Wednesday’s Big East women’s lacrosse contest for Marquette may turn into an exercise in a time honored mantra: Control what you can control.
Marquette could control the outcome of last Saturday’s game against #24 UConn, and so they did, defeating the Huskies 12-9 for the program’s second ever win over a ranked opponent. They can also control the outcome of Wednesday’s game against Butler, and they can control the level of focus and preparation that they put into playing the Bulldogs.
What they can not control is what the IWLCA/ILWomen top 25 voters think about the Golden Eagles. I find it incredibly frustrating that 1) Marquette was left out of the top 25 after beating the #24 team in the country and 2) UConn stayed in the top 25 after losing to a now 13-1 MU team that was receiving top 25 votes last week and 3) there’s a sub-.500 team in the top 25 right now AND a team at exactly .500 right now in there too. That doesn’t mean that head coach Meredith Black has to find it frustrating, or at least let it impact how she’s running her team. It doesn’t mean that Mary Schumar has to let it affect how she reads the field for cutters and easy goals. It doesn’t mean that Shea Garcia and Lydia Foust have to let that frustration and lack of respect affect how they continue to pile up goals in a historic fashion. That frustration doesn’t need to work its way out on to the field and disrupt Brynna Nixon’s ever evolving and development as MU’s starting netminder.
I’m not saying that the team’s not thinking about it. They had a very real chance to be the first ever Marquette team to earn a top 25 ranking. That’s a big deal! But here’s the other end of the stick: That chance is still on the table.
Marquette is just barely outside the top 25 right now, coming in one spot outside the official rankings. The Golden Eagles have two games this week, that’s two chances to show the poll voters that they were wrong and two chances to make a statement for next Monday’s top 25.
All Marquette can do is play Marquette Lacrosse for 60 minutes on Tuesday. Do what you know you can do, make the plays that you know you can make, and wrap up the trip to Indiana with a win. Then, change the focus, and do it again on Sunday.
After all, what’s more important: Getting that top 25 ranking orrrrrrrr keeping those wins coming in to earn the program’s first ever NCAA tournament appearance. Through games played on April 16th, Marquette stands at #16 in the official RPI, up three spots from last week. That sounds an awful lot like a team that deserves one of the 14 at-large berths in the national championship field of 29…. .but the wins have to keep showing up for that to happen. Control what you can control.
Big East Game #4: at Butler Bulldogs (5-7, 1-2 Big East)
Marquette is a perfect 6-0 all time against Butler. MU has scored at least 16 goals in every meeting, and last time out, the Golden Eagles set what was at the time a program record for goals in a game in a 24-17 win at Valley Fields last season.
Butler and Marquette have been doing a weird “let’s share some opponents” dance this season. The Bulldogs and the Golden Eagles have both faced Youngstown State, Detroit Mercy, Cincinnati, and Eastern Michigan in non-conference play, and BU actually did a home and home with UDM and they were supposed to play Central Michigan too, but that game got canceled. While Marquette went a perfect 4-0 against those squads, Butler went 3-2 in their five games. That includes a season opening 19-18 loss to YSU where the Bulldogs gave up two goals in the final five minutes, including a power play game winner with 14 seconds left. It also includes a 17-3 loss to Cincinnati where the Bearcats went up 13-0 midway through the third quarter.
With all that said, Butler was sitting at 5-4 on the season back on April 1st after beating Xavier 19-12 in their Big East opener. They’ve lost three straight since then, and it has not been a fun time for them. #3 Denver got them 19-4 after taking an 8-1 lead at the end of the first quarter, then Villanova beat them 15-5 after staking themselves to a 10-3 lead at halftime, and then, finally, #8 Notre Dame wrecked BU in their most recent game. What’s more damaging: If I tell you that the final score was 26-3 or if I tell you that Notre Dame took a 24-0 lead on the first goal of the fourth quarter? That game was last Monday afternoon and Butler hasn’t played since. That’s good news for them to a certain degree, as it gives them a chance to regroup after getting sandblasted 60-12 in their last three games.
Sophomore Caroline Smith has been Butler’s goalie for most of the season, starting 10 times after taking the job from Aleigh Monroe after Monroe got pulled during BU’s first two games of the season. That’s not to say that Smith hasn’t had her own problems, as she’s only finished seven of her 10 starts. Two of the games she didn’t finish were the Denver and Notre Dame games in their current three game losing streak, so keep that in mind as Wednesday afternoon goes along. With that said, Smith is statistically Butler’s best option in net, as she’s stopping 42.2% of shots on goal. I didn’t say “Butler’s outstanding option,” I said best.
While it certainly seems like Marquette’s biggest concern against Butler will merely be making their offense work the way it’s supposed to, the defense is still going to have to do some work. Leah Rubino has scored 32 goals this season, leaving her just barely short of a hat trick per outing. Rubino also has three assists on the year, so her team high of 35 points means she has more than twice as many goals as anyone else on the roster and more than twice as many points, too. She’s shooting 63% and 90% of her shots are on frame. Ideally, Marquette should just never let her touch the ball. Rubino also leads the team in ground balls and caused turnovers, so she’s just going to be a full field nuisance to say the least.
Kayleigh Colleary has eight assists to lead the team in that department, while Greer Bireley has seven helpers. Both women were held without a point last time out against Notre Dame, so take that into account relative to a per game output.