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WLax Preview: Qualifying for BIG EAST Tournament clear focus

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WLax Preview: Qualifying for BIG EAST Tournament clear focus

Julianna Shearer is a preseason All-BIG EAST selection.

Julianna Shearer is a preseason All-BIG EAST selection.

Julianna Shearer is a preseason All-BIG EAST selection.

Julianna Shearer is a preseason All-BIG EAST selection.

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Coach: Meredith Black (fifth season)

2016 Record: 7-10 (fourth in BIG EAST)

Key Departures: M Hayley Baas, G Sarah Priem, D Kayce Haverstick, D Elizabeth Goslee

Players to watch: A Julianna Shearer, M Alison Lane, A Claire Costanza, D Fran Meyer

Overview: Women’s lacrosse is coming off a record-setting 2016 season when the team broke program records for victories and conference wins. The Golden Eagles finished in a three-way tie in BIG EAST play and almost reached postseason play for the first time, but came up short due to a BIG EAST tiebreaker rule.

This roster is returning plenty of offensive firepower with senior attacker Julianna Shearer and junior midfielder Alison Lane. Both Shearer and Lane earned Preseason ALL-BIG EAST honors after having breakout seasons in 2016. Marquette also will receive an offensive boost from attacker Claire Costanza, who missed the entire 2016 season due to injury.

The Golden Eagles were picked to finish sixth in the BIG EAST Preseason Coaches’ Poll. Nationally-ranked Florida was unanimously selected to three-peat while Connecticut and Georgetown rounded out the top three. Despite their sixth place selection, Black remains confident the team will reach the BIG EAST tournament.

“It’s our goal to achieve, it’s in our own hands and we don’t have to depend on anyone else,” Black said.

Attackers/Midfielders: Marquette finished fourth in both goals and assists last year in their conference. The team set multiple all-time program records offensively beginning with Julianna Shearer, who set the single season program record for goals (36).

Alison Lane will lead the midfield after her breakout sophomore season. The junior from New Jersey has scored in 20 consecutive games dating back to 2015 and hopes to continue that streak. If 2016 team assists leader Amanda Bochniak and sophomores Cate Soccodato and Grace Gabriel are thrown in, the Golden Eagles should have plenty of players capable of producing offensively.

Perhaps the biggest addition to the team will be the return of Costanza, who currently has a program-leading 129 points in her career.

“She’s the type of player that just gets it done,” Black said. “She has so much experience and knowledge for the game so having that around is great.”

Defense: Defensively, Marquette will look different after losing longtime starters Elizabeth Goslee and Kayce Haverstick. The team will be anchored by senior Fran Meyer, the lone returning starter from last season. Look for junior Alex Gambacorta to fill in one of the defensive starting roles after appearing in all 17 games last season. Historically, the team has always been strong on defense. If the Golden Eagles want to continue that success, then new players will have to step up.

“We have some strong underclassmen looking to come in and help us out,” Black said. “I still think our defense, as always, will be a strong point for us.”

Goalie: The biggest unknown entering the 2017 season will be who will start in goal for the team. Marquette lost its longtime starter Sarah Priem and reliable backup Emma Salter. The team now has two goalies on its roster: junior Molly Grozier and freshman Jules Horning. Grozier has only appeared in one game, making her collegiate debut last year in a 17-4 win over Central Michigan. Horning is a decorated high school player from Pennsylvania where she led her team to league and state titles.

“We have two great goalies on the team so we’ll see what we do with them,” Black said.

It’s clear both are competing for a starting role, as Black said it’s still undecided who will start Friday against Louisville. This will be one of the interesting storylines to keep an eye on throughout the year.

Schedule: Feb. 10 vs. Louisville, Feb. 14 at Notre Dame, Feb. 18 vs. Johns Hopkins, Feb. 23 at Central Michigan, Feb. 28 at Kennesaw State, March 5 at Colorado, March 11 at Northwestern, March 16 at California, March 18 at Cincinnati, March 25 at Temple, April 1 vs. Villanova, April 5 vs. Florida, April 8 at Denver, April 12 at UConn, April 15 vs. Georgetown, April 22 vs. Butler, April 30 at Vanderbilt, May 4-6 BIG EAST Tournament

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