August just keeps on keepin’ on, so we’re going to move on to the second of the three fall sports that we keep track of here at Anonymous Eagle: men’s soccer. With the first kick of the season just 20 days away, here’s our attempt at figuring out who the Big East coaches will pick for the individual awards, preseason all-conference team, and the teams that will be predicted to finish in the top half of the table in 2017.
Preseason Offensive Player of the Year: Luka Prpa, Marquette
YEP, I JUST WENT THERE.
The Wisconsin native finished 2016 in a tie for third in the conference in points, second in points per game, tied for fourth in goals, second in goals per game, tied for fourth in assists, and third in assists per game. All of this while falling four shots short of the 10th highest total in that department. The guys who finished 1-2 in front of him in points are both gone now, as they were seniors last season. You could make an argument for Butler’s Lewis Suddick if you want, as he had one more goal than Prpa last year. The Golden Eagle midfielder pips the Butler middie on assists by two, though, which is how the pair ended up in a tie for points.
Preseason Defensive Player of the Year: Cory Brown, Xavier
Preseason DPOY last year, postseason DPOY last year. Seems like the easy and obvious pick here.
Preseason Goalkeeper of the Year: Colin Miller, Providence
Miller was a virtual wall for the Friars a year ago and PC was nearly unstoppable - 11-0-0 in the regular season - when he was in net. He ended up in a tie with Creighton’s Alex Kapp for Goalkeeper of the Year at the end of 2016, and with Kapp’s college career over, this should be Miller’s award to win easily.
With that said, Miller was not PC’s full time starter last year and Ben Seguljic is still in Friartown. If head coach Craig Stewart lets it be known that he’s not going with Miller, I could see the league’s coaches voting in a different direction. Stewart should probably be fired in that situation, though.
Preseason All-Big East Team
Cory Brown, D, Xavier
Harry Cooksley, F, St. John’s
Mark Jecewicz, D, Providence
Ricky Lopez-Espin, F, Creighton
Colin Miller, GK, Providence
Miguel Polley, M, Villanova
Luka Prpa, M, Marquette
Lucas Stauffer, D, Creighton
Lewis Suddick, M, Butler
Jared Timmer, M, Butler
Matt Vasquenza, F, Xavier
This list is kind of a mess, thanks to eight seniors showing up on last year’s postseason all-conference teams, and those all-conference teams being kind of a total mess when it came to acknowledging guys who had spectacular seasons for the league.
Prpa, Brown, and Miller get in on the strength of their individual awards, and Suddick is a near miss for OPOY, so there’s his spot, too. Lopez-Espin was top five in points and 2nd team all-BE last year, so he’s in. I didn’t understand Cooksley as 1st team all-league a year ago (woooo, he led in shots per game.... big deal), but he did finish top 10 in points, so there you go. I needed a third forward for balance, which is where Vasqenza comes in, as he was also top 10 in points.
That moves us over to midfield, where Polley had more points than both Cooksley and Vasquenza. Smart choice there, and Timmer led the league in assists. On defense, Stauffer and Jecewicz were both all-Big East First Teamers in 2016, and while I didn’t see Jecewicz coming, I’ll go along with the coaches’ preference when it comes to measuring defenders in soccer.
Top Five Teams
1 - Providence
2 - Butler
3 - Creighton
4 - St. John’s
5 - Villanova
Welcome to Wild Guess Wednesday!
Last year, the difference between second place and seventh place — aka the first team that misses the Big East tournament — was just seven points. To make things worse, Providence, the league’s defending regular season champion, lost Julian Gressel, the league’s best scorer by a wide margin, to the end of his eligibility.
You can’t even make a pick here based on who is dominating the preseason all-Big East team. Four teams have two players in my 11 man team. Ultimately, I’m going with the Friars to repeat because of Colin Miller in net. He gave PC the lowest goals allowed in conference play last season, and while it’s not likely that he repeats that, at least he has Jecewicz returning in front of him. Butler loses the second best scorer in the league, but Suddick and Timmer should provide enough pop for the defending Big East tournament champs to make some noise this season.
I can’t go lower than third for the Bluejays, as that program has too much going for it to presume they can’t contend for a title here. I’m going with St. John’s as a wild card here, as the Red Storm’s defense was outstanding last year. They were the only team in the Big East to allow fewer than 20 goals, and they’ve got the same keeper coming back this year. Two caveats: they had a goal differential of +2 last season (17 for, 15 against) and they have only 15 guys on their roster. Villanova wraps up the top five because I dunno, why not. I kind of want Marquette to be in that spot but, as we’ll discuss in the coming days, the Golden Eagles have too many question marks right now for me to be comfortable with the homer pick.