Sloan sets pace up top for Marquette

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Rachael Sloan, the sophomore forward and leading scorer for the Marquette women’s soccer team, is fast.

But in soccer, like in every sport, physical ability can only get an athlete so far. There was perhaps no better example of this than the first few minutes of the Golden Eagles’ 3-0 victory against Seton Hall Sunday afternoon.

Sloan got the ball on the run and blew past the last Seton Hall defender. But while every step put more space between her and the defender she just burnt, Sloan also flew closer to the Pirates’ goalkeeper. By trying to keep possession without slowing down, Sloan knocked the ball farther in front of her than she intended, allowing the opposing keeper to grab the ball and put an end to the excitement.

It’s something the team had seen before, and it’s what coach Markus Roeders and his staff are working on with Sloan — teaching her to toe the line between her supreme athleticism and being overly ambitious.

“I think over distance, she can use her pace,” Roeders said. “The problem is that you don’t always want to come around the defender; you have to use your skills and expertise. It can’t always be a horserace.”

Not that Sloan wouldn’t win in a horserace.

It’s that second gear that allows her to consistently beat defenders to the ball on long runs and helps Marquette put continual pressure on opposing defenses. Some games she can be a terror for defenders to deal with (see her seven shot, six shots on goal performance against Pittsburgh Sept. 27).

But in some games, her reliance on speed doesn’t necessarily lead to quality shots or points for her team (see Marquette’s 26 shot, 11 shots on goal, zero goal performance against that same Pittsburgh team).

“I have to realize sometimes trying to beat people with my speed isn’t going to work every time,” Sloan said. “I need to start using more skill.”

When Sloan combines her speed with the skill she has developed in her second season with the team, she makes for a dangerous player in the front for the Golden Eagles (see Marquette’s first goal Sunday).

Shortly after Sloan’s horserace hiccup, junior defender Lauren Thut served the ball upfield and it slipped past sophomore forward Lindsey Page, as well as her defender. Sloan sped toward the loose ball, maneuvered past the helpless Pirates goalkeeper and fired one into the net.

With Sloan setting the pace, the Golden Eagles were much more efficient against Seton Hall than in previous games. In the first half, Marquette had just three shots on goal, which resulted in three goals.

That kind of efficiency was what the Golden Eagles lacked in their three previous contests as they combined for 58 shots, 22 shots on goal, but just one total goal in games against West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Rutgers.

“I feel like in every game we are outworking teams, and we’re just not getting the ball in the back of the net,” said senior midfielder Kelly Wepking, who had the second of Marquette’s three goals.

“We’re trying to do something different to get our goals so that it’s representative of all the hard work we’re putting in.”

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