WSOC: 2017 Season Preview
Aug. 16, 2017
MILWAUKEE – The Marquette University women’s soccer team returned to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2013 last season as its senior class fulfilled its goal of reclaiming a BIG EAST Conference title it also earned as freshmen. Though that 10-player senior class has departed the program, the Golden Eagles enter 2017 with a great deal of experience on a roster that won eight of nine games down the stretch last year to earn their 13th NCAA appearance.
“The biggest thing we saw in the spring that although we lost some key players, who were among the best in the BIG EAST, our talent level was much more compact from top to bottom,” Marquette head coach Markus Roders said. “There was a little bit more youth in our group, but it created a competitive environment where they pushed each other and we have a real excited and hungry team. We played well every game during the spring, but there is still another level there for us.”
Marquette began last season 4-6-2 before its run, which included three-straight overtime wins in the final two matches of the regular season and in the semifinals of the BIG EAST tournament.
All-BIG EAST Preseason Team selection Carrie Madden scored a pair of goals in that semifinal matchup with St. John’s and tallied the thrilling match-winner on a bicycle kick in the 96th minute. The redshirt junior returns in 2017 to lead the offensive unit along with sixth-year forward Darian Powell and junior Jamie Kutey.
“On opposing scouting reports now with Carrie Madden, other teams are going to have to recognize that she is one of the top forwards and attacking players in the BIG EAST,” six-time conference coach of the year Roeders said.
Madden, who had played in just one match during her first two seasons at Marquette, led the Golden Eagles with 17 points on six goals and five assists in 22 matches last year and was the lone MU player to earn preseason all-league accolades. She had dealt with injuries early in her MU career, as had Powell who missed both of her first two seasons on campus, while a preseason illness last year robbed Kutey of much of her sophomore campaign.
“My hope is that Darian (Powell) and Jamie (Kutey) have healthier seasons than they’ve had,” Roeders said. “Jamie took a step forward in the spring for all the right reasons. If you think about where Darian was and she is now feeling better than she ever has – right now we are in a very good spot.”
Powell enters her final year with 18 career goals – two from MU’s top-10 all-time – and paced the Golden Eagles with seven apiece in both 2014 and 2015. She missed each of her first two years with injuries and dealt with an ankle injury that limited her minutes and goal production in 2016.
“You have to give Darian all the credit in the world,” Roeders said. “She could have thrown in the towel and walked away two years ago. Here you have someone who has been pushing. She wants to score double digit goals and she’s a grad student with one more season and she’s now talking about playing professionally. You have someone with that experience as a 23-year old senior, with her fight and her willingness and having been through the ups and downs. She’s a great role model to everyone around her.”
“If any of them can take a step forward like Carrie Madden did last year, if you can pull all of that together it could mushroom and who knows what it could lead to,” Roeders said. “I think Kylie can make a difference because she was working out in the summer with them. I hope she will have an impact as a freshman and I think she will give us good running minutes, it’s just a matter of how she stacks up soccer-wise. She’s a great athlete, a great finisher and she’s smart. She gives you 100 percent every time.”
Fink has played in 60 career matches for the Blue and Gold, while Beard has seen more limited minutes since playing 18 matches as a freshman in 2014. The Portland, Oregon native came up big for MU in last year’s regular season finale as her golden goal in overtime lifted the squad past DePaul to a share of the BIG EAST regular season title and the conference tournament’s No. 1 seed.
“Eli is probably our most technically sound player and is kind of a mini-coach on the field,” Roeders said. “She is going in with the mindset of ‘I’m a senior so I’m going to have to play 80 or 90 minutes a game.’”
Bugay started the final 11 matches of the year to provide a physical presence on top of MU’s defense and will be in for an even bigger role with the loss of last year’s BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year Morgan Proffitt.
“The biggest surprise of the spring, because it is such a key position for us with Morgan leaving, was Ryley and what she can do there. I thought she had a tremendous spring,” Roeders said.
The defensive unit will likely determine if the Golden Eagles are able to defend their conference title and ultimately make a return to the NCAA tournament.
“I think we have the ability to do some good things on offense,” Roeders said. “We are powerful, dynamic and explosive and if we can fine-tune that a bit (we can be successful). Defensively we have to make sure we are solid in the back five. Against some of the best teams we are going to lack a little bit of speed and athleticism. I think if we are going to be able to possess the ball like we did in the spring, this team really has the ability to grow into something that the sky can be the limit.”
“We have a lot of flexibility with Leah, and Dunker is embracing her leadership role,” Roeders said. “Emily Hess is seasoned going into year two and although we have less top-end talent on paper, the experience that they have gained, or the opportunities based on what they have done in the past, have pushed them to the forefront. I think we saw the fruits of their labor in the spring.”
Roeders is also hoping for contributions from local products Bri Jaeger and Mary Kate Simon, both of whom redshirted last season but started the exhibition match at Wisconsin on Thursday. Both provide size to the backline that will look to limit scoring chances in front of unanimous All-BIG EAST Freshman Team selection Maddy Henry.
Henry played every minute of every match last season as a rookie and was named to the all-tournament team at the conference championship in 2016. The Omaha, Nebraska native followed in the footsteps of her three predecessors at goalkeeper for the Golden Eagles by being thrust into a starting job as a first-year player.
“You have a freshman who played every minute of every game last year, got great experience and played against great competition,” Roeders said. “Somebody who has accomplished some things but wants to do even more. I think she’s going to be really hungry and she’s only going to be better.”
That competition will be apparent from this season’s first match when the Golden Eagles welcome No. 2 Stanford to Valley Fields on Friday for their regular season opener. That match along with their most-challenging BIG EAST contests on the road present a difficult schedule for Marquette this fall.
“We can really surprise some teams, but you might not see that right at the beginning of the year because of the schedule, starting out with potentially the national champion (Stanford) in the first game,” Roeders said. “I think the BIG EAST is going to be the most competitive and tight that it has been. Georgetown is still the favorite with DePaul. It is going to be difficult for us with the schedule having Butler, DePaul, St. John’s and Georgetown on the road.”
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