Marquette Wire

Strength starts at the back

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Photo courtesy of Marquette Images

Despite the loss of four starters, including All-Big East forward Ashley Bares, the expectations for this year’s Marquette women’s soccer team remain extremely high.

Bares, defender Lauren Thut, and midfielders Julia Victor and Rosie Malone-Povolny departed from a 2010 squad that went 16-5-3 overall, including 11-0-0 in Big East play, and reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

This year’s strength is in the backline, particularly the four defenders and goalkeeper in coach Markus Roeders’ scheme.

The backline is led by preseason All-American senior defender Kerry McBride, as well as reigning Big East Goalkeeper of the Year senior Natalie Kulla.

“As a defense, we do pride ourselves on not giving up goals and playing tough and backing each other up,” McBride said.

The defensive strength has shown through in the first four games. As Marquette has allowed only one goal while beginning the season 4-0-0.

Although Marquette went undefeated in league play last year, it was picked to finish second in the American Division of the Big East this year, behind West Virginia.

The Golden Eagles travel to Morgantown, W.V., on Sept. 18 and host Notre Dame – the defending national champion, who was picked to finish first in the National Division of the Big East on – Sept. 25.

“We always seem to do well as an underdog, so I don’t mind that people keep making us prove ourselves,” Kulla said. “With Notre Dame, it’s going to be great that we are going to play them in the regular season, and I think we are going to really compete this year.”

Aside from the marquee conference matchups, the Golden Eagles travel to No. 7/10 Florida State on Friday, to take on the team that ended their 2010 season, as well as traveling across town on Sept. 7 to face a No. 22/20 Wisconsin-Milwaukee team that is gaining national recognition with its 4-0-0 start to the season.

One area that Marquette does not get enough recognition in is on offense, where it returns sophomore forward Maegan Kelly (18 points, 7 goals, 4 assists), an All-Big East Rookie Team member last year, as well as senior forward Rachael Sloan, who garnered All-Big East honors last year (16 points, 7 goals, 2 assists).

Expect the Golden Eagles to pepper their opponents with plenty of shots on goal, having already sent 33 on net in four games (8.25 shots per game). Also expect those goals to come from a variety of different players.

“For us to have multiple goal scorers, it’s great not to have to rely on one person to score every game,” Roeders said. “They have the confidence that they can score and I believe that every player on the field can either provide an assist or score a goal at any time.”

If there was any thought that such versatility could cause a problem with playing the right players at the right time, Roeders doesn’t see it.

“I don’t know what it’s going to be like (with playing time), but we don’t concern ourselves with who is starting and who is playing how many minutes,” Roeders said. “(Versatility) has been and will continue to be a strength of our program, and everybody buys into it.”

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