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Marquette Women’s Soccer Preview: vs Denver & vs Minnesota

The Golden Eagles host a pair of games as part of two doubleheaders with the men’s soccer team.

NCAA HOCKEY: APR 07 Div I Men’s Frozen Four - Minnesota v Minnesota State
Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If you’ve been paying careful attention from last season and through this season’s previews, then the following information about Marquette women’s soccer shouldn’t be terribly surprising to you.

There are five women who played every minute of Marquette’s first two matches: Mikki Easter, Hailey Block, Mia Haertle, Katie Koker, and Isabella Cook.

With the slight exception of Easter, just because there was a little debate worth having about who was going to start in net for the Golden Eagles this season, every single name there is exactly who you would have named as the players that head coach Frank Pelaez 1) trusts to play the full 90 minutes every time out and 2) needs to trust to play the full 90 every time out. Block, Haertle, and Koker form the core of Marquette’s defensive structure in front of Easter in the net, while Cook did so much through the midfield last season that obviously she needs to be getting a maxed out amount of playing time.

It’s also probably good news for Marquette’s on field coherence that 10 women have started both matches. The only change from the opener to the trip to Colorado was Aeryn Kennedy swapping in for Caroline Cline on defense….. and then Cline ended up scoring what is currently MU’s only goal of the season to push the Golden Eagles to the 1-0 win over the Buffaloes.

However, I don’t know if it’s great for Marquette’s offensive coherence that the three women you might expect to see at the top of the scoresheet at the end of the season — Kate Gibson, Maggie Starker, and Elsi Twombly — have been limited to about an hour’s worth of playing time in each of Marquette’s matches. In fact, Starker played just 43 minutes in the opener against #18 Northwestern, less than half the match.

Why does this matter? Because Marquette is badly underwater in terms of shots for and shots against through two matches. It’s 18 for and a whopping 34 against so far this season, and only 12 of that 16 shot differential is because of the 19-7 margin against Northwestern. Marquette had made the most of their shot attempts, putting half of their 18 shots on frame while holding their two opponents to just 38%, but that hasn’t helped them put points on the board.

With that in mind, it’s probably not a coincidence that Marquette’s only goal of the year so far came on a ball that was probably a little bit lucky to make it to the far post along the ground on a corner kick.

It’s not a secret that you have to score goals to win soccer matches. What is a secret, at least for now, is how Marquette’s going to go about doing a better job sustaining pressure on the offensive end of the field to start generating more shots, and thus start creating more chances to score goals. They’ve been on the short end of the stick in that regard through two matches and might be at least a little bit lucky to be 1-1-0 after 180 minutes. One of their matches this weekend is against a team that’s been pouring in goals through two contests, so we’ll get a good chance to see exactly what the Golden Eagles can do to counter that on both ends of the field.

Match #3: vs Denver Pioneers (0-0-2)

Date: Thursday, August 24, 2023
Time: 5pm Central
Location: Valley Fields, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Streaming: FloFC
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWSOC

PROGRAMMING NOTE: This match is the front half of a doubleheader in the Valley, as the men’s soccer team will host Drake, the only Division 1 university named after a rap star, at 7:30 and/or 30 minutes after the completion of this match. The Point Is: Come prepared to watch two matches because it’s fun.

PROGRAMMING NOTE #2: This match is starting riiiiiiight about as New Student Convocation is ending up on campus. That’s probably a bad sign relative to getting a lot of the new freshmen to come down and check out the match.... but it might lead to a lot of them showing up as the two matches of the night go along.

This is the first ever meeting between Marquette and Denver.

Let’s start our discussion about the Pioneers with this part: Denver was tabbed as the preseason favorite in the Summit League heading into this season. They picked up six first place votes to edge out South Dakota State, 62 points to 59, as the Jackrabbits snagged three first place votes for themselves.

