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Luka Prpa Named To All-Big East Men’s Soccer Second Team; Manuel Cukaj On All-Freshman Squad

Well, there’s that, at least.

Manuel Cukaj
Manuel Cukaj has made an impact on Marquette’s defense already as a freshman.

The 2017 Marquette Golden Eagles men’s soccer season got a brief spot of sunshine at the end when the Big East announced the end of season awards for the league.

Sophomore midfielder Luka Prpa was named to the All-Big East Second Team, while freshman defender Manuel Cukaj was included in the Big East’s All-Freshman Team.

Prpa’s inclusion in the all-league honors is slightly surprising, given his steep decrease in offensive production from his freshman campaign. After being named Freshman of the Year in 2016 on the back of 10 goals and six assists, Prpa assembled just one goal and five assists in 2017. Four of those assists came in MU’s third-to-last match of the season, as he recorded a helper on all four Marquette goals in a 4-3 win over Creighton. So, from that perspective, surprising. However, even with defenses knowing that they needed to lock down on Prpa, he still led Marquette in shots, and 17 of his team high 39 shots were on goal. Prpa’s instincts for possession and distribution may not have led to his own stats, but his influence can be seen elsewhere on the field, as five Golden Eagles found the back of the net at least twice in 2017. That may not sound like a lot, but when you consider that only six men appeared in all 16 matches this season, it’s actually pretty impressive.

Cukaj made an immediate impact on the team, starting on MU’s back line in his very first collegiate match. Injuries limited him to just 11 appearances this season, but he was in the starting eleven for 10 of them. Cukaj also tallied a goal and an assist this season, displaying versatility on set pieces for the Golden Eagles.

The individual honors in men’s soccer got a little weird in spots. In my picks, I had a hard time deciphering between Creighton’s Ricky Lopez-Espin and Butler’s Brandon Guhl for Offensive Player of the Year. Turns out, so did the coaches, as the two men ended up sharing the honors. Fair enough. In other unsurprising news, Georgetown’s Derek Dodson was named Freshman of the Year after finishing league play with the second most goals in the Big East. He also ended up as Georgetown’s leader in points and goals, and that’s pretty good stuff for a newbie.

The Big East coaches picked Butler’s Eric Dick as Goalkeeper of the Year. I had Georgetown’s J.T. Marcinkowski as my pick, but I did acknowledge that the votes could end up tilting in Dick’s favor, especially with Butler securing the regular season title with one match to play. Can’t argue with that call, and the coaches also handed the Coaching Staff of the Year award to the Bulldogs as well. Again, when you’ve five points up with one match to play, these things are hard to argue.

That leaves us with Midfielder and Defensive Player of the Year. I’m not really sure what the Big East is doing on these. In fairness to everyone, I had no idea what was going on with DPOY, so when I see that St. John’s David Enstrom got it after being named Defensive Player of the Week twice during the season, I can’t really argue it. It doesn’t hurt that Enstrom also had the only goal in SJU’s 1-0 win over then-#10 Georgetown.

Midfielder of the Year.... hoo boy. Well, let’s start here: St. John’s Harry Cooksley is your 2017 award winner. Here’s how the league office wrote it up:

Cooksley led St. John’s in points (11) and assists (5) with seven points (2G, 3A) in BIG EAST action. Cooksley scored both goals in the Red Storm’s road result at Creighton on Oct. 6, a match that would be cut short due to weather and end in a tie. Cooksley also had a four-point effort in the season-opener against Drexel with a goal and two assists.

Alrighty, here’s the deal. Butler’s Lewis Suddick had 11 points IN LEAGUE PLAY ALONE on three goals and five assists. He finished the full regular season with 18 points on five goals and eight assists. Plus, Suddick’s team, y’know, won the regular season title. Is he getting knocked her because he plays with Brandon Guhl so he wasn’t even the best scorer on his own team? Is that the deal? I get that there’s multiple ways to measure a midfielder, but I would figure that the only player in the Big East to win Offensive Player of the Week more than once this season should be a pretty big shoo-in for the best midfielder in the entire conference.

But maybe that’s just me. Maybe I just don’t have any idea why the Big East coaches have a fascination with Harry Cooksley, and I’m just going to have to learn to deal with it.

Let’s wrap up with the all-conference team lists.

All-BIG EAST First Team

Brandon Guhl, Butler, So., F *
Ricky Lopez-Espin, Creighton, Sr., F *
Mac Steeves, Providence, RS-Sr., F
Harry Cooksley, St. John’s, Sr., M
Christopher Lema, Georgetown, Sr., M
Lewis Suddick, Butler, So., M
Cory Brown, Xavier, Sr., D
David Enstrom, St. John’s, Sr., D
Brendan McDonough, Georgetown, Jr., D
Lucas Stauffer, Creighton, Sr., D
Eric Dick, Butler, RS-Sr., GK

All-BIG EAST Second Team

Derek Dodson, Georgetown, Fr., F
Declan McCabe, Georgetown, Sr., F
Matt Vasquenza, Xavier, Sr., F
Andres Arcila, Seton Hall, Jr., M
Noah Franke, Creighton, Sr., M
Simen Hestnes, Xavier, Jr., M
Luka Prpa, Marquette, So., M
Shane Bradley, Villanova, So., D
Joe Moulden, Butler, Jr., D
Cameron Taylor, Xavier, RS-Jr., D
JT Marcinkowski, Georgetown, Jr., GK

BIG EAST All-Freshman Team

Samuel Buzzas, Xavier, RS-Fr., D
Manuel Cukaj, Marquette, Fr., D
Matt DePerro, Providence, RS-Fr., F
Derek Dodson, Georgetown, Fr., F *
Jacob Montes, Georgetown, Fr., M *
Zach Nelson, Xavier, RS-Fr., GK
Sean O’Hearn, Georgetown, Fr., D
Kuba Polat, Creighton, Fr., M *
Theo Quartey, Villanova, Fr., M
Jack Shearer, St. John’s, Fr., F *
Istvan Wilhelms, DePaul, Fr., M

* - denotes unanimous selection