Did you realize that Big East play begins in men’s soccer today? I sure didn’t until earlier this week when I looked up who Marquette was going to play following the UWM game. Even though women’s soccer started a week before the men’s teams by NCAA scheduling rules, the men’s side of the conference starts their games this week, one week before the women’s teams.
Anyway, this is going to serve as our preview of Marquette’s first Big East game of the season, so let’s dive into the particulars of that before we get any further here.....
Big East Match #1: vs St. John’s (3-1-1)
When: Saturday, September 17, 2016, at 7pm Central
Where: Valley Fields
Audio/Visual: The Big East Digital Network has the broadcast on Fox Sports Go, plus there’s live stats.
Special Promotion: Free MU soccer tank tops and tacos for the first 200 students in attendance.
Twitter Updates: @marquettesoccer & @StJohnsMSoccer
With that out of the way, we proceed to a capsule look at each of the 10 teams in the Big East. Going in alphabetical order, we’ll look at each team, their record so far, and their ranking according to the Bennett Rankings on HeroSports.com and the NSCAA top 25 where that applies. You’ll see their statistical leaders in points, goals, and assists, plus a mention of whoever their top goalkeeper is. Under that, you’ll get their best win and worst loss of the season, at least according to the Bennett Rankings.
Butler (4-0-1, #10)
NSCAA Rank: #10
Points Leader: Lewis Suddick, 10
Goals Leader: Lewis Suddick & David Goldsmith, 4
Assists Leader: Jared Timmer, 3
Keeper: Eric Dick - 0.77 GAA; .833 SV%
Best Win: vs #18 UC-Santa Barbara on a neutral field, 4-2
If “surprise team of the year” has to have a positive connotation to it, then Butler is definitely the surprise team of the year in the Big East thus far. The Bulldogs were 10-4-4 a year ago and 6-3-0 in league play, which led to them being tabbed to finish fifth in the league this year.
And now they’re ranked #10 in the country. They’re the only team in the Big East that’s yet to record a loss, and that’s been like that since September 5th. I’m not really sure how they got on the national radar, as they were ranked heading into their match with #7 UC-Santa Barbara and their wins heading into that weren’t that impressive. Stomping down on the Gauchos definitely earned them their stripes as a ranked team, though, and they backed that up with a shutout of Oregon State. They still have some ranked teams in front of them as SURPRISE the non-conference schedule isn’t quite wrapped up yet, so we’ll see if they can maintain this start.
The key to their surprising start has to be Lewis Suddick, a freshman midfielder from England. Were it not for Marquette’s Luka Prpa, Suddick would easily be the best freshman in the Big East so far this season, as he’s already recorded four goals and two assists.
Creighton (3-1-1, #12)
NSCAA Rank: #14
Points Leader: Joel Rystrand, 5
Goals Leader: Joel Rystrand & Riggs Lennon, 2
Assists Leader: Noah Franke, 2
Keeper: Alex Kapp - 0.38 GAA; .889 SV%
Best Win: at #53 Rutgers, 2-0
Only Loss: at #7 Clemson, 1-0
Picked to win the Big East this season, Creighton has held up their end of the bargain so far this season. Their only loss is to a nationally ranked Clemson team, and their draw is in a crosstown derby with Nebraska-Omaha, and if we learned anything this week, it’s that college soccer crosstown derbies can get weird in a hurry.
Creighton has benefited greatly from two graduate transfers from the ACC this season. The aforementioned Alex Kapp (Boston College) has stepped right into the Jays’ net and picked up right where Connor Sparrow left off last season, allowing just two goals all season so far. Riggs Lennon (Virginia) has also made a quick impact, jumping to the top of the stat sheet immediately with those two goals that are tied for the team lead.
Speaking of that lead, it’s clear that Joel Rystrand is going to be a thorn in the sides of the rest of the Big East for a while. The sophomore from Sweden needs just one goal to match his output from last season, and he’s already more than halfway to his points total from a year ago as well.
DePaul (4-1-2, #103)
Points Leader: Simon Megally, 10
Goals Leader: Simon Megally, 4
Assists Leader: Hans Wustling & Max De Bruijne, 3
Keeper: Quentin Low - 0.56 GAA; .833 SV%
Best Win: vs #94 Albany, 3-0
Only Loss: at #144 Portland, 2-1
It’s probably too early to demand an apology from the Big East coaches. Based on their surprising turnaround in conference play a year ago, I had the Blue Demons as one of the five best teams in the league in my preseason predictions. The coaches voted them eighth, probably because they were hot garbage in their non-conference schedule last year.
