When the Marquette women’s lacrosse offense was rolling on Sunday on the Main Line, it was rolling. When it wasn’t, it very much wasn’t, but sometimes sports isn’t about being great, it’s about being good enough to beat the team standing across from you. The Golden Eagles used a 6-1 run to close the first half and take control against Villanova and a 4-1 run to close the game with a 12-8 win. The win extends Marquette’s winning streak to a program best 12 in a row and moves them to not just 15-1 on the year and a perfect 8-0 on the road, but also 5-0 in Big East play with just one regular season game left to go.
Through most of the first quarter, it was Villanova in control on the scoreboard and on the field. After 14 minutes and 28 seconds had been played, the Wildcats were up 3-1 and outshooting Marquette 11-8 as eight Golden Eagles turnovers turned off the water on the offensive end for them. But, then, seconds after Ellie Henry made a great play for a draw control and found Mary Schumar, Hannah Greving snapped Schumar’s pass into the net in transition, and it was just 3-2 at the end of the first quarter.
You know the cliche about scoring late in the quarter and shifting the momentum of the game even if that one goal didn’t really look like it did all that much on its own? Yeah, that’s what happened here. Greving’s goal was the first strike in that 6-1 run to end the first half which means, yes, Marquette outscored Villanova 5-1 in the second period. MU scored three times on either side of a Sami Carey power play goal — imagine what happens if Molly Powers doesn’t take that yellow card — with Lydia Foust and Shea Garcia each chipping in two goals and Foust assisting on one of Garcia’s strikes. Foust’s second goal of the run came with just seconds left in the half, and so the Golden Eagles went into intermission up 7-4.
As the tweet indicates, it’s hard to believe that the game was tied at three goals each at the 9:30 mark, and Carey’s goal came with 2:43 left in the quarter, so MU slammed in three more before the half ended. When it’s rolling, it’s rolling, like I said. Villanova still outshot Marquette in the second quarter, 9-8, but shots on goal were 8-4 favoring the Golden Eagles, and when every single one of your shots is on goal, it’s a little bit easier for five of them to go in the net.
It’s important to point out right here that the game was a bit of a mess for both teams through 30 minutes. The two sides combined for 21 turnovers in the first half, but a trend had emerged in the second. Eight of MU’s 10 came in the first quarter, but Villanova split their 11 as evenly as you can, six in the first and five in the second. See the trend? Yeah, that’s about to become important.
The third quarter was light on goals, with just three combined between the two teams, and it took til past the halfway point of the period before either side scored. Mary Schumar’s strike with 5:21 to go was Marquette’s only goal of the quarter, so the Golden Eagles were up 8-6 at the end of the frame. It’s not the kind of quarter that you really want when you’re on the road, but when you’re holding a slight shots advantage (8 to 6) because the other team is throwing it around the building (6 Villanova turnovers to just three for Marquette, see the trend coming around again?), maybe you can live with the less than thrilling 15 minutes.
By the way, tactically speaking, this is a sneaky important goal. It certainly looks like it’s Marquette setting up Schumar for a pass to a cutter as Greving and Schumar switch possession behind the net and Schumar rolls around to the left side.... but the cutter never comes. The middle stays wide open, so she just keeps on rolling and gets the space to shoot. Schumar hitting that cutter for a goal is so dangerous that it gives her space to make this play, and that really starts causing problems for the defense.
Villanova scored first in the fourth quarter, so we officially had ourselves a ballgame after Sydney Pappas scored to make it 8-7 with 12:26 to go. It’s not surprising that the Wildcats had a chance to win this, they’re on the edge of the NCAA tournament conversation, this is a good ball club. It’s just that they have a turnover problem, and Marquette accentuated it in the final stretches of the game. VU had already committed one turnover in the quarter before Pappas scored, and they would commit six more before the end of the game. Three of them were caused by Marquette defenders, and three were just errors by the Wildcats.
In the meantime, Meg Bireley scored twice to put Marquette up 10-7 with 6:29 to go to give the Golden Eagles some breathing room. VU’s Jessie Lee converted a free position shot for the Wildcats to make it 10-8 with just over five minutes to play, and the whole thing had the feel of “clearly not over” at that point.
And then Emma Soccodato caused one of those turnovers, and since the ball is a boomerang sometimes, her caused turnover and ground ball turned into a Soccodato goal on a feed from Schumar with 3:15 to play.
Yeah, that probably was the dagger. But three minutes is a long time in lacrosse, especially if the trailing team can win draw controls, and Villanova was doing that in this game. They finished with a 15-9 advantage there against Marquette, including the final five of the game, which is really impressive because MU is one of the best draw control teams in the country. However, if Soccodato’s goal wasn’t the dagger, then the combination of Josie Kropp inducing Villanova’s 22nd turnover of the game immediately after Caroline Curnal won VU’s 14th draw control, Ellie Henry scooping the ground ball, and Tess Osburn rattling home a Bireley feed definitely slammed the door in the Wildcats’ face. 12-8 Marquette, 2:14 to go.
Whatever miracles were left in this game disappeared on VU’s 23rd turnover of the game with 1:56 to go, and the Wildcats backed off from pressuring MU with the ball.
Mary Schumar led the way in points, finishing with five on her goal and four assists to extend her ongoing single season points record. Meg Bireley — or Meg FIRE-LEY as the team Twitter said at one point — and Lydia Foust both had four point days on a hat trick and an assist, while Shea Garcia added two goals to extend her career points record as well. Emma Soccodato was all over the field, adding a game high four ground balls and a game high three caused turnovers plus two draw controls to her very important late goal. Brynna Nixon made seven saves for the Golden Eagles to pick up the win, and she only had to make two in the second half to hold up her end of the deal.
How about some highlights, courtesy of GoMarquette.com and FloSports?
Up Next: Oh, you know, nothing big, just the new biggest game in program history.
Marquette is now 5-0 in Big East play, and the luck of the draw has handed them a showdown for the regular season title in the final game of the campaign. MU is tied for first place with 5-0 Denver, and yep, the Pioneers are coming to Valley Fields on Saturday, April 29th, and the winner of that game will be the Big East regular season champion and the #1 seed in the conference tournament. That game is set to start at Noon Central with FloSports streaming things.
Oh, right, I almost forgot, Denver’s not just undefeated in Big East play. They are a perfect 16-0 on the year after throttling Georgetown 15-2 on Saturday and the Pios are the last remaining undefeated team in Division 1 this season. They were #3 in the country this past week, but with #1 Syracuse falling from the ranks of the undefeated on Thursday and #2 Northwestern’s lone loss coming against the Orange way back in the season opener, there’s a chance that Denver will be #1 in the country when the new poll comes out on Monday.