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PREVIEW: Gabriel leads women’s lacrosse after successful 2018 season

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PREVIEW: Gabriel leads women’s lacrosse after successful 2018 season

Photo by Jordan Johnson

Photo by Jordan Johnson

Photo by Jordan Johnson

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In 2018, Marquette women’s lacrosse made its first BIG EAST Tournament appearance in program history. This year, the team is hosting it and has high expectations.

“If we are playing here, obviously we would like to be in the Tournament as well,” senior Grace Gabriel said.

Following the loss of Allison Lane, Riley Hill and Alex Gambacorta to graduation, head coach Meredith Black has many defensive aspects of the game to work on with her relatively young team prior to their home opener Feb. 8.

“Losing Allison Lane is going to be the biggest impact,” Black said. “She was huge for us in terms of winning draws and being a great leader. Alex and Riley are also big losses.”

Marquette will likely rely heavily on Gabriel, a 5-foot-6 midfielder. She is the BIG EAST Preseason Offensive Player of the Year and Inside Lacrosse All-American.

“I put that to the side. (I’m) very team focused,” Gabriel said. “I’m lucky enough that I have received those, but I think right now the focus is definitely win a BIG EAST Championship.”

She was also a unanimous All-BIG EAST First Team selection the last two seasons and set single-season records in goals, points, draw controls and caused turnovers last season.

“She’s a great player, a great leader and a very humble player,” Black said. “The team can look to her and strive to be to her caliber in a lot of ways and I think that just pushes us each and every day.”

Gabriel started in every game last season and led the team with 56 goals, 134 shots, 107 draw controls and caused a team-high 31 turnovers. She also added 11 assists and 45 ground balls, but she won’t necessarily be dwelling on those feats.

“(I’m) definitely excited it’s my senior year,” Gabriel said. “We still haven’t won a BIG EAST Championship yet and this is my last year to help the team do that. … I don’t want to do it with any other team but this team.”

The Golden Eagles have a tough nonconference season with games against No. 20 Notre Dame, Louisville and No. 7 Northwestern. The Fighting Irish are returning several of their key contributors from 2018.

“I’m going to say (Notre Dame) will be our toughest opponent all year,” Black said. “(Notre Dame) being our first game without having any experience and we’re going against, which I think will be a top 10 team this year. … Opening weekend is going to be a bear.”

 

Attack

Black said the team’s attack has been particularly strong in the drive. Senior Cate Soccodato, graduate student Charlotte McGuire and Gabriel combined for 48 percent of the team’s goals last season and are anticipated to lead the team in offense again this season.

“Charlotte has had a lot of experience and been around the block and really knows this team and this program,” Black said.  “She brings a lot of energy, so she’s been great to have back.” 

Shea Garcia is one freshman that could have a big impact on the offense. Garcia, a 5-foot-5 attacker from Manhasset, New York, was the most valuable player of the state semifinal game in high school.

 

Midfield

Seven out of the 10 sophomores on this year’s team are midfielders, so Black said much of the midfield contributions will come from the sophomore class.

“Everything that we can get from those sophomores is a bonus,” Black said. “They can really step in, play hard, play good and it’s a great year to develop as a player.”

Madison Kane could be a particularly productive member of the sophomore class. Kane appeared in 16 games last season and scored two goals. 

 

Defense

One aspect of the team’s style of play they have been working on improving is defense across the field.

Defense has not necessarily been a strength for Marquette. In last year’s BIG EAST tournament debut, Marquette lost 19-8 against the University of Florida.

To improve on defense, Black said she thinks being more aggressive near Marquette’s goal would help solve the problem.

Laine Dolan, a 5-foot-5 senior from Glenview, Illinois, will lead the defense as one of the four captains. She played in 18 games last season and recorded 10 ground balls, won four draw controls and caused seven turnovers.

“Laine is intense,” Black said. “Laine is driven, is our hardest worker and will do whatever it takes to get the job done.”

Ellie Henry could make a difference as a freshman. The 5-foot-10 defender was a two-time All-American in high school. She also played on the Under Armour All-America Midwest Team as a sophomore.

Marquette has been focusing on transitions, winning draw controls and defense during the offseason, which would complete the team’s versatility.  

“These three areas will make or break the season,” Black said. “We need to be able to transition, take care of the ball offensively and slow down the other team defensively.”

 

Goalies

5-foot-4 junior Julianna Horning started in all 18 games in 2018 and made 153 saves on 203 attempts. Her 153 saves set a single season program record.

“As a goalie, (she’s) very composed, very mentally strong,” Black said. “She’s a very calming voice for that group.”

Horning earned a spot on the 2018 BIG EAST All-Tournament Team after setting a single-game BIG EAST Tournament record with 17 saves in the team’s semifinal loss to Florida.

Horning is the only junior captain. Black said it’s an advantage having a younger player step up into this leadership role.

“I think it’s exciting,” Horning said. “The three others are great mentors and phenomenal leaders on the field. The whole senior class, too, they’re such great leaders and they have this common goal that we’re all striving toward.”

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