Well, now they’re 4-1-2, and yes, a barely top 100 win as your best win is not impressive. But it’s also not the 1-8-0 record that they had last year, so I’m on the edge of demanding an apology for believing in the Blue Demons. We’ll have to see if they can sustain this start and plow into league play with a head of steam.
I’d be willing to bet that they can, as they’ve engineered the most productive offense in the league so far. They’re tops in goals and assists, and while it’s just a one goal margin over Marquette for that lead, they have four more assists than any other team in the league. Consistently finding an open seam to a free shooter will take you a long way in soccer, and the Blue Demons are doing that better than anyone else in the Big East right now.
Georgetown (1-5-0, #19)
Points Leader: Brett Campbell & Achara, 2
Goals Leader: Brett Campbell & Achara, 1
Assists Leader: Matt Ledder & Davey Mason, 1
Keeper: JT Marcinkowski - 1.00 GAA; .829 SV%
Only Win: vs #29 UConn, 1-0
Worst Loss: vs #70 West Virginia on a neutral field, 1-0
HOW IN THE HELL IS GEORGETOWN STILL #19 IN THIS RANKING SYSTEM.
Well, okay, that’s maybe a slight overreaction, because they have losses to three top 50 teams by 1-0 margins, and two of those are top 15 and both of those losses were on the road. But still. #19? That’s a bit inflated for a team that’s managed just two goals all year.
Georgetown’s the team that made me qualify the “surprise” item in the blurb on Butler. The Hoyas started the season ranked #10 in the NSCAA top 25, and they have rapidly plummeted out of that ranking. In fairness to them, they lost four players to the MLS SuperDraft and two more to MLS Homegrown Player Contracts. That is a lot of dudes to suddenly disappear from your roster, but it’s not like the NSCAA voted before the SuperDraft. On the flip side, Georgetown’s clearly in the process of figuring a thing or seven out about how their current pieces are fitting together.
Marquette (3-1-2, #101)
Points Leader: Luka Prpa, 15
Goals Leader: Luka Prpa, 5
Assists Leader: Luka Prpa, 5
Keeper: Mac Wheeler - 0.99 GAA; .625 SV%
Best Win: vs #84 Northwestern, 4-1
Only Loss: vs #26 Kentucky, 4-0
MU’s the favorite team around these parts so let’s keep this simple and short. 1) Luka Prpa is still leading the Big East in points, goals, and assists, and he has been shut out in the last two matches. 2) Mac Wheeler is statistically the best keeper on the squad, but Luis Barraza’s stats are being stung by allowing two penalty kick goals in his last two appearances. He hasn’t allowed a run of play goal in over 220 minutes, so he might be the starter on Saturday night. 3) Redshirt sophomore midfielder Martin Alba is suspended for Saturday night’s match vs the Red Storm as a result of the red card he received with just seconds remaining in overtime against UWM on Wednesday.
Providence (4-2-0, #37)
Points Leader: Julian Gressel, 9
Goals Leader: Julian Gressel, 4
Assists Leader: Brendan Constantine, 2
Keeper: Colin Miller - 0.00 GAA; 1.000 SV%
Best Win: vs #31 SMU, 1-0
Worst Loss: vs #107 Rhode Island, 2-1
Providence has had two major issues to deal with and they’re still doing pretty well.
Issue #1: Big East Preseason Offensive Player of the Year Mac Steeves has played in just two matches all season. Steeves recorded 13 goals and two assists in 2015 and was the points leader amongst all players returning to the Big East from last season. He was a sub in PC’s first two matches of the year and he has not played since. The Friars have won all four of the matches that they’ve played without him, so I imagine that Steeves is getting ribbed pretty hard by his teammates.
Issue #2: Goaltending. Redshirt junior Ben Seguljic played all but nine minutes last season for Providence, but that’s not the case this year. He started the first three matches of the season before giving way to redshirt sophomore Colin Miller, he of the nine minutes in 2015, for the last three matches. Miller’s been great, making eight saves and not allowing a goal in 270 minutes, including that shutout against SMU that poses as the best win of the year so far for Providence.
St. John’s (3-1-1, #120)
Points Leader: Harry Cooksley, 7
Goals Leader: Alistair Johnston, 3
Assists Leader: Harry Cooksley, 3
Keeper: Andrew Withers - 0.33 GAA; .889 SV%
Best Win: at #62 Princeton, 3-1
Only Loss: at #3 Syracuse, 3-2
St. John’s makes it three teams that have question marks at goalkeeper, and we’re still going to get another one (and kind of a second) by the time we get to the bottom of the page. Wooooooooo. Andrew Withers gets the nod as the top guy because he’s the only one that has actually played a full match this season. It was their most recent game, a 2-0 win over Holy Cross. Before that, Withers was alternating starts with Michael Bernardi, and regardless of who started, the other guy came in at halftime. Even with all of that going on, Withers clearly has the best stats, so if that’s the guy that head coach Dave Masur is going to go with, that makes sense.
