Women’s Soccer Season Preview

Ever since the Marquette Women’s Soccer team entered the BIG EAST, they’ve been a force to be reckoned with.  They’re currently the reigning American Division champions and have won the division the past three years.  They have bolstered one of the highest powered offenses in the country and their defense has been one of the stingiest in all of the NCAA.

The program has made household names of Natalie Kulla and Kerry McBride.  The tandem has been arguably two of the best to grace the Marquette “Family”, both on and off of the field.  However, this year, both McBride and Kulla have been lost to graduation and it’s a new year for some “veteran” players.

A few familiar faces will take the spots of the both Kulla and McBride.  Sophomore Sofie Schunk will get the nod in goal this year; and Preseason BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year Ally Miller will try to fill the role of McBride the only way she knows, by stopping the opponents’ offensive attack.

With the departure of West Virginia from the BIG EAST, the Golden Eagles are poised to repeat as American Division Champions for a fourth consecutive year.

However, the Golden Eagles have some stiff competition this year.  Their non-conference schedule is heavily loaded with some of the best teams in the ACC.  The fireworks will come early and often.

Here are five games to keep your eyes on this year.

 

#1: August 19, 2012 vs. Florida State @ Valley Fields. 

Florida State record in 2011: 18-7-1 (including a 3-1 win vs. Marquette)

This is a big one.  It’s only the second game of the season, but Marquette has one thing on their mind: revenge.  The past two seasons, the Golden Eagles have lost to Florida State.  Last year in early September, even after MU out-shot Florida 12-6, they still fell 3-1.  The lone goal came from Britney Scott (who is no longer with the team).  However, the game was closer than the score might indicate.  Head coach Markus Roeders said, “[It] came down to inches and missed opportunities”.

A season earlier, Florida State bested Marquette in the Sweet 16 by a final score of 3-0.  Once again, Marquette out-shot the Seminoles 16-12, but still came up on the short end of the stick.

Although Marquette won’t be facing the same Florida State team as in years past, psychologically, this is still a big game.  The Seminoles boast 12 freshman and they’ll be without some of their perennial offensive threats of seasons past, (Janice Cayman and Tori Huster).  Yet, Marquette will still have to deal with offensive dynamo Tiffany McCarty, who tallied 18 goals and 6 assists last year (42 points – two points higher than Maegan Kelly’s 40 of last season).

Marquette will also have to break the back line of the Florida State defense and eventually put the ball past goal keeper Kelsey Wys.  In 180 minutes of play against Florida State, the Golden Eagles have only scored once on Wys.

In only the second game of the season, this is a good measuring mark to see where Marquette is as a team.  Should they beat Florida State at home, it has the potential to be a big confidence booster to carry Marquette into the season.

 

#2: August 24, 2012 vs. Milwaukee @ Valley Fields

Miwaukee’s record in 2011: 19-3 (including a 1-0 loss vs. Marquette)

It doesn’t get much easier does it?  After a tough opponent in Florida State comes to town, the battle of Milwaukee commences on a massive Friday night at the Valley. Prior to the women’s game at 8:30, the Marquette men’s squad will take on Milwaukee earlier in the evening.

In front of a packed house at Engelmann Stadium last season, in double overtime, Maegan Kelly’s chip past Milwaukee goal keeper Jamie Forbes in the 109th minute got Marquette past Milwaukee 1-0.  It was a defining moment of the 2011 Marquette season, and it was only the one of the three losses that Milwaukee would suffer all season long.

Marquette’s back-line of defense held one of the most prolific scores in Milwaukee history (Sarah Hagen, who had 26 goals last year) to just two shots, none on goal.  Thankfully for Marquette, Hagen is gone to graduation, but Milwaukee is still expected to be the class of the Horizon league, as they’ve been picked 1st for the 13th consecutive year.

The Golden Eagles are currently tied with the Panthers 7-7-6 in the all-time series, and with this game, hopefully somebody will break that tie.

 

#3: September 3, 2012 vs. Central Michigan @ Valley Fields.

Central Michigan’s record in 2011: 15-3-3

It’s your typical great offense vs. great defense battle.  This matchup between a BIG EAST powerhouse and a solid program from the MAC is sure to be game that will go down to the wire.

Last season, the Chippewas allowed only two goals in the 2nd half all year long.  They also held opponents to only nine goals in 21 games.  Although the offense wasn’t incredible, it still presented a formidable group, as the team had 12 different players score an offensive goal, and six of the 12 had at least three goals or more.

The back-line of the Megan Jaskowiak, Kate Hishmeh, Ally Miller and company will have their hands full of an offense that has many different options on offense.

Also, the offensive attack of Maegan Kelly, Taylor Madigan, Rachel Sloan and company will have to deal with one of the best defenses in the MAC.  It’ll be a matchup of strength vs. strength when these two teams tussle at the Valley on Monday September 3rd.

 

#4: September 9, 2012 vs. Duke @ Koskinen Stadium (Duke)

Duke’s record in 2011: 22-4-1

Location, location, location.

This one is a tall order.  Duke is a team that went an undefeated 14-0 at home last season and was 90 minutes away from becoming national champions.  The Blue Devils lost to Stanford in the championship game 1-0.  By season’s end Duke finished in 5/3 in the NCAA.

Statistically, both Marquette and Duke bolster two of the best offenses in the country.  Last year 18 different Golden Eagles found the back of the net, and Marquette scored 52 times.  On the other hand, the Blue Devils had 13 different people score and as a team, they scored 55 times.

Duke has a three headed monster with offensive threats Kelly Cobb, Kaitlyn Kerr and Laura Weinberg who combined for 30 goals in last season’s campaign, (11, 11, and 8 respectively).  All three of those offensive stars return to Duke this season.

On the flip side, Duke’s defense only allowed 13 goals in 27 games last year.  Marquette’s defense allowed 17 goals in 22 games.  Both teams have very solid defenses as well as offenses that can challenge some of the best defenders in the game.

Once again, much like the matchup with Central Michigan, this is a strength vs. strength matchup.  Should Marquette go on the road and beat Duke in Koskinen Stadium, this team can beat anybody in the country.

 

#5: September 30, 2012 vs. Louisville @ Valley Fields

Louisville record in 2011: 14-7-3 (including a 1-0 loss vs. Marquette)

With the untimely exit of West Virginia from the BIG EAST American division, the competition isn’t exactly “steep” for Marquette.  On paper, it looks like Connecticut will be Marquette’s biggest challenge in the division…and that doesn’t say much.

Last year the Huskies finished 7-8-2 and had a losing record in conference play.  With that being said, a cross conference battle with Louisville looks to be Marquette’s most difficult “BIG EAST” matchup.

Last season, Taylor Madigan’s goal five minutes into the contest was all MU needed to gain a win at Cardinal Stadium in Louisville.  The stout Golden Eagle defense allowed only one shot on goal in 90 minutes.  Marquette owns the all-time series lead 14-6-1 and has beaten the Cardinals the last three times.

On paper, the Louisville offense won’t exactly blow you away.  They scored only three goals or more in only three of their 24 matches (5 vs. EKU, 3 vs. Villanova and 3 vs. Seton Hall).  However, with that being said, they’re a consistent offense and you know what to get from them on a day to day basis.

 

David Tukesbrey, WMUR Assistant Sports Director