Let’s throw a curveball here, shall we?
The NCAA has graced us with the first RPI calculations of the 2023 season for women’s soccer, so with Marquette starting off Big East action on Thursday night, let’s take a spin around the league instead of doing our normal match preview here. With that said, we do have to squeeze in the details for Marquette’s Thursday and Sunday contests here, soooooo.......
Big East Match #1: vs DePaul Blue Demons (4-2-1)
Marquette is 19-6-2 all time against DePaul. The series dates back to 1996 and was heavily tilted towards the Golden Eagles through 2013 as MU opened up a 13-3-0 margin and didn’t even allow a goal in the first seven encounters. MU is 6-1-1 in the last eight meetings and undefeated in the last four, including fending off a Blue Demons rally last September in the Big East opener.
Big East Match #2: vs Butler Bulldogs (4-4-1)
Marquette is 4-8-1 all time against Butler. All but one of the matches have come since the two teams came together in the Big East after The Reformation. The Golden Eagles snapped a six match losing streak against the Bulldogs with a 4-1 road victory last September.
Alrighty, with that out of the way, let’s head to the team capsules, and we’ll go in RPI order through matches played on September 17th.....
United Soccer Coaches Poll Ranking: #17
Points Leader: Natalie Means, 4 (2 G)
Goals Leader: Natalie Means, 2
Assists Leader: Tatum Lenain, 3
Keeper: Allie Augur (0.20 GAA, .929 SV%)
Best Win: vs #25 Virginia Tech, 1-0
Only Loss: at #24 Princeton, 3-2
Before we do anything else, we have to talk about Georgetown’s goalkeeping situation. I listed Allie Augur because she’s played the most minutes for the Hoyas so far this season, and she’s been great as you can see from her stats. She also hasn’t played in each of the Hoyas’ three most recent matches. Cara Martin has had the net for those contests, and Georgetown is 0-1-2. In Martin’s defense, GU didn’t give her a lead to protect in a 0-0 draw with James Madison, and the other two matches were the two toughest opponents they’ll see all season in Stanford (a 1-1 draw) and the aforementioned Princeton loss.
Is Georgetown good enough to win the league without Augur in net? Yeah, probably. Giving up three goals to Princeton probably tells us more about the Tigers than it does about Georgetown’s defense. Is it going to be harder to win without Augur if she remains out? Yeah, almost assuredly, unless the Hoyas start doing better than 1.13 goals per match.
Points Leader: Samantha Wiehe, 10 (4G, 2A)
Goals Leader: Samantha Wiehe & Shelby Sallee, 4
Assists Leader: Jane Olcott, 4
Keeper: Maria Galley (0.68 GAA, .842 SV%)
Best Win: vs #27 Pitt, 2-1
Worst Loss: at #62 Lamar, 1-0
Head coach Nate Lie probably wouldn’t want us to do it, but we can assign an asterisk to that loss to Lamar. XU’s Natalie Bain took a red card in the 58th minute, and that came immediately on the heels of Lamar’s keeper stopping a penalty kick. So yeah, they gave up a goal with just 10 women on the field and took a loss that’s not terrible given that’s 1) in the top 100 and 2) on the road. Not the worst thing ever.
The Pitt win is edging out a road win over #29 Saint Louis for the top spot on the chart, and Xavier’s 1-0 loss to #16 Illinois came in a match where the Musketeers outshot the Illini pretty handily. As long as Wiehe and Sallee keep sending in goals and Galley keeps stopping them, Xavier’s a legitimate contender for the league crown.
Points Leader: Abigail Santana, 8 (3G, 2A)
Goals Leader: Abigail Santana, 3
Assists Leader: Abigail Santana, 2
Keeper: Keelan Terrell (1.62 GAA, .735 SV%)
Best Win: vs #121 South Dakota State, 1-0
Worst Loss: at #29 Saint Louis, 4-1
Creighton has draws with #18 Nebraska, #73 Minnesota (a scoreless draw against a Gophers team that Marquette could not slow down), and #88 Drake, with the last one coming on the road. That kind of competition gets lost in the conversation about Best Win, and I wanted to make sure I pointed it out. That’s why the Bluejays are in contention for an NCAA tournament bid at this point of the year, even with just two wins to their name.
With that said, they got outscored 7-2 in their two losses this season, but the other one was against #10 Missouri. That’s left Creighton underwater in goals differential this season, and given the kind of defense that’s been shown by the top two teams on the list, I don’t know if the Bluejays have the firepower to put themselves in contention for a league title. But hey, that’s why they play the games.
