Marquette starts their path back to the NCAA tournament this weekend with two matches in Oregon. There are a number of questions to be asked about the Golden Eagles this season, and we'll finally get some answers in these two contests.
The biggest question of all is who will start in net for MU, and as of this writing, that still was not answered. Head coach Louis Bennett told Marquette Wire that he hadn't made a decision on who would start on Friday yet. On top of that, Bennett was thinking about splitting the weekend's two matches between freshman Luis Barraza and redshirt junior Mac Wheeler, both of whom have travelled with the team to Oregon.
While keeper is a question mark at this point, the defense shouldn't be. Yes, redshirt freshman Danny Jarosz is stepping into the void left behind by Axel Sjoberg forgoing his final year of eligibility to enter the MLS SuperDraft. But three of Marquette's four backline starters return around him, so it's just a matter of plugging Jarosz into the system. The real question is whether Marquette can pick up the offense from last year. They struggled in Big East play because of an inability to score goals, and they'll need some kind of a spark. Coco Navarro is gone, having signed a professional contract over the offseason, but Kelmend Islami returns after missing the 2014 season. The key cogs will still be C. Nortey at striker and Louis Bennett II in the midfield, but other guys are going to have to step up around them.
Match #1: at Oregon State (0-0-0)
When: Friday, August 28, 2015, at 7pm Central
Where: Patrick Wayne Valley Stadium in Corvallis, OR
Audio/Visual: Pac12 Network Oregon is carrying it, and it might be streaming.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteSoccer
While Marquette was victorious against the Beavers in Milwaukee last season, OSU still bounced back to qualify for the NCAA tournament. They advanced to the second round, in fact, where they got knocked off by Creighton with a goal in the 50th minute. Oregon State finished last season 12-8-1, and they start 2015 picked to finish fifth in the Pac 12. This is less exciting than it sounds, because only six teams in that league play men's soccer. Yep.
With that said, though, they still landed two players on the all-conference team. Sophomore forward Timmy Mueller was the Pac 12 Freshman of the Year last year after recording 11 goals, and goalkeeper Nolan Wirth is the lone keeper on the all-league squad. Here's why this is ridiculously weird: Wirth appeared in just five matches last year, although he did start four of them. I mean, he did only give up three goals in just over 400 minutes played, but how often is a backup named the best keeper in the league to start the next season? It should be noted that Wirth was the keeper for last year's match in Milwaukee, which MU won on a fourth minute penalty kick from David Selvaggi.
Match #2: at Portland (0-0-0)
When: Sunday, August 30, 2015, at 3pm Central
Where: Merlo Field in Portland, OR
Audio/Visual: Looks like there's a free video stream, plus live stats.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteSoccer
The Pilots finished the 2014 season with a record of 4-11-4, and did not win a match in West Coast Conference play. Basically, it can only get better from there.
They do return two of the best players in the WCC, though. Senior defender Hugo Roades was named to the WCC Second Team a year ago, while leading scorer Eddie Sanchez was an all-WCC First Teamer. Sanchez finished with team highs in goals with five and assists with three, even though he missed six games due to injury. Both men were included on the WCC's preseason all-conference team, although the Pilots themselves were picked to finish seventh in the eight team league.
Portland will play #9 Michigan State in their opener tonight before taking on the Golden Eagles on Sunday. The Pilots played one exhibition match, a 1-0 win over Seattle University. Sophomore Brandon Zambrano scored the goal in the 21st minute, while Paul Christensen started in net and made six saves in just over 62 minutes of action.