After 110 minutes of action at Valley Fields on Wednesday night, the ball finally came to a rest, the shots stopped, the fouls stopped, the cards stopped, and the score was 3-3. No one would have expected that to be the score just 80 minutes earlier, when Marquette was carrying around a 3-0 lead, but UW-Milwaukee equalized in the 86th minute on an own goal and the two teams remained scoreless through two overtime periods to keep it at a draw.
Thanks to the draw, though, Marquette maintains possession of the Milwaukee Cup for the third straight year. It’s the first time that MU has had the cup for three years since 1998-2000 and just the third three-year run by the Golden Eagles in the history of the series with the Panthers.
Marquette overcame a shaky start where UWM took the first four shots of the game in the opening 10 minutes to bounce out to a commanding 3-0 lead before 30 minutes had elapsed. Daniel Szczepanek broke the ice in the 16th minute when he snapped his second touch to the far post and past Milwaukee keeper Sam Glass. He turned his marker into a brace in the 27th minute when Patrick Seagrist floated a cross into the middle of the box and Szczepanek bolted in from the right wing for a leaping header into the back of the net.
Connor Alba, who had the helper on Szczepanek’s first goal, turned in a dazzling play of his own less than three minutes later. After collecting a pass from fellow freshman Luka Prpa, he turned upfield into space, juked a defender, and, with UWM’s other backs marking potential passing options, Alba took advantage of space and slotted it to the right post for a 3-0 lead.
It would be nice to think that Marquette would have been solid with three goals in 30 minutes, and really, three in just 14 minutes. But that was all the scoring that the Golden Eagles would do on the night, and Evan Conway clawed one back on a turnover by MU keeper Mac Wheeler before halftime for the Panthers to make it 3-1 at the break.
What ended up dooming Marquette’s lead on the night was UWM doing one thing that Marquette could not manage. The Panthers seemed to always have a pass going to the right place at the right time to an attacker that was bolting into space upfield. Time and time again it happened, while time and time again the Golden Eagles would make what looked like a crafty pass, but it was to an attacker that was not aware the ball was coming to them and it ended up at the feet of a Panther defender.
Conway got a brace of his own in the 61st minute sending a relatively simple shot to the right post past Wheeler. UWM’s continued ability to keep pushing up field with space and tenacity kept the Panthers threatening over the final 29 minutes of regulation. A cross sent into the middle in the 86th minute struck Danny Jarosz’s leg and went careening into the back of the net, knotting the match at three. It may have been an unfortunate bounce, but the effort and enthusiasm from UWM was clearly deserving of another goal.
That sent us to extra time, and that’s when things got haywire. It really got crazy with 15 seconds left in the first extra frame when Szczepanek took a yellow card for a forehead-to-forehead confrontation with a Panther, and then UWM’s Stephen Andrusko was issued a yellow at the break between frames. The match started derailing in the final two minutes as UWM earned two yellow cards past the 108 minute mark before Marquette’s Martin Alba was red carded with 13 seconds left. It was on the far side of the field from the stands, so I didn’t get a good look at it, but here’s how GoMarquette.com describes it:
With just 16 seconds remaining, redshirt sophomore midfielder Martin Alba was issued a straight red card despite neither player being knocked to the ground as he collided with a Milwaukee player in front of the Marquette bench.
The ensuing free kick was harmless and Marquette escaped all of that nonsense by rescuing a draw from the mouth of victory.
Wheeler made four saves in his third start of the season, including a fantastic leaping stop in the 74th minute to preserve what was a 3-2 lead at the time. The Marquette coaching staff said they wanted to have a #1 keeper decided upon by the start of Big East play, and we’re at that point now. We’ll see whether they go with Wheeler, who allowed the first three goals of his season in this match, or sophomore Luis Barraza, who has not allowed a run of play goal since the first minute of the UIC match, a stretch of over 220 minutes.
How about some highlights, courtesy of GoMarquette.com and Time Warner Cable?
Up Next: As mentioned above, Big East play is upon us. Marquette kicks off conference action at home on Saturday night when they host St. John’s. The Red Storm are 3-1-1 on the season with wins in their last two contests. Students in attendance will get a MU soccer tank top and there’s a free Qdoba bar for them, too.