Points Leader: Jessica Garziano, 16 (5G, 6A)
Goals Leader: Jessica Garziano, 5
Assists Leader: Jessica Garziano, 6
Keeper: Maria O’Sullivan (0.86 GAA, .700 SV%)
Best Win: vs #64 Harvard, 4-3
Only Loss: vs #89 Lehigh, 4-2
As we make the turn into Big East play, Jessica Garziano is the leader in points and assists in the league, and given the context (more on this later on), I think she’s the easy favorite for Offensive Player of the Year right now. With that said, Lauryn Tran’s making Garziano’s life a little easier. With three goals and four assists, the 5’2” Canadian midfielder is forcing defenses to try to look in two places at once, and that always opens up the field a little bit more.
It’s worth noting that 70% of the goals that St. John’s has allowed this season have come in their best win and worst loss. Those two scorelines make it look like the Johnnies have to get into shootouts to win, but if you look at Maria O’Sullivan’s goals-against average for the entire season, that’s just not the case. We also have to note that it was backup keeper Megan Sical allowing all four of those goals to Lehigh, so the Johnnies are undefeated with four shutouts when it’s O’Sullivan patrolling the net.
St. John’s has a fringe shot at an NCAA tournament bid since they’re hovering around that #50 RPI mark, but they’re going to have to steal a quality win to get there, I think.
Points Leader: Taylor Schad, 3 (1G, 1A)
Goals Leader: Five women tied with 1
Assists Leader: Five women tied with 1
Keeper: Mikki Easter (1.25 GAA, .771 SV%)
Best Win: at #66 Colorado, 1-0
Worst Loss: at #204 Illinois-Chicago, 3-0
This is a Marquette blog, so you know all the things about the Golden Eagles. We’ll keep it moving after noting that Taylor Schad is the only MU player to record a point in more than one match this season......
Points Leader: Kayla Briggs & Meg Hughes, 6
Goals Leader: Meg Hughes, 3
Assists Leader: Kayla Briggs, 4
Keeper: Emma Bodmer & Katherine McElroy
Best Win: vs #63 Brown, 1-0
Worst Loss: at #75 Rutgers, 1-0
Let’s address the goalie situation. Bodmer has started all seven matches, McElroy has played in all seven matches, both women have exactly 315 minutes played. They’re splitting the season directly down the middle, but McElroy has let in both goals that Providence has allowed this season. That means, yes, both of their losses are 1-0 defeats, with the other one coming against a top 40 Columbia team at home. I don’t think that’s a reason for head coach Sam Lopes to deviate from his plan so far this season, but it’s worth pointing out. As long as the Friars are doubling up opponents in shots on average, it’s probably going to mostly work out for them.
Then again, based on RPI alone, the Friars are on the fringe of qualifying for the Big East tournament. That’s not how these things are decided, but four sub-150 wins and two of them sub-250, it remains to be seen if Providence’s match control stands up to a Big East test.
Points Leader: Chioma Okafor, 9 (4G, 1A)
Goals Leader: Chioma Okafor, 4
Assists Leader: Four women tied with 1
Keeper: Kaitlyn Mahoney (0.57 GAA, .765 SV%)
Best Win: vs #135 Boston University, 2-0
Worst Loss: at #64 Harvard, 2-1
As we drop below #100 in the RPI, we move into the “hey, whatcha doin’?” department of our program. In UConn’s case, it’s mostly a case of scheduling, as they have three matches below #225 in the RPI on their books. That was brought deeply into focus when they went to a scoreless draw against #227 Army even though they had a 22-3 shot advantage and didn’t allow an official attempt for the final 16 minutes.
There are things to like about what Connecticut has done so far this season, but all four of their goals allowed have come against their four toughest opponents in the eyes of the RPI. With four Big East matches better than that Harvard loss yet to come this season and two more top 100 opponents, how will the Huskies deal with the jump up in competition?
Points Leader: Jackie Richards, 9 (4G, 1A)
Goals Leader: Jackie Richards and Makayla Stadler, 4
Assists Leader: Megan Donnelly, 3
Keeper: Payton Woodward (0.50 GAA, .818 SV%)
Best Win: at #193 Temple, 3-0
Shouts to the only undefeated team in the league! I doubt they’re thrilled to have more draws than wins, but it’s hard to argue with no losses.
