Yes, Marquette is taking on St. John's on Saturday night. But it's not officially the start of conference play, not technically. Marquette, like the rest of their Big East compatriots, will be mixing conference and non-conference games together over the next few weeks. It'll be mid-week non-conference matches, followed by a Big East contest on Saturday. The Golden Eagles will get their biggest test of the season thus far when they visit Notre Dame on Tuesday, but let's not get ahead of ourselves....
Big East Match #1: at St. John's (1-6-0)
When: Saturday, September 26, 2015, at 6pm Central
Where: Belson Stadium in New York, NY
Audio/Visual: Big East Digital Network brings you the video broadcast via Fox Sports Go, and there's live stats.
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteSoccer
We'll go one by one through the Big East in alphabetical order. You'll see each team's record right now next to their name, and then below that you'll see a NSCAA ranking for two teams, and the Bennett Ranking for every team, to give you a feel for their standing relative to each other. Past that, there's the statistical leaders for each team as well as their top keeper, and the parenthetical numbers are their rankings within the Big East right now. The final lines are each team's best win and worst loss, where applicable, and that's determined by the Bennett Ranking of each opponent.
Let's get to it, then...
Bennett Ranking: #52
Goals Leader: Vincent Mitchell, 4 (T-4)
Assists Leader: Eric Leonard, 3 (T-3)
Keeper: Eric Dick - 0.90 GAA (#4) ; .806 SV% (#3)
Best Win: at #95 Wisconsin, 1-0
Congrats to the Bulldogs, since they get to refer to themselves as "The Big East's other undefeated team." The downside for them is that they've got three draws on the season to go along with three wins. All three ties have come in their last four matches, and the draw with Indiana isn't that big of a deal. I guess visiting both UIC (#109) and Loyola-Chicago (#122) and coming away with a draw isn't the worst thing ever, but you'd like to see Butler figure out a way to win both of those games. They'll be playing their non-con games at Evansville and home against SIUE over the next two weeks, and you'd like to think those would be wins.
The name you don't see in the stat leaders there is junior forward David Goldsmith. He was Butler's lone representative on the preseason all-conference team, and he's been... fine this year. He's got three goals and one assist to sit second on the team in points. It's kind of been downhill for Goldsmith since an explosive freshman year, but I suppose being 10th in the Big East in points is nothing to sneeze at.
NSCAA Ranking: #1
Bennett Ranking: #1
Goals Leader: Fabian Herbers, 6 (#2)
Assists Leader: Fabian Herbers, 5 (#1)
Keeper: Connor Sparrow - 0.15 GAA (#1); .944 SV% (#1)
Best Win: vs #37 UC Irvine, 4-0
UGH, I'm going to be so disappointed when Creighton loses a match this season.
They're the last undefeated and untied team in the country, Sparrow is a runaway freight train choice for Goalkeeper of the Year in the Big East after only seven matches, and Herbers is tied for the fifth most points in the country at 17. The longer they keep this running, the longer that everyone has to keep talking about how great Big East football is, and that's always fantastic. This is of particular importance, because the Big East started the year with three teams ranked in the top 10 in the country and four ranked teams overall, but only the Jays are still up in the top tier, and Georgetown hanging by a thread at #25 is the only other team to join them in the top 25.
Creighton will get an easy shake of things as they start conference play, opening up at Seton Hall and then home against DePaul and St. John's. Those three are a combined 2-17-2 at this point, so there's really no reason that CU shouldn't cruise through them. Their non-con dates over the next two weeks are home against Missouri State and Drake, and you'd like to think that they could handle those guys. If that's the case, and they can tack on a win while visiting Butler, then Creighton will come to Milwaukee on October 17th with a 13-0-0 record, and OH BOY, would that be a fun time in the Valley.
Bennett Ranking: #129
Goals Leader: 2 players with 3 (T-8)
Assists Leader: Hans Wustling, 3 (T-3)
Keeper: Mack Robinson - 1.60 GAA (#9); .600 SV%
Only Win: vs #130 Fordham, 4-0
Worst Loss: at #156 Drake, 3-2
Listing Robinson as the keeper is mostly a blind guess on my part. Quentin Low started the first five matches of the season for the Blue Demons, while Robinson has gotten the nod for the last two. Robinson did come on in relief twice: once in the opener (a 4-0 loss to Elon) and again in their lone win of the season, a 4-0 trouncing of Fordham.
Hey, guess who's leading the Big East in fouls per game? Actually, it's Creighton, which is kind of surprising, given their record. BUT, sitting there in second place behind them is DePaul. I still haven't forgiven the Blue Demons for their atrociously violent version of soccer two years ago that prevented Marquette from clinching the Big East regular season title on their own, so yeah, I'm going to point out how terrible they are at any given moment. DePaul will tangle with Creighton in their second Big East game of the season, so it ought to be interesting to see how the fouls go in that game.
