WLAX motivated, ready for season to begin

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The Marquette women’s lacrosse team practices down at Valley Fields (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

Marquette’s 20-19 loss against the Cincinnati Bearcats Feb. 14 was the Golden Eagles’ first game in 11 months and three days.

The ninth season of the program will surely be an interesting one to watch unfold on and off the field as the team must deal with the restrictions that have been put in to place due to COVID-19.

Even though the squad was separated and could not be together, head coach Meredith Black credited her team’s ability to stay connected throughout their time apart to stay focused on preparing for the upcoming season during the pandemic.

“I am so proud of my team, they’ve been so committed since March … since that day they’ve been talking about this moment and (being) ready for this moment and they really never faltered from that,” Black said. “They really just controlled the controllables of continuing to work out on their own and stay in shape … another big thing they did was they stayed connected, even thought we were away from each other for so long as the rest of the world was too, our team stayed connected.”

Even with cautions always lurking, including a season potentially without fans and different rules to follow, senior attacker Caroline Steller is still excited to be back on the field to compete once again.

“I’m so excited, it’s kind of like a sense of normalcy because we haven’t played a real game,” Steller said. “We had an inter-squad scrimmage with refs, which was the realest we’ve been to a game in a while, and I think everyone is ready to get back out on to the field and compete.”

The team is returning all but two players from the 2020 season, including 11 of the team’s top 12 scorers. They also added 10 first-years to the roster.

Black, entering her ninth season as head coach, said it was great to bring back almost the entire team in addition to adding 10 first-year players.

Redshirt senior defender Erin Dowdle echoed those sentiments and said she was excited for the depth on the defense.

“It’s nice that we have a lot of people coming back because we have those connections already and we do have a lot of depth this year,” Dowdle said. “but having that comfortability of already playing together a lot for the most of us is really nice heading (into) the season.”

Beyond the defense, the team is also deep in net, spearheaded by the all-time program leader in saves and wins, redshirt senior Julianna Horning. Senior Sophia Leva also adds depth at the position after setting the single season record for save percentage in Marquette women’s lacrosse history last year, with a save percentage of .509.  

Black said that there is a plan on how to use both goalies this season to make sure they each have a chance to showcase their talents and help the team win.

“We are better when Jules (Horning) is playing and we’re better as a team when Sophia is playing, and the stinky part about it is that only one of them can play at once, but they are amazing,” Black said.

With the pandemic cutting last season short and the amount of players coming back, the seniors on the team selected a motto to live by: unfinished business.

Redshirt senior attacker Megan Menzuber said that those words drove her to come back for her fifth season, thanks to the NCAA allowing athletes an extra year of eligibility.

“It was a bummer and everyone was in the same position that our season got cancelled last year. (I) didn’t think this is what I would be doing this year, but it was too good of an opportunity to pass up and myself and the rest of the team — we just have unfinished business that we want to complete this year,” Menzuber said.

In this year’s BIG EAST Women’s Lacrosse Preseason Coaches’ Poll, the Golden Eagles were ranked fifth behind UConn, Villanova, Georgetown and Denver. Denver received all five first place votes in the poll.

Coach Black took the poll ranking as extra motivation for this season.

“If we were two or three … maybe even four, probably wouldn’t pay attention to it, but you put us at five (and) it’s gonna motivate us,” Black said. “It’s good, I love being in that position. I’d much rather be ranked five than ranked one heading into a preseason.”

With the shortened season, there was one thing that Menzuber did not get to do last year: win the BIG EAST Championship.

“I think we’re in the best place that we ever have been, this year, to do that so that’s what we wanna do,” Menzuber said.

This story was written by Jackson Gross. He can be reached at jackson.gross@marquette.edu or on Twitter @JacksonGross6.