The Seton Hall women’s soccer team is eight games into its 2017 campaign, yet it is still looking for its first victory.
The problem has been clear for the Hall so far – it cannot seem to find the back of the net. But if this problem is already occurring in non-conference matches, the Pirates are in for a rude awakening once Big East play begins on Sept. 23, when they head to Chicago to play the DePaul Blue Demons.
It is a rebuilding year for Seton Hall, boasting a roster with 10 freshmen and losing its 2016 points leader in Frankie Maier. But how far behind are the Pirates? Who is doing well around the Big East and how do they compare to Seton Hall?
At the top of the table is Marquette with a 7-2-1 record. Closely behind are the Butler Bulldogs (6-1-1) and the reigning conference champions, Georgetown (6-2-1). The Hoyas are easily the strongest offensive team in the Big East, averaging a conference-high 16.78 shots per game while scoring 2.22 goals per game. Their powerful attack is led by senior midfielder Rachel Corboz and junior forward Caitlin Farrell.
Corboz leads the Big East in points with 12 and Farrell has five goals, which ties her for the conference lead with Franny Cerny of DePaul. To put it in perspective, Farrell has the same amount of goals in her nine games as the Pirates have as a team in eight.
Marquette’s attack is quite impressive as well. The Golden Eagles rank second in the conference in average shots per game (14.8) and goals per game (1.4). Their potent offense is a key reason why Marquette has not lost a game since the season opener, when they suffered a 4-0 defeat to Stanford on Aug. 18.
The Golden Eagles boast a trio of players that rank among the conference leaders in points. Graduate student Darian Powell has notched three goals and four assists in 2017, putting her fourth on the points leaderboard with 10. A pair of forwards in redshirt junior Carrie Madden and freshman Kylie Sprecher each have seven points on two goals and three assists, putting them in a four-way tie for ninth place among the points leaders.
While the Hoyas and Golden Eagles pride themselves on offense, Butler is much more of a defensively oriented team. The team ranks ninth in the conference in goals per game with an average of one, scoring eight goals in eight games. However, the team has allowed just one goal in those eight games – a header to Hannah Jaggers of the Ohio Bobcats in the second game of the season.
Butler’s defensive success has largely come from strong goalkeeping play by freshman Leonie Doege and redshirt sophomore Hannah Luedtke. Both were named as the Big East Goalkeeper of the Week – Doege in the first week of the season and Luedtke in the third. Their combined .971 save percentage gives Butler some breathing space on the attacking end – even if Butler has trouble scoring, they will give the opposition plenty of trouble in attempting to create offensive chances.
These three teams are the clear frontrunners in the race for the Big East Championship and Seton Hall has a long way to go if they want to compete with teams of this caliber. But head coach Rick Stainton and his staff have to use this upcoming conference season as a learning opportunity for the players. If the Hall wants to continue to progress as a defensively oriented team, it has to focus on how Butler does so well in the box, and if it wants to improve its attack, it needs to learn how Marquette and Georgetown are able to consistently create and capitalize on offensive opportunities.
Matt Lapolla can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @MatthewLapolla.