With that said, they’re 3-0-0 against their three lowest ranked opponents with identical 3-0 scorelines to go with them. That’s nine of VU’s 13 goals scored this season, and that’s a troubling situation to be in. They’ve also only played one top 100 opponent, which is why they’re sub-100 themselves while still being unbeaten.... but they did go to a draw with that same Lehigh team that beat St. John’s. Villanova hasn’t really faced similar competition to what they’re going to see in league play, at least from an RPI perspective at this point of the year, so we’ll have to wait and see how long they can keep that zero in the loss column.
Points Leader: Norah Jacomen, 15 (7G, 1A)
Goals Leader: Norah Jacomen, 7
Assists Leader: Talia Sommer, 4
Keeper: Anna Pierce (0.92 GAA, .760 SV%)
Best Win: vs #39 TCU, 2-1
Worst Loss: at #101 Western Michigan, 1-0
Here’s where we pick up that Offensive Player of the Year conversation. Norah Jacomen is one point behind St. John’s Jessica Garziano for the league lead, and she’s currently tied for the league lead in goals (and we will come back to all of this again later, believe it or not). With that said, St. John’s looks like a contender for an NCAA tournament berth, while Butler has gone 1-2-0 against top 50 opponents and 1-3-0 against top 100 opponents. If the Bulldogs want to push Norah Jacomen into the conversation for OPOY, it’s going to take wins against the caliber of team that they’ve struggled to get results against to this point of the year. Something to watch in this department? Abigail Isger was the preseason Offensive Player of the Year, but she has just one goal and two assists so far after leading the league in points last season.
One thing to note, particularly as Marquette is scheduled to play Butler this weekend: Addie Marshall started and played all 90 minutes last time out against Ball State. Marshall has not been the #2 keeper this season, as it’s been Emma Martin coming in as relief for Anna Pierce three times. Was that just co-head coaches Tari St. John and Rob Alman getting some playing time for a redshirt freshman in a game that Butler should have felt comfortable winning (and they did, 4-0), or is there something else going on?
Points Leader: Ellie Mink, 6 (3G)
Goals Leader: Ellie Mink, 3
Assists Leader: Ebba Costow, 2
Keeper: Elena Milam (0.86 GAA, .867 SV%)
Best Win: at #65 Samford, 2-1
Worst Loss: vs #178 Loyola Chicago, 1-0
Two matches against top 100 competition, four matches against sub-200 competition, and a draw against the worst team that they’ve played this season. Yep, that’s a recipe for heading towards the back end of the RPI in the Big East.
Still, not losing is not losing, and DePaul comes into Thursday night’s league opener on a 4-1-1 run, as their loss to Alabama came in their opener. The loss to Loyola Chicago is a bit of a heartbreaker as the lone goal came in the 86th minute.... but also the Ramblers outshot the Blue Demons 24-4. They were trying to drag a scoreless draw across the finish line but just couldn’t do it. Just six women have managed even a single point this season, and one of DePaul’s seven goals on the year was an own goal. That’s not the kind of things you say about a potent offensive powerhouse.
Points Leader: Natalie Tavana, 15 (7G, 1A)
Goals Leader: Natalie Tavana, 7
Assists Leader: Sophie Liston, 4
Keeper: Morgan Fedosiewich (1.47 GAA, .656 SV%)
Best Win: #216 Central Connecticut State, 2-1
Worst Loss: vs #126 Lafayette, 4-1
And here, in the capsule for the lowest RPI team in the league, is the rest of the conversation about Offensive Player of the Year. Junior midfielder Natalie Tavana is tied with Butler’s Norah Jacomen for the second most points in the league, just one being St. John’s Jessica Garziano. Tavana is tied with Jacomen for the most goals in the league this season, and with just seven matches played, Tavana has the better goals per match average. If Seton Hall’s Big East record matches up to their current RPI ranking in the league, I do not believe that the coaches will even come close to considering Tavana for OPOY. To drive that point home: She has only scored in four games this season, tallying all of SHU’s goals in a 3-0 win over Binghamton and netting half of their strikes in a 4-0 win over Le Moyne. But she’s in the conversation right now. Tavana might even make Seton Hall better than their RPI shows, as she missed that loss to Lafayette in the season opener.
Yes, Seton Hall has a winning record right now. They’ve also only played one top 100 RPI match, a 2-1 loss at #45 Yale. They have played six sub-150 opponents, or six matches against opponents worse than anyone they’ll see in Big East play. They went to a draw with #254 Marist for their lone tie of the year so far, although in their defense, that was on the road. The point is: The Pirates might be in for a long season, especially given how their goalkeeping as gone through eight matches.