PREVIEW: Women’s lacrosse optimistic amid difficult last seasons struggles

Marquette+womens+lacrosse+was+picked+to+finish+fifth+in+the+BIG+EAST+Preseason+Coaches+Poll.+

Photo by Collin Nawrocki

Marquette women’s lacrosse was picked to finish fifth in the BIG EAST Preseason Coaches Poll.

Even though the Marquette women’s lacrosse team ended the 2021 season with a sweep of the Butler Bulldogs, the Golden Eagles finished 7-9 overall and missed out on the BIG EAST tournament for the second year in a row.

Between COVID-19 and four one-goal losses, head coach Meredith Black characterized the season in one word: difficult.

“It’s frustrating, it’s hard, and it was long, and it was tiring, but you grow from those experiences, so I think there is a lot of positives that came out of last year,” Black said.

Now heading into the 2022 season with 11 new players, including nine first-year players, Black said the mindset has already begun to change.

“From the minute we started this season in May, we had the positive mentality of we’re gonna learn from those things that were hard and frustrating, we’re going to get better, grow, come out on top and overcome challenges,” Black said.

Junior midfielder Emma Soccodato said out of her three years with the program this is the most hustle-driven team she has been part of.

“If we can stay consistent with that, we’re gonna surprise a lot of teams,” Soccodato said. “We’re usually the underdog in some big games, which I personally love but I think if we stay hungry we’re gonna show up big time.”

For junior defender Ellie Henry, the goal for this team is clear: win a BIG EAST Championship.

“(There’s) no if, ands or buts,” Henry said. “We’ve put in the hard work since the beginning, we’ve ran harder, conditioned harder, we’ve held each other to a higher standard than ever before and I think a lot of that comes from our upperclassmen. We know what we want and we’ve tried to instill that into the underclassmen as well.”

Attack  

After the graduation of four of their top eight scorers from last season, the team will rely on junior Hannah Greving to help speed up the offense and get things started as she scored 21 goals in 16 games last season. 

“The fall was really hard for us, but in a good way,” Greving said. “That’s prepared us well. Pretty early in the season we will have good competition. We are all pretty excited,” Greving said. 

Greving said the new faces on the team have added one particular advantage for the offense. Now, players are always trying out new positions, which can make it harder to be scouted by other teams.”

“It’s created more diversity,” Greving said. “Last year, people kind of just had their one spot. It’s allowed me and a lot of others to play different positions in our offense. I’m usually the floater inside of the middle of the eight but it’s allowed me to go more behind the crease and push some crease players up top.” 

Black said this change has put some into roles that may be uncomfortable or out of position.

“It has given them confidence that they are able to do more than they thought,” Black said. “There is definitely a learning curve to that, but at the same time hopefully in the long run it pays off.” 

Outside of Greving, returning senior Shea Garcia and graduate student transfer Kyra Lamotte round out the attack. 

Black said Lamotte brings “a lot of experience” to the unit after a four-year career at Furman University, scoring 108 goals in 55 games for the Paladins.

“She has been one of those people that is being pushed to play a different role than she has really ever played before and she is doing great with that,” Black said.  

Midfield

Marquette returns 10 midfielders from a year ago while adding five first-years to the unit this season.

With a lot of depth at the position, Black said it has created both competition and additional effort from everyone.

“People are recognizing everybody’s strengths and they’re trying to use them,” Black said. “It’s an all-in team effort to try and maximize everyone’s strengths. It’s created a lot more competitiveness at practice, a bit of depth chart competition, which is good (and) where you want to be.”

Senior Lydia Foust, who earned a unanimous selection to the Preseason All-BIG EAST Team, leads the unit.

“That was a huge honor for me and it just makes me more excited going into these first few games,” Foust said. “I definitely just want to continue to do what I was doing last season and hopefully just improve on everything else as well.”

Foust will be joined by newly minted captains Soccodato and redshirt sophomore Leigh Steiner.

Steiner had 17 goals and 27 points in 16 games last season for Marquette, while Soccodato finished with nine goals and three assists.

“I love that we are a new, fresh team with a lot of young people, but it does bring a sense of comfort having them (Foust and Steiner) by my side for the whole process and the connections off the field with those two play a major role in how we play together, and I think it’s great,” Soccodato said.

Beyond those top three, Steiner said junior CJ (Carrie) Froemming and first-years Elise Smigiel and Meg Bireley are ones to keep an eye on this season.

Defense 

With just two returning starters on the defensive end, the Golden Eagles will look for some new faces to fill holes in the starting lineup.

Junior and two-time captain Ellie Henry will lead Marquette’s defense once again this year. Last season, Henry contributed 14 ground balls, 13 caused turnovers and 23 draw controls.  

“Ellie is probably the most trustworthy of them all,” Black said. “Trust is a huge part of the defense and will be a part of their success.” 

Henry echoed those same ideas of trust, but also said that communication will be key for such a young unit. 

Outside of Henry, Black said sophomore Audrey Brett will be a leader for the team. Last season, Brett was one of the only first-year players to appear in every game. 

Redshirt first-year Molly Powers takes over on the one-to-one defending. First-year Jasmine Murray will also be looking to fill a starting role, as one of the only first-years.  

“We have depth, we have a lot of people to work with, we have a player coming back off an injury from last year, and she is really strong, I think our defense is pretty solid,” Black said.  

Junior Kate Pearson suffered an injury that cost her the final eight games of last season during a matchup against UConn. 

Goalkeeper

The faces between the pipes will look different this year for the Golden Eagles.

During the off-season, Marquette added two new goalkeepers in graduate transfer student Amanda Rumsey from conference rival Butler and first-year Brynna Nixon.

Though Rumsey has four years of experience after playing for BIG EAST foe Butler, Black said there will still be an adjustment period for her.

“It’s a new team for her and as a goalie you have to command the defense, so I think we are still learning that with her, how to take over the defense, a new defense and do it when it’s new, but she is adjusting well,” Black said.

Black said for Nixon, on the other hand, she will have to learn how to be a leader on the field as a first-year even with the talent that Nixon has.

“She’s great, but she’s a first-year and if there is any position, I think is the hardest to come in as a first-year and play is goalie because, take skill aside she is great, she’s good enough to play no doubt, but there is a lot to it, you have to be a leader” Black said.

Black said both goalies are still pushing each other to be better.

“They’re both really strong goalies, so I think that this is the best way because their learning curves are very different, they both have to adjust to a new team so they have kind of been working together on that, but I think (they are) pushing each other by stepping up in moments,” Black said.

This story was written by Jackson Gross and Kelly Reilly.  Jackson Gross can be reached at jackson.gross@marquette.edu or on Twitter @JacksonGrossMU.  Kelly Reilly can be reached at kelly.reilly@marquette.edu or on Twitter @kellyreillyyy.