Let’s set the table for the remainder of the season, shall we?
Marquette currently sits in a three-way tie for third place in the Big East with seven points. Depending on exactly how tiebreakers shake out, that could actually have MU as low as fifth place in the Big East. They trail Georgetown and Butler, who are tied for first with 12 points, and sit just one point ahead of a three-way tie for the sixth and final spot in the conference tournament.
With merely that information, along with the fact that Marquette has just four matches remaining, you would automatically say that Saturday evening’s match had major implications for the Golden Eagles.
Well, here’s a cherry on the sundae for you: Xavier, Saturday night’s opponent, is one of the three teams that trail Marquette by just one point. A Musketeers win would likely flip XU into the six team field and push MU out with three matches left to play.
If we look down the road, it’s good news that Marquette has two home matches in those final three. However, those home matches come against Creighton, one of the teams that MU is currently tied with, and Butler, who sits in that tie for first place. Thus, the importance of Saturday’s contest against Xavier continues to build.
Marquette was ultimately lucky to get a 1-0 win against St. John’s last weekend, and I don’t mean because Connor Alba scored with less than 30 seconds remaining in double overtime. Sure, they held St. John’s to just nine shots in regulation, but they only managed five, and all of those came in the second half. They will need a better full team performance in order to emerge from Cincinnati with three points.
Big East Match #6: at Xavier Musketeers (7-4-2, 2-3-0 Big East)
Date: Saturday, October 21, 2017
Time: 6pm Central
Location: XU Soccer Complex in Cincinnati, OH
Streaming: Big East Digital Network on Fox Sports Go
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @marquettesoccer
Marquette is 5-2-0 all time against Xavier, but that has to come with a caveat. Both of the losses have come since The Reformation, both as shutouts in 2014 and 2015. MU picked up a surprising 4-1 victory over the Musketeers in their regular season meeting a year ago.
Xavier comes in to Saturday night with just two wins in their last six matches, and that includes losses in each of their last two encounters. As mentioned above, they’re currently clinging to a chance at the Big East tournament, but they’re going to need a late season push and maybe some help here or there to be able to make it. They haven’t been done any favors, though, as road trips to DePaul and Butler lay in their future.
On the whole, Xavier has been outshot this season, but by barely more than a shot per game. However, while they may be missing the boat on the fun that is possession oriented soccer, it doesn’t mean that they’re not scoring. XU has 24 goals on the season against just 18 conceded. Through 13 matches this season, Xavier has been a party to a shutout — either defense or offense — just four times.
The Big East’s best point scoring team, both in total and in average, is led by Matt Vasquenza. The senior from Connecticut burst onto the scene as a freshman with 20 points, but hasn’t gotten back to that mark since. He’s on path to do it this year, though, with 15 points in Xavier’s 13 games. He’s primarily a goal scorer, with six on the season, but those three assists are tantalizing as well.
Neither mark is the best on the team, though. Samson Sergi has the team lead in goals with seven, while Simen Hestnes is tied with Jacob Goodall for the best mark in assists with six. Marquette’s beleaguered back line may be in for a hellish night, as Xavier has recorded 25 assists on just 24 goals this season.
Redshirt freshman Zachary Nelson has the controls in net, playing every single minute of this season for head coach and probable Chris Mack clone Andy Fleming. Nelson struggles to contain shots on goal, as he has a save rate of just .679. XU’s field defense is carrying the load for Nelson, as the team is allowing just 1.32 goals per 90 minutes played.