With two exhibition games in the books, we finally have an idea of what Marquette men's soccer is going to look like in the 2015 season. Most of the spots in the eleven positions on the field seem to largely be settled, at least as far as the starting lineup goes, so let's start with the one position that I still don't have a solid read on...
Here's what we know: Someone is going to have to replace Charlie Lyon after three of the greatest netminding seasons in program history, and I do not begrudge that person their job. Here's what we don't know: which one of Marquette's goalkeepers is actually going to get the job. Head coach Louis Bennett has used two different starting netminders through MU's first two exhibition games, both of whom are returning from last season. It was the two redshirt juniors that got the nods, first Brady Walsh against Bradley, then Mac Wheeler against Loyola-Chicago. Because of Lyon's dominance, both men have yet to make an official appearance in a collegiate game, and only Walsh allowed a goal out of the combined 104 minutes that they've played. Kyle Gress is MU's third returning keeper, and he did not play at all in the exhibition against Loyola-Chicago. I'm going to guess between that and giving up the two late goals against Bradley, Gress doesn't have much of a chance of getting into the net in this, his redshirt sophomore season.
My instinct here was that I was going to have to write about how Marquette's defense was gutted after Axel Sjoberg and Brady Wahl both ended their collegiate careers after the 2014 season. Then I actually wrote down the names of the defenders on the roster to see who needed to be talked about. As it turns out, MU's defensive corps is still pretty strong. Don't get me wrong, it's not going to be all sunshine and lollipops to replace a center back like Sjoberg that promptly dropped into the starting lineup for an MLS squad, nor a tireless defensive midfielder like Wahl.
But Marquette brings back three of their starting defenders: John Pothast in the middle, with Adam Hermsen and Jake Taylor on the wings. That amount of continuity is going to solve a lot of issues for Louis Bennett this season, especially with Pothast and Hermsen being reliable enough already to go the full 90 on a regular basis. Danny Jarosz has gotten the starting nod in both of Marquette's exhibition games to this point along with the three returning starters, so it looks like he'll be getting the nod to replace Sjoberg in the lineup as a redshirt freshman. The Marquette University High School product does have one thing working in his favor: He stands 6 feet, 4 inches tall, tying him with Taylor as the tallest dudes on the team. MUHS won two state titles and won 89% of their games with Jarosz in the lineup, and he was named the 2013 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Area Player of the Year, so I think we can trust him.
As far as returning depth on defense goes, there's not a lot with playing experience. Jack Alberts made 17 appearances last year during his freshman campaign, including eight starts. He tallied three goals along the way.... and that's it for experience. Patrick Schulz is a redshirt junior that's never gotten on the field for Bennett, and he's joined on the bench by two more redshirt freshmen, Colin Koerber and Bryan Fletcher. Koerber was a standout defender at Arrowhead (WI) High School before coming to Marquette, while Fletcher hails from Missouri and carries experience from playing at a national championship level with his club team.
As we move towards the offensive end of the field, we bring ourselves to Louis Bennett II, the first of Marquette's two preseason all-Big East teamers. The junior (and coach's son) has tallied 27 points in two seasons, which actually seems lower than I expected. He's already shown to be one of the best facilitators in the Big East, ranking in the top 10 in assists in both of his two seasons If Marquette wants to get back to the NCAA tournament this season, they're going to need goals from Bennett, too.
Marquette's experienced depth at midfielder is going to be on display on a regular basis this season. In addition to LB2, three of the returning players have been in the starting lineups for MU's two exhibition matches. Two of them - Daniel Szczepanek and Alex McBride - are redshirt sophomores who made their debuts for Marquette last season. Both guys notched a goal for the Golden Eagles in 2014, and McBride doubled up Szczepanek in the assists department, 2-1. The third is Martin Alba, who was a top 100 recruit coming into college, but he sat out last season and will make his collegiate debut this year. Redshirt sophomore Driton Zyteja is also amongst the returning guys, and it's kind of surprising that he's not getting a starting nod. He ended up filling in for Brady Wahl when Wahl was dealing with an injury during the Big East tournament last year, but he has been coming off the bench in both exhibition matches.
BIG NEWS: Kelmend Islami is back!
According to his GoMarquette.com bio, Islami missed the 2014 season due to injury, although according to last year's returning players post, Islami wasn't even on the roster a year ago. *shrug* In any case, when we last saw Islami, he was busy dishing out five assists as part of the most successful Marquette men's soccer season in program history. That number was tied for the fifth most assists in the Big East that season. Islami's return to the active roster could not be better timed, as Coco Navarro left the program in the offseason to pursue a professional career.
Of course, the Golden Eagles still have the services of C. Nortey. He's back for his final year of eligibility, and he's about to enter some rarefied air for a Marquette player. If Nortey merely repeats his 2014 total of seven goals, which was a down year for him, he'll become just the sixth player in Marquette history to record 30 goals in a career, and the first since Chris Lee, who played from 2001-2004.
The other two returning forwards have yet to play in an exhibition match. Nick Parianos' absence isn't that surprising. His 2014 season was cut short after just seven matches, and based on the size of the leg brace that he had on after that, I'm guessing he might be working his way back to 100% fitness at this point. I've got no answers for you on David Selvaggi, however. The redshirt senior started every match last season, totalling three goals and five assists along the way.