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RV Marquette Women’s Lacrosse Preview: at Villanova

The Golden Eagles head out east on Sunday with an eye on setting up a Big East title showdown.

Big East Tournament Semifinals - Villaona v Connecticut Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Everything that we’ve been talking about throughout Big East play for Marquette women’s lacrosse is still true heading into Sunday’s game. It’s big for Marquette just to be 14-1 after beating Butler earlier this week to extend the longest winning streak in program history and hit a brand new best win total in program history. It’s big for Marquette to be in the conversation for the NCAA tournament, as USA Lacrosse Magazine’s Jeremy Ferris has them clearly in the field as of Tuesday. It’s big for Marquette to be in the top 20 of the RPI, where they were #16 through games played on April 16th. It’s big for Marquette to be earning votes in the IWLCA/ILWomen top 25 poll even if, maybe, the voters screwed them over after last week’s win over then-#24 UConn.

Big, big, big, everything’s big.

Also big: Marquette securing a spot in the four team Big East tournament by way of their win over Butler earlier this week. Three teams in the seven team league have already lost at least three conference games, and since 4-0 Marquette only has two games to go, they’re in the top four no matter what. On that note, the Golden Eagles can secure a top two finish in the league with a win on Sunday. UConn and Villanova both have two losses in Big East games, and if MU beats the Wildcats, the worst that they can do is one loss in the regular season finale.

Speaking of that regular season finale....

You don’t want to get caught looking ahead to an opponent, but I think it’s certainly okay to say if you win the game currently in front of you, that gives you a big chance in the one after that one. That’s where MU currently sits, as they are tied for first place at 4-0 with Denver. As luck would have it, Marquette’s regular season finale is next Saturday at home against the Pioneers. This means, with a win by MU on Sunday, the Golden Eagles will have a chance to play for their first ever regular season conference championship in the final game of the regular season.

In fact, there’s a chance, entirely dependent on Georgetown, that Marquette could clinch at least a share of the regular season title with a win on Sunday. Denver is hosting Georgetown on Saturday, after this is being written, and if the Hoyas get the win, that would give the Pios a 4-1 record, and thus guarantee at least a share for Marquette if they can win on Sunday.

Fun, huh?

One catch, and it’s a catch that we will deal with in a much more serious manner next weekend: Denver is 15-0 and the last remaining undefeated team in Division 1 lacrosse. Is that a good sign for Georgetown? Probably not, but that’s not Marquette’s problem, not yet anyway. The Golden Eagles have to get through Sunday’s game before they can start unraveling that puzzle, but if they do, it will mean a shot at a title. Kind of means the title is on the line on Sunday, huh? A little bit?

Big East Game #5: at Villanova Wildcats (11-4, 3-2 Big East)

Date: Sunday, April 23, 2022
Time: 11am Central
Location: Villanova Stadium, Villanova, Pennsylvania
Streaming: FloSports
Live Stats: StatBroadcast
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWLax

Marquette is 5-5 all time against Villanova. The entire series has been a set of mirrors up to this point. Three for Nova, three for MU, two for Nova, two for MU, including 19-14 in the Valley last season.

Villanova comes into Sunday’s contest riding a three game winning streak, which includes the program’s first win over Georgetown since 1994. FUN FACT: The team recap for that game says it was VU’s first ever win over the Hoyas…. But even their own media guide (last published in 2019) says that they have three wins against Georgetown. Weird! Last time out, Villanova picked up a 21-9 victory over Xavier for their 11th win of the season. That’s a new program record for wins in a season, so no matter who wins on Sunday, the winner will re-break that team’s wins record. That’s kind of cool.

The record setting year on the Main Line has the Wildcats within shooting distance of the NCAA tournament. USA Lacrosse Magazine had VU in the field of 29 in their bracketology effort on Tuesday, although Jeremy Fallis had Villanova and their #21 RPI as one of the Last Four In. Sunday is the regular season finale for the Wildcats, so it will be not only important for them in terms of access to the Big East tournament but a win over Marquette — a team that’s cleanly in that projected field with an RPI of 15 — would go a long way towards clinching a berth for them.

Villanova’s offense presents an interesting riddle for Marquette to solve. Sydney Pappas is a massive scoring threat, throwing in 49 goals in 15 games this season, and it should honestly be more than that, as she has only converted four of her 25 free position shots to goals. Sami Carey and Kayla Gulmi are a two-headed passing monster, with both women north of 25 assists on the season. Carey can score it too, converting 24 shots to goals, while Gulmi only has 10 goals as part of her 38 points, mostly coming off the bench to do it. There’s also Caroline Curnal, who’s second on the team in goals with 37.

Those options would be enough to keep Marquette on their toes, but that’s not the only part of the riddle. The Wildcats rank #100 out of 120 Division 1 teams in turnovers per game this season, and Lacrosse Reference has them at #77 in the country in turnover rate on percentage of possessions basis. That’s probably why LR has them at #81 in the country in Offensive Efficiency, too. If Marquette’s defense can figure out how to keep Villanova turning the ball over, that’s going to turn into a lot of goals on the other end, just by way of MU’s proficiency at putting the ball in the net.

Olivia Conquest was Villanova’s goalie to start the season.... and she’s Villanova’s goalie right now, too. The Fairfield grad transfer started VU’s first four games of the season, all wins for the Wildcats, but then Cate Gallagher took over for the next nine games as Conquest didn’t play at all. Conquest went back into the net for all 60 minutes in the win over Georgetown and departed the Xavier game with a 16-6 lead at halftime.... although she did give up five goals in the second quarter after VU was up 7-1 at the end of the first. Conquest’s numbers are better than Gallagher’s, other than the 200 minute differential. Conquest is giving up just 9.64 goals per 60 minutes, and she stops 52% of shots on goal. There’s no reason to think that we won’t see Conquest in net on Sunday, especially since the Wildcats are 6-0 when she’s the starter.