The Red Storm was very young last year, and that hasn’t changed all that much this season. Johnston is a freshman from Canada, while Cooksley is a junior that’s a newcomer to the team. He’s a junior who spent the last two years with Division 2 Limestone College, and he’s doing what he did there: He was a point per game player in two seasons (17 goals, 12 assists), and he’s well over that mark through five matches in New York.
Seton Hall (2-3-1, #170)
Points Leader: Andres Arcila, 10
Goals Leader: Andres Arcila, 4
Assists Leader: Andres Arcila & Jonathan Jimenez, 2
Keeper: Julian Spindler - 1.48 GAA; .742 SV%
Best Win: vs #76 Lehigh, 4-3 (OT)
Worst Loss: vs #139 Stony Brook, 2-0
We have to address SHU’s goalkeeping first. Spindler is their #1 keeper, both statistically and in terms of minutes played. However, Peyton Elder started and played the full 90 minutes in their most recent game, a 3-1 loss to Delaware.
This year is already an improvement for the Pirates. They had gone winless for all of 2015, and that streak was snapped in game #1 of this season. Then they went winless in their next three games. So it’s not all 100% fixed. Two wins is still better than zero wins, though, so that’s a plus.
Speaking of improvements over last year, how about Andres Arcila? He had just seven points as a freshman, and now he’s got 10 in just six matches in 2016. If nothing else, Seton Hall has a legitimate goal scoring option on the field that has to be marked at all times, which goes a long way towards improving the overall direction of the team. See also: Prpa, Luka.
Villanova (3-2-0, #71)
Points Leader: Padraic McCullaugh & Lucas Hodges, 5
Goals Leader: Padraic McCullaugh & Lucas Hodges, 2
Assists Leader: Zach Zandi, 2
Keeper: Will Steiner - 1.37 GAA; .767 SV%
Best Win: at #13 Boston College, 2-1
Worst Loss: vs #72 Rider, 2-1
Will Steiner has won Big East Goalkeeper of the Week twice this season. Is anyone else shocked to find out that his overall stats for the season are kind of terrible? Here’s the deal, though: He made seven saves in that win over Boston College, and then the following week, he made another seven saves in a win over Delaware, who was also ranked in the NSCAA top 25 at the time. Steiner’s allowed at least one goal in every game this season, but he’s coming up big when it matters, including stopping a Delaware penalty kick.
It’s hard to say that Villanova’s offense is going to really scare the pants off of anyone, particularly since they’re getting outshot on the season. However, they do have six different players with a goal already this season, and they’ve posted five assists on their eight goals, which is pretty good. Regardless of whatever’s going on with the offense, they do have those two top 25 wins to their credit, so now it’s just a matter of playing up to that standard every time out.
We should probably acknowledge the elephant in the room: Every single one of Villanova’s matches this season has ended with a final score of 2-1. All three wins, both losses, 2-1.
Xavier (2-2-2, #57)
Points Leader: Derrick Otim, 7
Goals Leader: Derrick Otim, 3
Assists Leader: Walker Andriot, 3
Keeper: Jake Ciricillo - 1.13 GAA; .737 SV%
Best Win: vs #133 Cincinnati on a neutral field, 4-2
Worst Loss: at #109 UAB, 2-0
Xavier head coach Andy Fleming is determined to drive me totally insane. Yet again, his keeper situation is a total nightmare. Jake Ciricillo played the opener, gave way to Zachary Nelson for match #2, then resumed his duties riiiiiiight up until Tuesday night’s contest against Louisville, when Colin Hanley manned the net for the Musketeers’ 2-0 loss. Yes, that’s right, Xavier is undefeated when their opening day keeper plays, but 0-2-0 when he doesn’t. Wheeeeeeeeeeee.
Nine different Musketeers have recorded a point already on the season, which is pretty impressive. Their two losses on the season have come in the form of shutouts, so it’s kind of a all or nothing gambit for XU. Between not winning for their backup keepers and losing only when they don’t score, there’s a lot of odd things going on with this team this season.
Having a primary school teacher for a parent drove the idea of seeing patterns into my head, so I can’t not mention what Xavier’s doing this season. Win, loss, draw, draw. Win, loss..... if their next two matches end in draws, I’m officially going to start getting weirded out.