2013 NCAA College Cup: #8 Virginia 3, #9 Marquette 1

Maggie Bean/MarquetteImages.com

It's not going to be remembered in the annals of history as Marquette's finest moment, but it's a necessary step for the future of the program.

It took 50 seconds for Marquette to get the ball through to striker C. Nortey. The Ghana native started to pull away from Virginia defender Matt Brown as he approached the top of the 18 yard box, and Brown did the only thing he could do to stop the goal and avoid a penalty kick: tackle Nortey from behind before he got inside the box.

Thus, Brown was issued a straight red card 57 seconds into the match, and the Cavaliers would be forced to play the remaining 89 minutes and three seconds with only 10 men.

Marquette would get some solid looks at the net as UVa tried to figure out how to play while missing a man. Louis Bennett II had a try in the 15th minute on a ball bounding in the 18 yard box, but he didn't quite get the timing right and it was cleared off the line by Virginia's defense. In the 20th minute, Paul Dillon sent a corner kick in. Four different Golden Eagles took a try at finding a hole in the Cavalier defense. Nortey? Cleared off the line by the defense. Eric Pothast? Saved by Virginia keeper Calle Brown. LB2? Blocked. Bryan Ciesiulka? Saved by Brown.

Once the Cavaliers were able to regain their footing and assemble some kind of form with only 10 men, they started booming clearances down the field. These long balls down towards Marquette keeper Charlie Lyon started turning into free kick chances for Virginia when Marquette would commit fouls while trying to run back and defend. Lyon would make a save on the first free kick, but when Dillon was whistled for a handball in the 23rd minute, Lyon would have no chance to save Scott Wharton's howling free kick into the upper left corner of the net.

The half would end 1-0, sending both teams to the locker rooms with questions. How would Marquette counter and rally back? How would Virginia defend a reinvigorated Golden Eagle attack? It turns out that Virginia answered their question first as Darius Madison smacked home an Eric Bird cross before two minutes could tick off the clock to put the Cavaliers up 2-0.

They say a two goal lead is one of the hardest leads to defend, and Virginia proved that just six minutes later. Axel Sjoberg (not Alex, Mr. Virginia PA Man) pushed a through ball deep into the 18 yard box to Nortey, and Nortey found space under a sprawling Brown to cut the lead in in half. But MU suffered a let down of massive proportions when Dillon came off the bench to replace Jake Taylor on the stoppage on Nortey's goal and immediately got whistled for a bad tackle inside the 18 yard box. Wharton slipped the ball just inside the left post on the ensuing penalty kick, and the lead was 3-1.

Marquette could continue to push forward harder and harder for the remaining 37 minutes, but even though they generated seven shots, they never truly threatened again.

Virginia advances to the Elite Eight of the College Cup to face the winner of tonight's UCLA-Connecticut match. Marquette heads home with their season over.

While it's a down note to end the season, it's an up note for the program in general. This was the most successful season in Marquette soccer history. The team won the Big East regular season title for the second time and the Big East tournament title for the first time. The win over Akron in the second round of the College Cup was the first NCAA tournament win for Marquette in three tries.

Louis Bennett took over the Marquette program in 2006, and the team struggled to adapt to Bennett's changes in the early going. Bryan Ciesiulka, Eric Pothast, Paul Dillon, Adam Lysak, Dennis Holowaty, Charlie Hoover, Andrew Krynski, and Matt Leonard were all brought to Marquette by Bennett to change the culture of the program. From 4-11-3 in Lysak and Krynski's freshman year, Marquette has improved every year that these men have been on campus. First, the improvements came just in wins, increasing the total each year. When it became difficult to improve on the win total after a 16-4-1 2012 season ended with a loss in their first NCAA tournament game, the program shifted and this year, the improvement came in the postseason instead.

Marquette soccer would not be where it is today without those eight men. So we close the book on the 2013 season by saying THANK YOU to Bryan, Eric, Paul, Adam, Dennis, Charlie, Andrew, and Matt. THANK YOU for everything that you've given this program. THANK YOU for everything that you've given us to cheer for over the last five seasons. THANK YOU for giving us a strong platform for this program to build on for years and years to come.

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