #3 team in the country, which will be at Valley Fields as well.
We can say Marquette can win this game. Now they just have to go and actually do it.
Stat Watch #1: Mary Schumar needs three points to tie and four points to break the Marquette single season points record to go with her single season assists record that she broke last time out against Xavier. Lydia Foust needs one point to move into the top 15.
Stat Watch #2: Every point that Shea Garcia records is a brand new program record for points in a career, as she surpassed Grace Gabriel and became Marquette’s first ever 200 point player against Xavier.
Stat Watch #3: Mary Schumar needs three assists to become Marquette’s second player with 100 career assists.... and four assists to break Claire Costanza’s program record of 100 career assists. In other words, yes, four assists will break both the career assists record AND the single season points record at once. She averages 3.85 assists per game.
PROGRAMMING NOTE: This game is the front end of a lacrosse doubleheader in the Valley on Saturday. The men’s team will host #10 Georgetown at 2:30pm Central time, so bring a book or whatever and stick around for the second game!
Big East Game #3: vs #24 Connecticut Huskies (8-4, 1-1 Big East)
Date: Saturday, April 15, 2023
Time: 11am Central
Location: Andy Glockner Memorial Bubble, Valley Fields, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWLax
Marquette is 1-8 all time against UConn. The Huskies won the first five meetings between the two sides before the Golden Eagles prevailed 15-14 in 2018. That contest was one of the biggest games in program history, as MU’s win clinched their first ever Big East tournament appearance. The series took a couple of years off between the AAC sponsoring women’s lacrosse and COVID ending the 2020 season early, but things got restarted in 2021. Connecticut won last year’s meeting in Storrs, 18-15, and they were ranked #21 in the country at the time.
If you’re wondering how a team with four losses is ranked and 12-1 Marquette has only managed to get votes for the first time this week, well, it’s a quality losses situation. UConn lost a neutral site game to then-#12 James Madison, a home game to then-#25 UMass, and then most recently this past Saturday, a home game to then-#3 Denver. These were all relatively competitive losses, so it makes sense that the voters were paying attention to the Huskies. Beating then-#15 Yale, even in overtime as was the case in mid-March, also goes a long way towards helping your case. Even their lone non-ranked loss of the year has value to it, as it’s on the road against a Cornell squad that’s in the top 50 of the RPI right now. Now, if you want to have a conversation about how UConn went from 35 points in the polling and #25 in the country last week to 44 points and #24 in the country after losing to Denver, we can have a chat about that. Seems weird, but hey: Who am I to turn down a prime opportunity for Marquette to pick up the second win over a ranked opponent in program history?
This will be a battle of the top two offenses in the Big East, at least in terms of raw scoring totals. Marquette throws in 17.54 goals per game to lead the league, while UConn is #2 at 14.17. They’re the only two teams in the league north of 13 goals, and we could actually say “north of 12” because Denver sits at exactly 12.00 and thus are not north of 12 per outing. The defenses are a little more questionable, with both squads hovering in the middle of the conference. Marquette is letting in 11.33 goals per 60 minutes this season, while UConn is at 11.63. Those rank #3 and #4 in the Big East respectively, so it’s possible that this game could come down to who figures out how to make a stop when they need one.
Kate Shaffer is UConn’s biggest scoring threat with 33 goals on the season and ranking #5 in the Big East in goals per game. Shaffer is also tied for the team lead in assists with 19, so figuring out how to keep the ball away from her all together might be the best plan of attack. She’s second in the Big East behind MU’s Mary Schumar for points per game this season, and less than a point behind her to give you a picture as to what awaits the Golden Eagles. Lia LaPrise is the other half of that tie in the assists column, and she has 20 goals as well. Grace Coon (28 goals) and Susan Lafountain (27 goals) have to be accounted for as well.
There are some variables in UConn’s offense to consider here. Lacrosse Reference marks the Huskies as #6 in the country in Offensive Pacing, which does tend to explain how they’re just 97th in time of possession. If you’re trying to play fast, it’s going to lead to you not possessing the ball for a long time. Factoring into that TOP, though? UConn turning the ball over nearly 22% of the time, which is #43 in the country. That’s potentially good news for Marquette’s defense. It means the Huskies can either A) just be provoked into mistakes pretty regularly or B) be pushed into playing too fast and thus throw the ball away regularly. I’m not sure which one it is because I am not a lacrosse genius, but the combination feels like something that MU can use to their advantage.
Landyn White will be the goalie for the Huskies on Saturday, as she’s played all but an hour’s worth of time this season for UConn. This is the third straight season as Connecticut’s starter for White, and she’s coming off an Inside Lacrosse All-American Honorable Mention season a year ago. She’s leading the Big East in saves per game at 10.92, which is one of those good thing/bad thing situations. It’s great that she’s making stops, to the tune of 50.9% of shots on frame. It’s bad that UConn is underwater on the season in terms of both overall shots per game and shots on goal per game, thus forcing White to make a bunch of saves to keep the Huskies competitive.