Women’s lacrosse wins BIG EAST opener against Cincinnati

Prior to the season, Marquette women’s lacrosse set its sights on finishing in the top four of the BIG EAST Conference, which would qualify the Golden Eagles for their first-ever conference tournament.

Marquette (5-4, 1-0 BIG EAST) took the first step on that road with a 19-15 victory over the Cincinnati Bearcats (6-2, 0-1 BIG EAST) in the conference opener.

“This was a must-win game for the (tournament),” Marquette head coach Meredith Black said. “There’s only four that go and three of our opponents are ranked, so we’ve got to be able to win against as many of the unranked opponents in the BIG EAST as possible.”

Junior midfielder Grace Gabriel provided most of the early offense for Marquette, notching three of the team’s first four goals en route to a six-goal day. She now has 36 goals on the season, which ties her for third place on Marquette’s all-time list for goals scored in a season and puts her at pace to break Julianna Shearer’s all-time record of 60 goals sometime next month.

“Using my teammates, setting picks for them and having them set picks for me works,” Gabriel said. “It’s all about teamwork.”

A goal from Riley Hill gave Marquette a 4-3 lead with 20:46 left in the half, but Cincinnati quickly rallied with a 4-1 run. Sophomore midfielder McKenna Rushford was the primary threat on offense for the Bearcats, scoring one of those four goals and assisting another two goals.

Cincinnati could not muster a lead greater than 8-6, which came after a goal with 8:18 left in the first half. After that, Marquette fired four goals in a row to take a 10-8 halftime lead, which the Golden Eagles held onto for the rest of the afternoon.

“It was a battle,” Black said. “It was not easy. I’m not on the field but I felt like that was probably the hardest game we’ve had to play.”

There may have been even more goals for the Golden Eagles were it not for strong early goalie play from Cincinnati’s Giuliana Durso, who recorded eight saves in the first half. Marquette found the antidote to Durso in the second, scoring on nine of 12 shots on goal.

Sophomore Sam Mlkvy led Cincinnati in scoring with four goals. Sophomore Monica Borzillo, Cincinnati’s points leader coming into the game, was relatively quiet, tallying only two goals and one assist.

Senior Allison Lane and attackers Riley Hill and Megan Menzuber all had hat tricks.

The Golden Eagles will travel to Pennsylvania Saturday for a game against the Villanova Wildcats before coming home March 31 to take on the Temple Owls.