If last year's timing is any indication (and given the lack of Big East commissioner, it might not be), we're a few weeks away from putting our grubby mitts on the schedule for Marquette's men's soccer team for the fall of 2013. While we don't know much about it right now, what we do know is that Big East play will most likely feature three new teams with the addition of Butler, Creighton, and Xavier to the conference. Let's take a look at what all three are bringing to the table in their first Big East season.
2012 Record: 5-8-5 (3-5-1 Atlantic 10)
2012 Leading Scorer: Freshman Jeff Adkins (5 G, 5 A)
2012 Lead Keeper: Junior Jon Dawson (1.44 GAA, .763 SV%)
You're not going to find anyone who will tell you that Butler had a great season last year, as they didn't even qualify for the Atlantic 10 conference tournament. But the good news for them is that they return their core. Of the eight players who played in at least 17 of their 18 games, only one, forward Tyler Pollock, was a senior. The Bulldogs lose only three seniors, all of whom were mostly regular rotation players. Defenders Jared Isenthal and Justin Sass only appeared in 15 matches, but Isenthal also had 10 starts, while Sass was in the starting 11 on 13 occasions. Those three seniors only combined for three goals on the season, which is just 10.7% of Butler's total offense.
Not only was their leading scorer a freshman, but Adkins also came on strong late in the year with a three game goal streak where he tallied three goals and two assists. The Bulldogs also got scoring from their midfield. Sophomore Zach Steinberger (4G, 4A) and junior Adam Glanzer (4G, 3A) were the other two Butler players who broke double digits in points for the 2012 season.
Only Adkins and Steinberger earned Atlantic 10 honors through the course of the season. Adkins was named to the All Rookie team after picking up a Rookie of the Week award, while Steinberger was named to the All-A10 Second team at the end of the season.
2012 Record: 17-4-3 (5-0-1 Missouri Valley)
2012 Leading Scorer: Freshman Timo Pitter (10G, 4A)
2012 Lead Keeper: Freshman Jeff Gal (0.65 GAA, .851 SV%)
You can see from the quick capsule look at the Bluejays that they had a good season and they did it on the back of a couple of youngsters. What you can't see from that is that Creighton advanced all the way to the College Cup semifinals before losing to eventual national champion Indiana. Creighton has turned themselves into a perennial national contender in Omaha, having made 20 College Cup appearances in the last 21 years while winning 13 Missouri Valley tournaments and 12 MVC regular season titles.
Honors were plentiful for the Bluejays. Seniors and eventual MLS Supplemental Draft selections Jose Gomez and Andrew Ribeiro joined Pitter for individual awards at the end of the season. Gomez was named MVC Player of the Year, Ribeiro was named MVC Defensive Player of the Year, and unsurprisingly for a freshmen who led the conference in points, Pitter was named MVC Freshman of the Year. Even though the Jays have lost two of the best players in the MVC from last year, there's still a lot of talent there. Sophomore midfielder Eric Miller joined Gomez, Ribiero, and Pitter on the All-MVC First Team, while fellow second year middie Jose Ribas earned All-MVC Second Team honors. Freshman Brendan Hines-Ike could provide a reliable replacement for Ribeiro, as he was named to the All-Freshman team.
I'm sure it's of no surprise to you that Gomez & Pitter are all over the 2012 MVC leaderboards for points, goals, assists, and shots. Gal's goals-against average and save percentage were best in the MVC last year, and by the end of the season, he had stolen the full time keeper job from sophomore Alex Bolowich, who also happens to be the son of the Bluejays' head coach, Elmar Bolowich.
UPDATE! Speaking of the goaltending situation...
@anonymouseagle BTW, GK Jeff Gal is transferring out of Creighton to Virginia.— Patrick Marshall (@wildjays) May 21, 2013
2012 Record: 14-2-5 (6-1-2 Atlantic 10)
2012 Leading Scorer: Senior Luke Spencer (14G, 8A)
2012 Lead Keeper: Senior Justin Marshall (0.98 GAA, .724 SV%)
If there's a good way to wade head first into a new conference with teams like Creighton, Marquette and Georgetown, Xavier's definitely found it. The Musketeers are coming off their third straight NCAA tournament appearance, and courtesy of an 86th minute goal from Spencer, they picked up their first NCAA tournament win before falling to (stop me if you've heard this one before) eventual national champion Indiana.
The program has about all the momentum you could possibly want for it. The only downside is that their leading scorer (and the A10's leading scorer at that) was a senior, as was their keeper who played in every single game, and only missed a grand total of 170 minutes for the whole season. To make matters slightly worse, the backup that played the most minutes (104 of 'em) was also a senior, so Xavier will be relying on a keeper who's played a grand total of 66 collegiate minutes next season.
Let's get back to good news for the X. Their defense shouldn't experience much of a dropoff, as they return the Atlantic 10's Defensive Player Of The Year, junior Nick Hagglund. On the attacking end, things are pretty solid as well. Matt Walker joined Spencer and Hagglund on the All-A10 First Team last year, because that's what happens when you finish tied for second in the league in points and tied for first in assists. In fact, four Musketeers ended up in the top five in the entire conference in assists: Walker (T1st, 10), junior midfielder Gino DePaoli (4th, 9), junior midfielder Adar Cohen (T5th, 8), and Spencer (T5th, 8). So key #1 to beating Xavier is going to be denying passes in the final third.