Bennett Ranking: #8
NSCAA Ranking: #25
Goals Leader: Alex Muyl, 4 (T-4)
Assists Leader: Brandon Allen, 4 (#2)
Keeper: JT Marcinkowski - 1.09 GAA (#6); .780 SV% (#4)
Best Win: vs #9 Maryland, 2-1
Worst Loss: at #31 USF, 2-0
As you can see from that Bennett Ranking, the Hoyas have been largely victimized by some untimely goals in otherwise well played matches. WITH THAT SAID, I think it's absolutely freaking hilarious that they started out the season as one of the 10 best teams in the country in the NSCAA rankings.... aaaaand promptly went to a scoreless draw with Florida Gulf Coast. I'm amazed that the Hoyas athletic department actually bothered to pick up the phone to call FGCU to give them a partner game on their trip to Florida to play USF. You'd think that everyone over there would still be having PTSD after the Dunk City Incident.
Anyway, after opening up 0-2-1, Georgetown bounced back nicely by knocking off #1 at the time UCLA, and they picked up a big win over #11 earlier this week. Brandon Allen, the Big East's preseason Offensive Player of the Year, has been quieter than you'd expect for a guy with that kind of hype coming into the season, but he's still tied for the sixth most points in the league this season thus far. Marcinkowski is a freshman, but don't take that for inexperience: The California native had 24 appearances for US Junior National Teams before joining the Hoyas, and he recorded 13 shutouts in those contests.
Bennett Ranking: #42
Goals Leader: Kelmend Islami, 4 (T-4)
Assists Leader: Alex McBride, 3 (T-3)
Keeper: Luis Barraza - 1.46 GAA (#8); .719 SV% (#6)
Best Win: vs #81 Dayton, 3-2
Worst Loss: vs #127 Northern Illinois, 3-2
The good news for Marquette is that Kelmend Islami seems to acquired a magnificent scoring touch while taking the 2014 season off from competitive soccer.
The bad news is the defense on the other side of the pitch. We knew it was going to be a bit of a reconstruction job as the Golden Eagles worked to replace goalkeeper Charlie Lyon, center back Axel Sjoberg, and defensive midfielder Brady Wahl. Obviously, anything that Barraza did in his stint in net this season was going to be a statistical step back from what Lyon did over the past three seasons, where all he did was stake a claim to being the greatest goalkeeper in Marquette history. You don't have to look any further than their most recent match against Northern Illinois to get an icky feeling about the defense. MU had a lead with a minute to play, gave up the equalizer with 55 seconds left in regulation, and ended up having to take a loss against a offensively challenged Huskies team.
Things are going to get much harder very quickly this season, and the defense is going to need to close ranks to aim MU into the postseason properly. In theory, their opening Big East contest against the Red Storm should provide them a chance get back to winning ways, but you can't take any conference opponent lightly.
Bennett Ranking: #18
Goals Leader: Mac Steeves, 7 (#1)
Assists Leader: Julian Gressel, 3 (T-3)
Keeper: Ben Seguljic - 0.94 GAA (#5); .696 SV% (#8)
Best Win: at #83 Northeastern, 2-1
Worst Loss: vs #97 Columbia, 2-1 (2OT)
I almost feel bad for Mac Steeves. He's apparently going to just keep scoring goals like wildfire this season, and he's not going to have any chance of winning Offensive Player of the Year against Creighton's Fabian Herbers.
The Friars started out ranked as the #7 team in the country. Their draw against Holy Cross dropped them to #18, and losses to Columbia and Brown - both at home - during the following week caused them to lose every single vote for the top 25 that they were getting. They bounced back with that win at Northeastern in their most recent contest, but they're going to need to prove they belong back in the rankings with something important. They'll get their chance on Saturday when they travel to Georgetown, and a road trip to Storrs next week to face a UConn team that's getting votes will help them out, too. Their most pressing concern is getting a secondary scorer to help Steeves, as he has seven of their 10 goals on the season.
St. John's (1-6-1)
Bennett Ranking: #86
Goals Leader: Filippo Ricupati, 2
Assists Leader: Mike Prosuk, 2
Keeper: Andrew Withers - 1.34 GAA (#7); .750 SV% (#5)
Only Win: vs #157 Siena, 1-0
Worst Loss: vs #95 Wisconsin, 2-1
The Big East is just a disaster zone of questionable goalkeeping. You'll really understand why in a few more paragraphs, but St. John's is not on the positive side of the ledger. Withers has fewer starts on the season than Jordan Stagmiller, but he's got the better statistics, and Withers was the keeper to start the year. I don't think it's really fair to blame the keeper for the losses to the two best teams that SJU has played this season (Indiana and Maryland), but that's what happened, as Stagmiller started the next three games. Withers was back in net for the lone win of the season against Siena, and then it was back to Stagmiller for the next two, but Withers came on in relief to preserve a 1-1 draw against Quinnipiac. Of course, by "preserve," I mean "Prosuk scored the equalizer after Withers came in," but we're just fiddling with details on a terrible team at this point.
