As you’re reading this, we are just SIX DAYS away from the start of the Marquette women’s soccer season!
We should probably start previewing said season, huh?
Well, in that case, let’s get going by talking about the players returning from Frank Pelaez’s roster that went 7-7-4 overall and 3-4-3 in Big East action last season. Marquette honored 12 seniors at the final home game of last season, with three of them on their bonus seasons of eligibility. Of the other nine, four — Hailey Block, Isabella Cook, Mikki Easter, and Josie Kelderman — have elected to return for their bonus seasons this fall. I’ll let you read along and figure out how much of an impact that these returns may or may not have on the Golden Eagles’ success this season.
I’m just going to say this part off the top: We’re going to talk an awful lot about Marquette’s problems keeping a consistent lineup together as we go down the field here.
Okay, let’s start with MU’s most likely goal scoring corps and work our way down the field to the netminders, shall we?
Obviously this conversation starts with forward/midfielder on the roster Elsi Twombly, who tied for the team lead in goals with four, tied a different teammate for the team lead in assists with three, and thus, of course, led the team in points at 11. She started in 16 of Marquette’s 18 matches, although one of her missed starts was on Senior Night. I’m not going to go so far as to say that Twombly is the sun that Marquette’s offense revolves around — she was just fourth on the team in shots, and third best amongst returning women — but she was the most productive offensive player last season. More please, lots more.
Speaking of players whom we would like to see more of, Kate Gibson is the other half of that tie for the team lead in goals. Gibson played just 713 minutes last season, appearing in all 18 contests but starting just four times. She managed to get off two more shots than Twombly in nearly 400 fewer minutes, so I think it would have to be in the offense’s best interest if she saw more action this year. Same for Maggie Starker, but that might not be up to the coaching staff. Starker played in 12 contests with 10 starts last season, but was done for the year after October 2nd due to injury. If she’s not 100% back to form, then she’s not and there’s nothing that can be done about it. However, the junior from Whitefish Bay has five goals and three assists in 28 career matches. If she’s healthy enough to be cleared and can find the form that made her Wisconsin’s Gatorade Player of the Year during her senior year.... well, I think we’d all like to see that.
Josie Bieda had a nice debut season for Marquette, appearing in all 18 contests and starting twice. She scored her first career goal in a 1-1 draw with UIC and tallied her first assist in Marquette’s 2-0 win over Western Michigan. Alexa Maletis returns for her senior season after playing 166 minutes in 10 matches, while Abby Ruhland looks to build on 29 minutes in four appearances as a freshman. Mae Sinclair is listed as a Midfielder/Forward on the roster, so we’ll drop her in here as well. She played a career low in both matches (4) and minutes (24) as a junior last season.
With just 25 goals in 18 matches last season, Marquette was not an offensive powerhouse, and as such, there isn’t much in the way of scoring in the midfield. Isabella Cook is the top scorer with eight points on three goals and two assists after finishing the year as one of just two players to start in every match and one of just nine to appear in every one. Her 30 shots led the team last season, but with a shooting percentage of just .100, we have to ask whether or not that’s the best thing for the team or if Cook was just unlucky. Julia O’Neill logged over 1,000 minutes for the Golden Eagles last fall, managing two goals and an assist along the way in her 18 appearances with 10 starts. She showed growth going from freshman year to sophomore year, and if there’s another jump in store from her, that’s good news for Marquette.
Molly Keiper and Aislinn Boyle both had regular roles for Marquette last season, with Keiper appearing in 17 matches with one start and Boyle going for 13 and 1 in those categories. They both played fewer than 400 minutes, so it wasn’t a lot of action, but it was fairly productive. Keiper managed two assists, while Boyle knocked in a goal against Providence to go with an assist earlier in the season. Not too bad for limited minutes as a sub for both of them, but we’ll have to wait and see if there’s a bigger role for either of them this year.
Cate Downs scored on her second shot in her first collegiate match, giving Marquette a 5-0 lead late against Green Bay last season. That was kind of the high point of her freshman year, as she tallied just 126 minutes all season long. Carina Murphy appeared in four contest for 19 minutes as a sophomore, and Adrianna Alberts had a 13 minute run against Green Bay for her only action of her freshman year.
FUN FACT: Hailey Block is now listed as a Midfielder/Defender after being listed as a pure midfielder on the roster last season. No surprise there, she was on the back end of the middle third of the formation last year, so this is just truth in advertising. Block is the other woman after Cook who started in all 18 contests, and Block wins the title for most minutes played last year. She tallied two assists along the way, and it seems like a safe bet that Pelaez and his staff are leaning towards more defensive end play for her this season.
Also listed as midfielder/defender is Josie Kelderman, who had her season come to an end on October 2nd last year due to injury. That was a real bummer, as she was getting back to form after missing all of the fall 2021 season with a knee injury. If she’s fine now, if she can get back to the kind of level she was at her freshman year — a goal and three assists in over 1300 minutes — that will be a big help towards stabilizing Marquette’s lineup. Not just because having a regular 11 on the field for the opening kick is a good plan, but because Kelderman’s a steady hand (foot?) on the field.
If Kelderman’s not really healthy to play, or if her back-to-back injuries have reduced her athleticism, then things might get pretty shaky on the back end for Marquette. Mia Haertle is now listed as a defender after standing as a midfielder last year, but she appeared in all 18 matches and was only out of the starting lineup due to Senior Night. Haertle ended up second to Cook in minutes played, and she added a goal to her tie with Elsi Twombly for the team high in assists. Katie Koker logged over 1,000 minutes in her return to Marquette last season, starting 14 times in 16 appearances. She also added a goal and an assist to the proceedings, which was nice because as mentioned before, Marquette was kind of hard up for offensive production from anywhere. MU is going to need big showings from Haertle and Koker as the only truly experienced back line players.
Caroline Cline started four times in eight appearances, finishing up with 371 minutes played. Is she ready for a bigger part in the show after two years of pretty much the same limited role, or was that a situation of Cline merely being pressed into service? Erin O’Keefe made her career debut against Green Bay last season but didn’t play again after that. Aeryn Kennedy — officially a defender/midfielder on the roster — appeared in one match during the COVID spring 2021 season and hasn’t played since.
And that’s it for defenders with experience from last season. Keep that in mind as we talk about the final section on the sheet......
Marquette has two keepers coming back from last year’s roster, and they both had more than a smattering of playing time. In fact, both of them ended up starting multiple matches. Mikki Easter got the net and went the distance in Marquette’s first four matches of the year. After a 1-2-1 start to the year, the coaching staff turned things over to Chloe Olson, who started each of Marquette’s next seven contests and played the full 90 minutes in all but one of them. Easter started the next match, a 2-1 loss to Connecticut where she was lifted for Olson after 72 minutes, and then Olson got the starter’s job back for four more contests. Easter got the nod in the season finale, as it was Senior Night at Valley Fields and she was on her fourth season of eligibility at the time.
Confused at all? Okay, good, then we’re all on the same page.
Going by numbers, Olson’s got the edge to be the #1 keeper this season. Her goals-against average of 1.20 beats out Easter’s 1.43, and the same goes for save percentage, .696 to .679. That’s also clearly not a noticeable difference, and Olson has nearly twice as many minutes played from last year given that she started twice as many matches. I’m not going to be surprised no matter who’s on the field to start against Northwestern on August 17th.... and I’m also not expecting that woman to play all of the minutes this season, either.
Can you guess that we’re going to talk about this part of the season a little bit more in Three Questions in a couple of days?