Marquette Focused on Raising the Bar in 2024


Meg Bireley is expected to be Marquette's offensive cornerstone this spring.

Marquette produced a historic 2023 season. Largely fueled by an offense that ranked fifth in NCAA Division I in goals per game (15.95), the Golden Eagles won a school-record 15 times and played in their first NCAA tournament.

As a result, the atmosphere this fall feels new.

“The expectation as an athlete on our team is to be in the NCAA tournament and competing for national championships, but first, competing for a Big East championship every year,” head coach Meredith Black said. “We always talked about that before last year, but [the success] puts it into a realistic jar. We not only want this because we have always wanted it, but we can do this. We will do this. That’s the only way. The only way is to compete every year and do this.”

But the Golden Eagles will have to do it without three of their top four point leaders from 2023. Mary Schumar (20 G, 69 A) transferred to Northwestern for a fifth year. Lydia Foust (59 G, 18 A) and Shea Garcia (54 G, 8 A) graduated. Draw leaders Ellie Henry (107), who graduated second with 264 career draw wins, Mary Blee (80) and Emma Soccodato (59) are also gone.

New faces will have to emerge. But that means new opportunities, and Black says veterans are already taking the reins. Notably, Meg Bireley, Marquette’s third-leading scorer last year with 44 goals and 21 assists, boasts a versatile style and workhorse mentality that have already both proven critical.

“She is one of the most dynamic players I have ever coached,” Black said. “She can do it all, and she can do it all really well. We can play her at any spot on offense — crease, as a feeder, driver or cutter. This year, more than ever, we’ve needed her to be whatever we needed.”

Black has also called on Bireley to step into a leadership role, which comes slightly less naturally to the junior. See, Bireley is also one of the quietest players Black has coached.

“It’s been three years, and she doesn’t talk to me as much as I wish she would,” Black said. The leadership [question] was, ‘Is this something she will be able to do?’ She has reached out of her comfort zone.”

Bireley isn’t the only one coming out of her shell. Graduate student Hannah Greving (20 G, 9 A) isn’t the loudest player either. She is a high-IQ player using her smarts to develop her ability to drive to the net. Those skills will be critical in her role on the crease, where she’s expected to spend most of her time this spring.

“She’s the female version of Steady Eddy,” Black said. “She is consistent. She says what she needs to say, does what she needs to do, and does it well. She’s very reliable. She’s always there. If you need a goal, you can rely on her to score or give it to someone else.”

Tess Osburn is also back after a breakout freshman year that saw her pour in 34 goals, but her role is also expected to evolve in 2024.

“We’re shifting her around,” Black said. “We mainly relied on her for cutting last year. We are trying to push her to do more driving and other things besides cutting. As a sophomore, she’s learning to be more of a vocal leader like a senior.”

As for the draw, Josie Kropp (49 DC) is carrying the bulk of the load.

“She’s super good on the draw, but it’s different from coming in as the hero than being the starter,” Black said. “She has to know what adjustments to make and make those adjustments.”

The defense is where the Golden Eagles have the most experience — go figure for a team that lit up the scoreboard last year. Seniors Faith Chmielewski (15 CT, 26 GB), Audrey Brett (9 CT, 23 GB) and Kaitlyn Huber (7 CT) and junior Molly Powers (10 CT, 18 GB) are among the top veterans back.

“Most of them have good game experience,” Black said. “Instead of being able to just stop a 1-v-1, they want to take the ball away. I love that. They are super eager. They are in their last season, and they are chomping at the bit to get better and take their game to another level. They are key to our on-field leadership. Our defense is where the leadership stems from.”

The anchor of the defense, junior Brynna Nixon (.408 SV%), is also back and an important bridge between last year and this one.

“It’s been nice to have her as a veteran, leadership-wise and in the goal,” Black said. “She is really eager to become more of a leader, and her voice is heard on the field.”

Mikayla Yang, one of 11 freshmen on this year’s team, has also pushed Nixon after making 200 saves at Foothill (Calif.) High School. Top to bottom, Black says this is one of the strongest rookie classes she’s had, and any number of them could contribute immediately. Midfielder Lauren Grady, attacker Riley Schultz and C.J. Meehan, an offensive-midfielder who could see time in a low-attacker role, all stand out as candidates to help fill some cleats.

“We have a lot of talent,” Black said. “They are still making freshman mistakes, so I am not quite sure who will pan all that out and be ready by the time season comes, but they all have the potential to, and I’m excited to work on them now on an individual basis.”

Ultimately, the goal is to build a program that doesn’t simply maintain the success of 2023 but makes more history.

“The standard has been raised is going to underlay everything we do,” Black said. “We want to win the Big East. We want to beat Denver. We respect Denver, but those are two things we haven’t done at all. We know we are capable. We want to keep putting Marquette on the map day by day with what we are doing.”


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