Juicing the cage: Horning’s recent success for women’s lacrosse comes down to confidence


Photo by Wire Stock Photo

Julianna Horning has been in goal for over 81 percent of Marquette’s total minutes this season.

Sometimes, a team’s key players get discovered by accident.

That’s what happened in the case of women’s lacrosse’s sophomore goalie Julianna “Jules” Horning. Head coach Meredith Black initially discovered Horning in her hometown of Berwyn, Pennsylvania, when she scouted one of Horning’s teammates at a high school game. She had no idea that Horning would be the player to impress her most.

“Immediately after the first time I saw her play, I reached out to the coach and was like, ‘Is she available?’ and she was,” said Black. “From then on, it was easy to do the best I could to get her to come out here.”

Horning first picked up a lacrosse stick in second grade but had some experience in goalkeeping from soccer. As she progressed into middle school, Horning got more experience in the cage.

“I was able to (tend goal) and then at one point they were like, ‘You’re really good at this,’” Horning said.

Once Horning committed to Marquette, she was thrown into the thick of things immediately, appearing in all 13 games of her freshman campaign and starting nine of them. In her final game of the season against Vanderbilt, Horning made 15 saves, still a career-high.

There was a problem on that freshman team, though: Horning had the same first name as leading goal-scorer Julianna Shearer. To avoid confusion between the two Juliannas, Black came up with a new nickname: Juice.

“She walked in one day and said, ‘Well, my mom used to call me Juice,’ so it has stuck — at least with me,” Black said. “It’s basically all I call her. Even calling her Jules now is weird.”

There is no mention of the name Jules on game days. Instead, every time the opposition gets a free position shot, which puts them one-on-one with Horning, Black calls out “here we go, Juice” or “big save now, Juice.”

Horning didn’t have to make anywhere near as many big saves in Marquette’s 13-11 victory against Vanderbilt Saturday as she did in last year’s game. However, she had to anticipate some unpredictable shots from a Commodores’ attack that places in the top 15 in the country in goals per game.

It was a stark difference from Horning’s freshman year, when Marquette ranked ninth out of 10 BIG EAST teams in goals allowed. Horning let up 14.47 goals per game, almost two more goals per game than her mark this season. Though many of those goals weren’t Horning’s fault, having such a rough year made it difficult to play with confidence.

“The mental part of the game is a big part, especially as a goalie because your mistakes are highlighted by the other team scoring a goal,” Horning said.

Horning’s gameday attitude is especially crucial against ranked opponents that consistently put the ball in the net, such as Johns Hopkins or Northwestern.

“Everyone has off days where you aren’t playing as well as you want to,” Horning said. “(I reassure myself) by going in with that (positive mindset) and just knowing that our team is capable of being successful.”

Black saw Horning’s strong personality early-on in her career, but the trick was to bring that confidence to the surface. That’s why Black stopped all stylistic and mechanical changes to Horning’s game in fall ball, a nine-game September and October scrimmage series against other Midwest teams. Once the regular season started, Black intentionally dialed down her coaching because she didn’t want Horning overthinking her position.

“My philosophy on goalie coaching in season is to stand back and don’t say much because it is such a mental position,” Black said. “Our biggest focus for her in season is to just play and let go of mistakes.”

The ability to move on from mistakes has allowed Horning to exude the confidence and mentality coach Black has discussed all season with her team.

“She’s always so happy and has a great attitude, and she’s really smart,” Black said. “Everything she does is so well thought out, and the kid always has a smile on her face.”

As long as the team in front of her keeps up their strong play, Horning will keep that smile on her face.

“When the people in front of me are playing well, it makes me more confident and excited to play,” Horning said.