St. John's problem to start the season was scoring goals. It took them until the 41st minute of their third game to get on the board at all this season, and once they fixed that problem, a new problem reared it's head. All of a sudden they couldn't hold leads, going up 1-0 against Princeton and Denver before eventually getting beaten. Scoring in general is still a problem for the Red Storm, as they have yet to score more than just one goal in any game.
Seton Hall (0-5-1)
Bennett Ranking: #101
Goals Leader: Samuel Geller, 2
Assists Leader: Andres Arcila, 2
Keeper: Julian Spindler - 2.55 GAA; .556 SV%
Worst Loss: vs #133 Rider, 2-1
Well, at least St. John's has a win to their name.
Things have gone from bad to worse for Seton Hall this season. It wasn't bad enough that they were just losing games to start off, now they're losing games badly. They've given up four goals in each of their last two games, and this is going to get worse before it gets better: They open Big East play against Creighton on Saturday afternoon.
Officially, I'm going with Spindler as the keeper of note for the Pirates. He's started five of their six matches, including the most recent one. With that said, he was lifted from that match, a 4-1 loss to Monmouth on Tuesday night, after giving up four goals in 65 minutes. Junior Brandon Barnes made his collegiate debut in the match before that (lost 4-0 to Bucknell), and he replaced Spindler against Monmouth. There are two other GKs on the roster, but Chris Martinez is a sophomore transfer who didn't play at Montclair State last year, and Peyton Elder is a freshman. At this point, may as well just go with the frosh, y'know?
Bennett Ranking: #69
Goals Leader: Padraic McCullaugh, 4 (T-4)
Assists Leader: Two players with 3 (T-3)
Keeper: Will Steiner - 1.63 GAA (#10); .714 SV% (#7)
Best Win: vs #62 Delaware, 2-1
Worst Loss: vs #114 Temple, 2-1
After a nice start to the season, things have kind of gone sideways for Villanova over the last two weeks. They followed up a 3-1 conk in the head at the hands of Monmouth for their first loss of the season, and then they followed that up with that terrible loss to Temple. Sure, they bounced back with a win over Stony Brook in their most recent game, but I don't really feel like patting them on the back for beating the worst team that they've played this season.
It'd be more than a little unfair to call Will Steiner the worst regular keeper in the Big East just because he's 10th in goals-against. First of all, his team's winning, so there's no reason to be mean just to be mean. Second, Julian Spindler's out there, so it's just factually wrong. Third, and finally, Xavier's Vince Shaw is ranked #3, and he's doomed to spend the rest of the season on the bench, even though mathematically, he's been better than Steiner. Speaking of the Musketeers...
Bennett Ranking: #23
Goals Leader: Alex Ridsale, 5 (#3)
Assists Leader: Three players with 2
Keeper: Dallas Jaye - 0.25 GAA (#2); .900 SV% (#2)
Best Win: at #5 Notre Dame, 1-0
Worst Loss: at #151 Lipscomb, 2-1
We have to start discussing the Musketeers with their goalkeeping situation. Coming into the season, the plan to replace Big East Goalkeeper of the Year Eric Osswald (and do not get me started on what kind of a joke it was that Osswald won this award) was to go with senior Vince Shaw. Shaw had played in a grand total of six matches coming into this season, and well, it looks like he's not going to get a chance to double that up this season. XU started the season ranked in the NSCAA Top 25, but they're LONG gone from that after losing to Lipscomb, and that loss cost Shaw his starting spot. That led to junior Jake Circillo in net against Virginia Tech... until they lost that match, too. It's been Dallas Jaye ever since, and hey, look, they handed Notre Dame their first loss of the season while scoring the first goal the Irish had allowed all season. Which is the real Xavier: losing to Lipscomb or knocking off Notre Dame? And how much of that is purely on the keeper?
It seems like the Musketeers have a legitimate goal scoring threat in Risdale. He's got five goals in eight matches this season, and of course, there's also the absurd bicycle kick goal that he scored against IPFW in their most recent matchup. He's helped by having sophomore Matt Vasquenza out there with him, along with junior Jalen Brown, who is the Big East's reigning Offensive Player of the Week after banging home the game winner against the Fighting Irish.