There are 13 players on the 2016 Marquette men’s soccer roster that are no longer part of the team. Only two of them, John Pothast and Mac Wheeler, were seniors last season. So yeah, there’s been a lot of turnover in the program. We’ll get to the guys who will be filling in those holes in a future installment, but for today, we’re going to look at the 14 guys who are back from last season. Whatever the future holds for the in 2017, it’s going to stem from the familiarity and coherence that these men have with each other, both on the pitch and off of it.
By far, Marquette’s biggest position of strength for 2017 is going to be with the group of midfielders. They have six total players returning there from last season, although two of them are redshirt freshmen. The other four accounted for 13 of Marquette’s 26 goals in 2016, and 11 of MU’s 22 assists. While the Golden Eagles will need production from elsewhere on the field in 2017, that’s a pretty good base to start.
We have to begin our discussion of MU’s midfielders with Luka Prpa, the lone Golden Eagle on the Big East’s preseason all-league team. As a freshman last season, Prpa recorded 10 goals and six assists, and that makes him the Big East’s returning points leader. Big things will be expected from the now-sophomore coming off of his Big East Freshman of the Year season.
Daniel Szczepanek is the veteran voice in the midfield as he plays his redshirt senior and final year of collegiate soccer in 2017. Szczepanek has appeared in every Marquette match since the start of his redshirt freshman season, including starting in all 16 matches last season. He had his most productive season last year as well, tallying three goals and four assists to finish tied for second on the team in points. Martin Alba has had a checkered run at Marquette thus far. The redshirt junior from Illinois started the first nine matches of the 2015 season before suffering a season ending injury, and then started in all 14 of Marquette’s 16 matches that he appeared in during the 2016 campaign. He clearly has the trust of the coaching staff, but his health keeps getting in his way. With just one career assist to his name alongside 15 total shots, Alba plays a more defensive position for Marquette, as does fellow midfielder Ruben Sanchez. In fact, Sanchez has spent a lot of time playing on the backline to fill in due to injuries elsewhere on the team during his first two years with Marquette. Sanchez started in 16 of Marquette’s 17 matches as a freshman, and then made 10 starts a year ago in 13 appearances. Thanks to reinforcements to the roster, Sanchez was able to start in MU’s exhibition match against Green Bay listed as a midfielder. While he might still be playing with a defensive mindset, it can’t hurt Marquette’s overall tactics to have him playing a more mobile style.
Jordan Palmer and Cade Dombrowski are the two redshirt freshmen middies on the roster. Palmer ended up sitting out 2016 as a result of an injury suffered in preseason training, while Dombrowski was just your more traditional “well, there’s not really playing time for you” kind of redshirt. Both men had stellar prep careers in the Milwaukee area, and if given a chance, could end up providing some pop to the MU offense. Both guys got off the bench to see action against Green Bay, so they’re clearly in Louis Bennett’s mind for some quality PT this season.
Marquette’s three returning forwards are all in their second seasons with the program. Connor Alba showed himself to be a reliable scorer as a freshman, recording four goals and two assists to finish second on the team in goals and tied for second in points with 10. The Waukesha Catholic Memorial product already showed his scoring touch in 2017 with Marquette’s lone goal in their 1-1 exhibition draw against Green Bay, and you’d have to figure that he’ll have a major role to play as the season rolls onwards. Diego Nunez saw action in 14 of Marquette’s 16 matches a year ago and earned seven starts along the way. The Spaniard scored two goals, including the game-winning goal in a 4-1 defeat of Northwestern at Valley Fields. Griffin Jende is the third returning forward on the roster, but the Wisconsin native took a redshirt last season, so he has yet to make his collegiate debut. He racked up a bunch of all-conference, area, and state awards as a prep player at Pewaukee High School and set school records for career goals (90), career assists (45), and single season goals (33).
He might only be a sophomore, but Patrick Seagrist has already proven himself to be a major component in Marquette’s lineup. He started all 16 of Marquette’s matches last year as a freshman, and his blazing speed up the sideline can and will pay dividends for the Golden Eagles. Seagrist tallied a goal and two assists last season and had a helper on Connor Alba’s goal in MU’s exhibition contest against Green Bay.
Jack Alberts has seen regular minutes for the Golden Eagles across his three seasons of activity, but the redshirt junior from Illinois has seen his minutes decrease in each of the past two years. He’s mostly been used in reserve, but Alberts has made 19 starts in 44 appearances. With MU’s defense being bolstered by new additions, Alberts may find himself even shorter on playing time this season. Colin Koerber is in his redshirt junior season as well, but the Wisconsin native has yet to make an appearance for the Golden Eagles.
It seems that 2017 will be free of the goalie battles that have been on the Marquette roster over the past two seasons. Mac Wheeler’s eligibility wrapped up last fall, leaving Luis Barraza as the clear cut #1 keeper. However, his stats don’t really back that status up. He’s posted goals-against averages over 1.50 in both seasons and has yet to finish a year with a save percentage north of 75%. Now, as we’ve alluded to earlier in this article, Barraza has been unlucky with the defense in front of him being unable to maintain an ongoing coherence in terms of who’s playing, so that is definitely not helping matters. Even with that uncertainty, Barraza has been pushed for playing time by Wheeler over the past two years and the New Mexico native is going to need to be much better if Marquette wants to make it back to the Big East tournament for the first time in three years. Noah Heim is going to be the backup to Barraza this year after redshirting in 2016. Nothing against the young man from Cambridge, Wisconsin but if he’s playing significant minutes for the Golden Eagles this season, something has gone very wrong.