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Marquette Men’s Soccer Preview: at Providence

Last time out was Step 1. Now for Step 2 of a four part plan called “Operation: Conference Tournament.”

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Providence vs Southern California
He just wants to give you a hug.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Good news: Marquette pulled off a shocking 4-1 upset over Xavier in their last match to move themselves out of last place in the Big East.

Bad news: Because of other wins around the Big East, Marquette only moved from 10th place to 9th place.

Good news: With five points on the year and three matches left to play, Marquette sits just three points St. John’s and their eight points that currently represent the final conference tournament berth.

Bad news: Georgetown (7 points) and DePaul (6 points) stand between Marquette and the sixth and final tournament spot right now.

So. It probably means that Marquette is going to have to find a way to at least get points in each of their final three matches, and, to be quite honest, they probably need to win all three matches if they want to get themselves into the postseason. It’s a daunting task, to be sure. It’s also not the worst thing in the world if they fall short. With just two seniors, and with only one of said seniors getting significant playing time, the Golden Eagles are poised to make a significant bounce back in future seasons. It’s just kind of a bummer that the offensive fireworks of three straight matches with four goals each couldn’t carry over into the early segment of Big East action, thus leaving Marquette in the position they now find themselves.

Since Marquette took a 1-0 loss to Wisconsin back on October 5th, the Golden Eagles have gone 1-1-1, which is admittedly not that impressive sounding. However, freshman Luka Prpa has recorded points in each of those three contests, moving him to 22 (8G, 6A) on the year. That ties him for the best points performance by a MU player since Andy Huftalin went for 24 points in 2012 and puts Prpa on notice for the best points total since Chris Lee snagged 30 waaaaay back in 2003. He’s clearly within shouting distance of the Marquette records for points by a freshman (Brian Sayers with 29 in 1972), and goals by a freshman (Allen Stoltman with 10 in 1993). Heck, the fact that he’s this close is impressive enough when you consider that Prpa is still 12 points from a three way tie for the ninth most points in a season by any player, and no one’s touched that number in 20 years.

Big East Match #7: at Providence (9-5-0, 4-2-0 Big East)

When: Wednesday, October 26, 2016, at 6pm CT
Where: Chapey Field at Anderson Stadium in Providence, RI
Audio/Visual: The Big East Digital Network on Fox Sports Go has the video stream & there’s live stats.
Twitter Updates: @marquettesoccer

Marquette has a 4-6-1 all time record against Providence. Last year’s 4-3 Friar victory in Milwaukee snapped a five match unbeaten streak in the series for the Golden Eagles. Marquette’s last victory against Providence came in the 2013 Big East tournament championship match. Shoutout to Adam Lysak and PPL Park.

Before the season got started, Providence was picked to finish third in the Big East, and so far, that’s bearing itself to be an accurate by the league’s coaches. I mean, mostly accurate. Being listed second in a two-way tie for second place is pretty much the same thing as third place, at least from a Big East tournament seeding perspective. They’re riding a five match winning streak coming into Wednesday’s contest, and were it not for an 87th minute largely meaningless goal by DePaul’s Simon Megally, the Friars would be on a shutout streak that stretches longer than two matches right now.

If you had to point to the most impressive thing about what the Friars are accomplishing this season, it’s that they’re performing up to expectations without their best player. Mac Steeves was named the Big East’s Preseason Offensive Player of the Year before the season started, but he’s appeared in only two matches. He came off the bench in PC’s first two matches of the year, didn’t register a point, and hasn’t played since.

Providence has been getting by without Steeves, managing to stay in contention for a home game in the Big East quarterfinals even though they’re in the bottom half of the league in both goals and assists. The majority of the scoring load this season has fallen onto Julian Gressel, although that’s not a surprise. The senior came into the year with 14 career goals and 19 career assists, but his mindset has turned around in 2016. He’s tied for second in the Big East in goals with nine, which is already far and away his career best. His assists are way down at just two on the year, but that’s what happens with Steeves not available.

I’m pretty sure we’re going to see Colin Miller in net on Wednesday night. The redshirt sophomore has been in net for every minute of the current five match winning streak that Providence is on, even though he hasn’t been the regular starter all year. Miller has a nearly non-existent goals-against average of just 0.37 in his eight matches this season, and he’s stopping 90% of shots on goal. Providence is a perfect 8-0-0 in his matches, so I have no idea what made head coach Craig Stewart went back to Ben Seguljic after Miller opened up with three straight shutouts.