Okay. So. Colorado State was picked to finish seventh in the Mountain West this season. Denver had to salvage a 1-1 draw against the Rams in their season opener after getting outshot 11-2 in the first half and giving up a crossbar rebound goal in the 30th minute.

Colorado College was picked to finish eighth in the Mountain West this year. Denver scored in the first 30 seconds against the Tigers but somehow got outscored 2-1 in the next 33 minutes to end up in a 2-2 tie at halftime with Colorado College. This happened even with the Pioneers winning the shots battle 10-6…. And then after halftime, the Pios outshot Colorado College 13-1…. But couldn’t find a way to put the ball in the net and had to settle for a second straight tie to start the season.

This is a Denver program that went 11-4-4 overall last season with a non-conference record of 3-4-2. They might just be the best team in the Summit League again, but maybe that means they’re going to struggle outside of the league again this season.

Three different women have found the back of the net to score Denver’s three goals this season, but it’s Camryn MacMillan with the early edge in the point totals after the 5’9” grad student scored one and assisted on the other in the Colorado College match on Sunday. MacMillan had a team high eight goals last season, so she’s a talent that will have to be marked. Kaitlyn Glover has one of DU’s other two goals this season after she had six goals and six assists last season.

Freshman Molly Wissman has played every minute in net so far this season, so we’ll wait and see if first year head coach Julianne Sitch sticks with her for Match #3. Denver has three other keepers listed on the roster, but no one with any real Division 1 experience to this point of their careers. Wissman has stopped six of the nine shots on frame so far this year for a save percentage of .667 through 180 minutes.

Match #4: vs Minnesota Golden Gophers (2-0-0)

Date: Sunday, August 27, 2023
Time: 12pm Central
Location: Valley Fields, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Streaming: FloFC
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWSOC

PROGRAMMING NOTE: This match is the front half of a doubleheader in the Valley, as the men’s soccer team will host Purdue Fort Wayne at 3pm and/or 30 minutes after the completion of this match. The Point Is: Come prepared to watch two matches because it’s fun.

Marquette is 2-5-1 all time against Minnesota. It’s mostly been an ongoing series of home-and-home sets with the Gophers over the years, although there was a meeting in the 2008 NCAA tournament, where Minnesota took the 2-1 advantage and advanced. Marquette’s wins came in Milwaukee in 2009 and in Minneapolis in 2019. The most recent encounter was a 3-0 Minnesota victory up north last season.

Minnesota opened up the year with fireworks on their home turf. They beat Niagara 5-1 in their opener, and then knocked in another four goals in a shutout win over New Hampshire on Sunday afternoon. That’s a lot of confidence building for a team that went 8-8-3 last season and was picked to finish ninth in the 14 team Big Ten this season. Will that kind of offensive power stand up as the season goes along? Well, it’s Marquette’s job to start turning the tide, isn’t it?

Megan Nemec has taken the early lead in the goal scoring race for the Gophers. She scored twice in the opener and knocked in a third against New Hampshire to lead the team with three goals so far. She doesn’t have the team lead in points to herself however, because Sophia Boman is even with Nemec thanks to two goals and two assists. She had a goal and two helpers against Niagara before getting her second goal of the season as a penalty kick in the 62nd minute against New Hampshire.

Thanks to Minnesota’s big margins of victory in their two matches so far this season, starting keeper Megan Plaschko has not played every minute in net so far. She came out not long after Nemec scored her second of the match in the opener, departing with the Gophers up 5-1. That means that Plaschko has a very nice goals against average of 0.54 as she did let in a penalty kick against the Purple Eagles. It also means that her save percentage on the season is just .500 as the PK was Niagara’s only shot on goal and New Hampshire only managed one SOG for the entire 90 minutes as well. Plaschko played over 1,700 minutes last season while allowing just a little bit more than a goal per 90 minutes and stopped 67% of shots on goal. What will her stats look like by the time Sunday arrives and Minnesota stops off on the east side of Milwaukee on Thursday night? We’ll have to wait and see.