You ever watched a top 25 team, one with one of the best offenses in the country, look like they have absolutely no idea what they’re doing with the ball for 15 minutes to start a game........ and that wasn’t the reason why they lost when everything was said and done?
That’s the situation we find ourselves with #24 Marquette women’s lacrosse. The Golden Eagles committed 11 turnovers in the first quarter on Saturday afternoon at Valley Fields and managed just four shots, all while getting shutout by the #3 team in the country. And yet, it was a one goal game, 5-4, at the half.
That halftime score didn’t hold up as it appears that #3 Denver’s defense, one of if not the best defense in the country, figured out Marquette’s offense after halftime, more so than they did while getting all of those turnovers. Your final: #3 Denver 12, #24 Marquette 5. Denver advances to a perfect 17-0 to end the regular season and win the Big East regular season championship with a record of 6-0, while Marquette sees their 12 game winning streak come to an end and drops to 15-2 on the year and 5-1 in the league.
It was 3-0 at the end of the first quarter. This is mostly because Marquette found a way to cram 11 turnovers into 15 minutes of lacrosse when there’s a 90 second shot clock. It was NOT GOOD, and you can easily argue that this game goes differently if the Golden Eagles punch a goal or two in. But down three to the #3 team in the country, one that’s not an offensive powerhouse like you are isn’t the worst thing in the world.
Marquette broke through on a goal from Hannah Greving just 44 seconds into the second quarter. Denver answered with a pair of strikes of their own, but then MU officially got the train on the tracks. They shutout the Pioneers for the remaining 11 minutes of the half and methodically cracked in three straight goals. And so: 5-4 at halftime, and it was almost like that very bad first quarter didn’t happen.
But, as I said, Denver figured Marquette out. The Golden Eagles would score just one goal in the entire second half. That came with 3:26 left to go in the third quarter, and Shea Garcia’s strike made it 8-5 Pioneers since they had already scored three times in the period. The fourth quarter was effectively just Denver proving that they had the game in hand, outshooting Marquette 10-5 and inducing another six turnovers to bring the Golden Eagles’ total in the game to 27. They also tacked on four more goals, which definitely did not help matters.
There is one thing I do want to point out though, and that’s the very weird mindset of the Denver faithful sitting to my right who made the trip to Milwaukee for the game. As the fourth quarter went along and it became more and more apparent that the Pioneers were going to win this game somewhat easily, or at least as easily as you can while only scoring 12 goals, the Denver fans got increasingly more agitated about the refereeing in the game. I want to be clear: They only got loudly disagreeable with the refereeing after their team took an 8-5 lead into the fourth quarter and continued to increase the margin. Nothing about the calls in the entire first half earned a boisterous comment from them.... but calls when they were up five with less than six minutes to play — and Marquette had managed five goals the entire game to that point — were somehow violating the Geneva Conventions. Very weird, especially for fans of a team that came into the game as the last undefeated team in the country this season.
Mary Schumar, Meg Bireley, and Hannah Greving all tied for the team high in points in this game with two each. Schumar got there on a pair of assists, Greving had two goals, and Bireley had one of each. Mary Blee led the way for Marquette on draws, posting a game high six as the Golden Eagles doubled up the Pioneers 14-7 in that department but couldn’t turn that advantage into an advantage on the scoreboard. Brynna Nixon made eight saves for Marquette to do her part to give her team a chance to stay competitive on the other end.
Up Next: The result here makes Denver the regular season champion in the Big East and the #1 seed in the Big East tournament, while Marquette lands as the #2 seed in the four team event. As such, they’ll be out in Connecticut for the tournament semifinals on Friday, May 5th. Their opponent will be #3 seed and host UConn after the Huskies ended the regular season with three straight wins following their 12-9 loss to Marquette in Milwaukee. That game will start at Noon Central as the first of the two semifinals, and FloSports will have the streaming broadcast.