It’s been nearly seven weeks since Marquette men’s soccer had their run of four straight matches with four goals, and it’s been a little over five weeks since MU had scored more than one goal in a game. Heading into Saturday night’s match against second place Xavier, a team that was getting votes in the most recent NSCAA top 25, the hope was that the Golden Eagles would uncover a way to win somewhere in the 90 minutes.
And then they shelled the Musketeers for four goals on their way to a 4-1 victory, lifting Marquette out of the cellar of the Big East table and into spitting distance of a Big East tournament berth.
MU is now 4-5-4 overall this season, and 1-3-2 in Big East play. They’re now in ninth place in the Big East, thanks to the three points from the win against the Musketeers.
Freshman phenom Luka Prpa broke the ice on the match in the 10th minute, recording a penalty kick goal after Xavier committed a handball inside the 18 yard box. But it was his 18th minute goal, sending a feed from Daniel Szczepanek to the far post where Xavier keeper Colin Hanley had no chance to stop it, that opened the floodgates for the Golden Eagles.
Marquette’s chances at a shutout against the Musketeers were short-lived, as Xavier caught Marquette in transition in the 25th minute. The Golden Eagles defense failed to properly get back to defend the cross into the middle by Majed Osman, and Matt Vasquenza cracked a shot past keeper Luis Barraza to make it a 2-1 game.
That one-goal lead was short-lived as well, as Szczepanek got a goal of his own a little bit before halftime to send Marquette to the locker room up 3-1. Patrick Seagrist got deep into the left corner and lofted a ball out in front of the Xavier net. Connor Alba got the best of a leaping opportunity to keep the ball moving to the right where Szczepanek was waiting to send it home in between Hanley and defender Matt Nance.
Marquette might have been the beneficiary of a bit of luck in the first half, as they were outshot 9-6 but still held that 3-1 lead. Whatever worries you might have had about that evaporated quickly in the second half when Alba got his fourth goal of the season in the 48th minute, even if there was a bit of luck involved in that marker. Szczepanek got his second assist of the night when he launched a ball at the net and it was Alba who put a redirect on it, sending it to careen just at the right point of the far post where it deflected into the net.
With a 4-1 lead, all Marquette had to do was defend reasonably well for the next 42 minutes, and they did exactly that. Xavier outshot the Golden Eagles 10-1 over the remainder of the game, but it was Barraza standing on his head to keep the score where it was. Really, calling it “standing on his head” makes it sound like the six saves he made after Alba’s goal were ridiculously impressive and a display of absurd athleticism. They weren’t, but that’s actually a tribute to Barraza. He kept his positioning strong and made simple save after simple save to defend his net. His best play came around the 70 minute mark where a ball was going sideways past him to his left, but Barraza put a mitt on it to pop it into the air and settled his own slight bobble of the ball to wrap up and end the XU attack.
Prpa is now sitting on 22 points (8G, 6A) on the season. That’s the highest point total by any Golden Eagle since C. Nortey had the exact same amount for the entirety of 2013. Andy Huftalin had 24 points for the Golden Eagles back in 2012, and to find the next best point total for a Marquette player, you have to all the way back to 2003 when Chris Lee had 30 points.
MU’s upset of the second place Musketeers was actually the second weird result of the day in the Big East, as first place Creighton suffered a 1-0 loss to Villanova. With the table reorganizing as a result, Marquette moves up to ninth place in the league with three matches to play and they sit three points short of the sixth and and final Big East tournament slot. St. John’s has it right now with eight points, but seventh place Georgetown is at seven and eighth place DePaul is at six points.
Here’s a full set of highlights, courtesy of GoMarquette.com & the Big East Digital Network:
Up Next: Marquette will take to the road for two matches this coming week as they look to find the points to slide into the conference tournament. They’ll be in Rhode Island on Wednesday to take on Providence, although the Friars (12 points) will have their eyes on trying to overtake Creighton (13 points) for first place.