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#24 Marquette Women’s Lacrosse Preview: vs #3 Denver

The Golden Eagles close out the regular season with a shot at the Big East regular season title.

2014 NCAA Division I Men’s Lacrosse Championship - Semifinals
Once again I am begging someone to take a picture of the Denver mascot that’s more recent than 2014.
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Before we go any further at all, I must implore you to go read Beth Ann Mayer’s profile Marquette women’s lacrosse for USA Lacrosse Magazine. On top of it being a rapid-fire recap of how head coach Meredith Black built her program to where it is right this second and a repository of informative tidbits (Lydia Foust thought she was going to the US Military Academy! MU’s flight home from Georgetown was canceled!), it’s also a great look at the mindset of the team both all season long as well as heading into Saturday’s very important regular season finale. Plus, y’know, go reward USALM for paying attention to the Marquette, y’know?


Who’s ready for a new Biggest Game In Program History?

Saturday’s regular season finale doesn’t carry quite the weight as the home date against then-#24 Connecticut two weeks ago for the 15-1 Golden Eagles. That one was gigantic because it was a clear opportunity to show the IWLCA/ILWomen poll voters and the NCAA selection committee that Marquette was deserving of national attention. No one was going to be surprised if MU won that game, but also they had to go out and do it. Thanks to that 12-9 victory along with the ensuing wins over Butler and Villanova, the Golden Eagles have taken some of the drama and importance out of their final home game of the season. Since they’re going up against the #3 team in the country, Saturday’s game is something of a house money opportunity for MU. If they win, it’s gigantic, but if they lose, it’s not going to harm their place in the national conversation for women’s lacrosse.

It is, however, a chance for Marquette to win the Big East regular season championship for the first time in program history. It’s not their first shot at the crown, as they had a chance to lock a title up in the regular season finale last season. That would have been a shared title though, and the winner of Saturday’s game between a pair of 5-0 teams will be the sole champion no matter what. That’s a big deal! There’s a little bit of extra juice to the game in terms of that national conversation that I was mentioning a minute ago, as Saturday’s game will be Marquette’s first ever game played as a ranked team. They entered the top 25 poll for the first time ever on Monday, landing at #24. Given that Saturday’s contest is a game for a conference regular season title between two ranked opponents, that’s naturally going to bring attention to what the Golden Eagles are doing. It’s also a chance for Marquette to beat a ranked opponent for a second time in a season, and like so many other things this season, that’s never happened either.

There’s also a smaller more subtle reason why this regular season finale is a pretty big game for the Golden Eagles. Marquette and Denver are already locked into the top two spots in the Big East standings, meaning that they will be #1 and #2 in the Big East tournament next week. As the top two seeds, it’s reasonable to think that they could face off again in the Big East tournament title game. No matter what the result is on Saturday, it’s possible that Marquette getting a look at what Denver does just eight days before they might see the Pioneers again in the championship game could benefit the Golden Eagles when it comes time to hoist a different Big East trophy. After all, when the two teams faced off twice in three days in the COVID protocol 2021 season, Marquette lost 16-6 in the first game...... but scored twice in the final four minutes to force #19 Denver to double overtime in the second one.

Big East Game #6: vs #3 Denver Pioneers (16-0, 5-0 Big East)

Date: Saturday, April 29, 2023
Time: Noon Central
Location: Andy Glockner Memorial Bubble, Valley Fields, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Streaming: FloSports
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWLax

Marquette is 0-7 all time against Denver. The two teams have faced off in every year of Big East action since the Pioneers joined the league as an affiliate member in 2016. Denver has been ranked for all but two of those games, and while most of the games have been lopsided — like last year’s 18-9 game in Colorado with the Big East regular season title on the line — Marquette did force DU to double overtime at Valley Fields in the second meeting in 2021.

You can see those zeros in the loss column in both Denver’s overall and Big East records, so I don’t need to do a lot of work to explain to you exactly how the Pioneers’ season has been going. We should point out that they have had to win some nailbiters to stand as the last remaining unbeaten team in Division 1 this season, including starting the season with a 5-4 road win over a Louisville squad that Marquette beat 15-11. They also have a 9-8 win over Colorado, a 7-5 win over then-#21 Michigan, and an 8-7 win over then-#5 Maryland. Those were all in their first six games of the season, and you can see the similarity point in each of them: Denver didn’t get to 10 goals.

That’s turned around in the last 10 games, where they’ve scored at least 12 goals in every game. That’s not a situation where their schedule suddenly lightened up as they faced three ranked teams along the way, including then-#4 Boston College. I don’t know if Denver was too terribly worried about their offensive output this season, either early or late, because their defense has been wrecking people. Eight goals allowed to Colorado was matched by Boston College as their high water mark for the season up until Connecticut threw in nine back on April 8th, and the Huskies had to score three times in the final 17 minutes to get there, including one with less than two minutes to go in a 14-9 DU victory. I’m not going to go so far as to say that it will be something of a victory if Marquette can get to 10 goals against Lacrosse Reference’s most efficient defense in the country, but, uh, that’s not not true. Denver’s not really going to force turnovers to shut Marquette’s high powered offense down, so we’ll have to see if the Golden Eagles can find their way through the fortress.

Emelia Bohi is backstopping that Denver defense, and as you’d expect, her goals-against average is about as immaculate as you can get. The 5’10” sophomore’s 6.07 goals allowed per 60 minutes ranks best in the country, and she’s one of just two women allowing fewer than seven goals per hour played. Bohi’s also in the top 10 in the county in save percentage at .512, so it’s not like she’s skating by with her field defenders protecting her from seeing shots in the first place. With that said, Marquette has hung 46 goals in three games against top 20 goalies in terms of save percentage this season, so we’ll see if the Golden Eagles can keep that production up here.

On the other end of the field, Marquette has to slow down Julia Gilbert. The senior from Virginia has 42 goals in 16 games this season, so she’s just a bit short of a hat trick per outing..... but also she had a five game hat trick streak going up until “only” scoring two goals in DU’s 15-2 win over Georgetown last time out. Denver doesn’t have a Mary Schumar comp on their roster in terms of distribution, but they do have three women in the neighborhood of an assist per game. Ryan Dineen has paired a team high 16 assists with 23 goals this season, while Kayla DeRose (15) and Ellie Curry (12) are not that far behind her. All told, Denver has 85 assists on 209 goals this season, and considering that they have 57 strikes on free position attempts (for a 56% conversion rate), that’s a pretty strong assist rate.