Hello and welcome to the 12th season (and season opener) for Marquette women’s lacrosse!
This is a special kind of season opener for the Golden Eagles, as it’s the first time Marquette is coming off a season that ended with a trip to the NCAA tournament. It’s also the first time ever that MU is starting a season earning votes in the preseason IWLCA/Inside Lacrosse top 25 poll. Given how much that Marquette is replacing on the offensive end — the top two point scorers in program history and the career assists leader — it’s a little bit shaky as to whether or not the Golden Eagles are going to be able to recreate the success that they saw a year ago.
But they do have returning players on the offensive end that know what they’re doing, including Meg Bireley, who is coming off one of the 10 best scoring seasons in program history and maybe the most underrated scoring season in program history at that. The defensive end of the field is loaded with familiar faces who played notable minutes a year ago, and that includes Brynna Nixon in net. If head coach Meredith Black did the work of establishing what she wants her program to be last season, then the third 10 win season in program history is in sight. It’s just a matter of plugging in new faces to the roles that are established already and letting them prosper.
With that in mind, we’re probably going to learn a whole lot about Marquette right out of the gate on Sunday. MU might have some established scorers, but they’re going to need more than just one woman to step up next to Bireley, Tess Osburn, Leigh Steiner, and Hannah Greving as the core four. The starting lineup itself might help answer those questions, much less what actually happens on the first few possessions.
Game #1: vs Cincinnati Bearcats (0-0)
Date: Sunday, February 11, 2024
Time: Noon Central
Location: Andy Glockner Memorial Bubble, Valley Fields, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWLax
Marquette is 8-3 all time against Cincinnati. The two teams have met in every single season of MU’s existence as a program, including Year 1 as an independent, five times as members of the Big East, and in 2020 before the season was brought to a halt by the pandemic. The Golden Eagles have won each of the last two meetings, including 19-13 last season in Ohio. Marquette has never lost to the Bearcats in Milwaukee.
The loss to Marquette a year ago was part of an 11-7 season for Cincinnati. It was actually their first loss of the season after a 3-0 start with some pretty lopsided scores. The Bearcats ended up going 3-3 in American Athletic Conference play and their season came to an end against a great James Madison squad in the AAC tournament semifinals.
This year, which will be their last in the AAC before the Big 12 begins sponsoring the sport, Cincinnati was picked to finish fourth. More accurately, they were picked in a tie for fourth with East Carolina. It’s a seven team league dominated by James Madison and Florida with Old Dominion the clear last place squad, so it’s hard to make any serious statement about the Bearcats from this information.
However, Cincinnati is returning their top four scorers from last season. All four scored at least 26 goals, led by Camryn Callaghan’s 55, and three of them had at least 12 assists as well. Ava Goeller and Kyle Gioia tied for the team lead in assists a year ago with 16. Lauren Ottensmeyer is the one left unsaid here, but she had 37 goals to go with five assists last season. Callaghan had eight of UC’s 13 goals against Marquette a year ago, so clearly the game plan has to be centered around slowing her down. She didn’t even have one free position attempt in there, so MU can’t even write that kind of scoring off that way.
Callaghan and Goeller were on the preseason all-AAC team, but they were joined there by Dani Mlkvy as well. She was a unanimous selection to that squad after leading the AAC in draw controls a year ago. Her 6.33 per game was 18th best in the country and Mlkvy had eight of Cincy’s 14 controls a year ago against Marquette.
It looks like we can expect to see the same starting goalie last year’s game as well. Marquette buried 11 goals in 34 minutes against Ashley Lapp in Ohio last season before she was pulled, but Lapp carried most of the workload the rest of the way. She started all 17 games and played over 970 minutes while allowing less than 11 goals per 60 minutes played. MU is going to be trying to answer some offensive questions along the way in this game, so it will be interesting to see if they can recreate the kind of success they had against Lapp again.