Sjoberg Named Preseason Co-Defensive Player Of The Year

Axel Sjoberg (4) uses his 6'7" frame to make an impact all over the pitch. - Maggie Casey/MarquetteImages.com

Plus! Two more Golden Eagles were named to the all-conference team!

While I was busy compiling the post about the various preseason national rankings that featured Marquette, the official Marquette men's soccer Twitter account announced that sophomore defender Axel Sjoberg had been named preseason co-defender of the year. Now that we have the full set of awards from the Big East, we can get to looking at how my predictions shook out.

First up, the conference standings. Georgetown earned seven of the available nine first place votes, as coaches couldn't vote for their own teams or players, and finished four points in front of Creighton to earn the spot as the favorite to win the league. The Bluejays earned the remaining three first place votes to finish second, followed with Marquette, St. John's, and Xavier to round out the top half of the league. That's the same five teams I had in almost the same order, as I had Creighton and Georgetown flipped. The Big East coaches not thinking as highly of the newcomers as I did will become a theme here as we continue.

Offensive Player Of The Year: Steve Neumann, F, Sr., Georgetown - Second in points, fifth in goals, first in assists in 2012 = You get honored as the preseason offensive player of the year, exactly as I predicted.

Co-Defensive Players Of The Year: Axel Sjoberg, D, So., Marquette & Tim Parker, D, So., St. John's - I mentioned both men as possibilities in my predictions post, but I went with experience and awards over the best returning players, as I picked Xavier senior Nick Hagglund, who was the Atlantic 10 Defensive Player Of The Year in 2012. As I said, returning teams and players are earning favor over the newcomers.

Goalkeeper Of The Year: Rafael Diaz, Sr., St. John's - Diaz was my pick after being named to the All-Big East First Team in 2012. There's been a swell of publicity for Marquette's Charlie Lyon since I assembled my predictions post, but It seems that the coaches are rewarding 1) the senior player and 2) the man who was favored at the end of last season.

Two out of three isn't bad. Let's see how the change in organization of the all-conference team affected my predictions!

2013 Preseason All-Big East Team

Forwards
*Brandon Allen, So., Georgetown
*Steve Neumann, Sr., Georgetown
C. Nortey, So., Marquette
George Velasquez, Sr., Seton Hall
Dylan Renna, Sr., Villanova

Midfielders
Timo Pitter, So., Creighton
*Bryan Ciesiulka, Sr., Marquette
Oscar Umar, Jr., Villanova
Matt Walker, Sr., Xavier

Backs
Eric Miller, Jr., Creighton
Axel Sjoberg, So., Marquette
*Tim Parker, So., St. John's
Nick Hagglund, Sr., Xavier

Goalkeeper
Rafael Diaz, So., St. John's

The asterisks you see mark the four unanimous choices to the all-conference team. I'm not entirely sure how Parker is a unanimous choice for all-conference team but still has to share the DPOY award with Sjoberg, but here we are. As with the women's preseason all-conference team, I'm not entirely sure how picking a 13 man team with four each for fowards, mids, and backs plus a keeper makes a lot of sense. My only guess is that the preseason individual honorees aren't supposed to count towards the total of an 11 man team on the field.

In any case, out of the 11 players I named to my picks for all-conference, nine of them were named to the 13 man team that the coaches named. I did catch a break here and there, as two of the players - Xavier's Matt Walker and Creighton's Eric Miller - made it onto the team with a different position than I expected. I picked Butler's Zach Steinberger and James Thomas from St. John's, while the coaches elected to honor Nortey, Velasquez, Renna, Umar, and Parker.  You'll notice that all five men are from teams that are returning to the Big East, which I presume is not a coincidence.

The most surprising of the five is Nortey. While he led the Golden Eagles in goals as they won their Big East division in 2011, he sat out all of 2012 while rehabbing from knee surgery. When I made my predictions, I expected that Nortey would be the player most likely to make the jump from not on the preseason team to on the postseason team. I expected that the Big East coaches would be wary of Nortey's fitness and he would be left off the preseason team, which is why I didn't put him on my team. But the coaches are instead wary of Nortey's ability to finish, and thus, he has earned a spot on the preseason team.

Last but not least, I want to point out that Marquette midfielder Bryan Ciesiulka is a unanimous choice for the preseason all-conference team. I don't know if the Golden Eagle co-captain is going to end up on top of any statistical categories at the end of the season, but I feel pretty confident in guessing that Marquette's active leader in points and assists is going to be First Team All-Big East when the season is over.

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