Women’s soccer faces tough home test in No. 16 Kansas

Photo by Valeria Cardenas/valeria.cardenas@marquette.edu
Photo by Valeria Cardenas/[email protected]

The Marquette women’s soccer team returns to Valley Fields for an extended stay, but will face its toughest test of the home stretch in its first game.

The Golden Eagles will play four straight home games, and the first is against No. 16 Kansas.

The Jayhawks started the season outside the Top-25, but eight straight victories have Kansas moving up the rankings quickly. While Kansas does not have any lopsided victories, the Jayhawks are more than a formidable opponent for the Golden Eagles.

Kansas is led by junior midfielder Liana Salazar. Salazar started all eight games for the Jayhawks, and has 13 points on the young season. She has netted six goals on 27 shots, good for a solid .222 shooting percentage. She has not scored in her last three games, but she will still be a very potent threat to the Golden Eagle defense.

Following Salazar in scoring is senior forward Ali Kimura with 10 points, junior forward Ashley Williams with seven and freshman forward Lois Heuchan with six.  All four have more points than Marquette’s points leader, junior midfielder Jacie Jermier, who has five on the season. Kansas has a lethal offense, even if it does not put up large numbers. The Golden Eagles will have to try to contain the Jayhawk offense, but it may just be easier to try to break down the defense.

Penetrating the Jayhawk defense will be a difficult task. Marquette benefits from having the ability the get goals from anyone on the pitch, but Kansas benefits from being able to stop nearly any shot. Through their eight games, the Jayhawks have only allowed four goals and have four shutouts. Senior goalkeeper Kaitlyn Stroud has posted more than 200 minutes of scoreless soccer, and will be a challenge for Marquette to get a shot past.

Even though the Golden Eagles fell to No. 12 Texas A&M Sunday, the game prepared Marquette for the similar quality of opponent it will face in Kansas. Marquette was able to hold the Aggies to a scoreless first half, and it is not out of the question for the team to be able to do the same against the Jayhawks. Marquette keeper Amanda Engel set a career-high for saves against the Aggies, and she could set another career-high against Kansas. Marquette will be able to hang with the Jayhawks as long as the defensive breakdowns do not happen once again.

Marquette has had a rough non-conference schedule so far, and Kansas will be another tough test. But with four home games in a row, a quality game against Kansas could start to right the ship.