A spot in the Big East Tournament championship will be on the line when Marquette takes on Notre Dame Friday at 11 a.m. in East Hartford, Conn.
The Golden Eagles are trying to advance to the championship for the first time since 2009, when they lost to the Fighting Irish.
Notre Dame enters Friday’s match at 13-4-2 including an 8-1-1 mark in Big East play.
“Over the last eight years, it’s been us and Notre Dame as to who has been the most successful in conference play,” coach Markus Roeders said. “I think Notre Dame is still the measuring stick for other teams based on what they’ve done in the Big East and beyond.”
Marquette hasn’t played Notre Dame this year, but the teams split a pair of meetings last year, with the Fighting Irish knocking off the Golden Eagles in the Big East Tournament for the fourth time since Marquette joined the league in 2005.
There have been talks of a “down” year for Notre Dame, but that’s not the case whatsoever. The team’s four losses included three on the road against Wisconsin, Washington and Georgetown and a home loss to North Carolina. The two draws came against Rutgers and Portland.
“We’ve had our fair share of battles with them, and at some point in time you always know that if you’re going to try to climb the mountaintop, you’re going to face them,” Roeders said. “If they weren’t around we wouldn’t be thinking about them, but since they’re our next opponent, we’ll embrace whatever comes our way and take it from there.”
Offensively, Notre Dame lost All-American forward Melissa Henderson to graduation but has gotten eight goals from freshman forward Crystal Thomas and features four players who have scored five goals.
The Irish rank third in the conference in points per game (5.68), goals per game (2.05), assists per game (1.58) and goals allowed per game (0.74).
“Notre Dame has always been a great passing team, so it will be tough for us on defense to anticipate that, and their runs off the ball have been great in the past,” junior defender Katie Hishmeh said. “So we’re going to have to stay really tight and communicate in the back to make sure we pick up those runs and make sure our possession is better than theirs.”
The Golden Eagle defense will have to make sure it marks sophomore forward Lauren Bohaboy, who isn’t afraid to let it rip on offense. Bohaboy has only scored five times, but her 62 shots rank her fifth in the conference, and she has scored three game-winning goals.
Like Marquette, Notre Dame has started a freshman goalkeeper recently, with Elyse Hight appearing in 12 games, including 11 starts after incumbent sophomore Sarah Voigt was replaced after eight starts.
Hight has allowed six goals in those 11 starts and her 0.55 goals against average ranks her third in the conference behind the Golden Eagles’ Amanda Engel (0.53) and Georgetown’s Emma Newins (0.54). Hight’s .870 save percentage is the best mark in the Big East.
Both goalkeepers will be facing a new opponent for the first time, something Engel says could work to her advantage.
“I just take it game by game and just play my own game and not pay attention to who we’re playing,” Engel said. “I just focus on mentally preparing myself and taking it as it comes.”
After a disappointing finish in the conference tournament last year, Roeders is happy the team is back where it belongs in the Final Four.
“It doesn’t get old,” Roeders said. “I think the goal for these seniors is to go a little bit further than they have before.”