The 2017 season is finally here. The Marquette Golden Eagles wrapped up their preseason with a win over No. 21 ranked Loyola-Chicago this past Saturday. Freshman defender Manuel Cukaj scored in the 18th minute for the Golden Eagles and Louis Bennett’s squad proved that was all they needed to beat the Ramblers. Look for Cukaj to be in the starting lineup as he played 82 and 86 minutes in both of Marquette’s preseason games.
The regular season now begins today as the Golden Eagles look to storm Lexington and gain revenge on the Kentucky Wildcats for last year’s season opener. Marquette opened against the Wildcats at Valley Fields last year and that turned out to be a poor result as the Golden Eagles lost 4-0.
Louis Bennett and Co. are coming off a huge preseason victory over a ranked opponent. This gives the team a huge boost heading into the regular season.
Marquette’s lone Preseason All Big East selection, Luka Prpa, returns for his sophomore year and looks to lead the team in goals again. Prpa recorded 10 goals last season along with six assists. Marquette also returns their second leading scorer from last season in Connor Alba. The rising sophomore provided four goals last year along with two assists. Look for Luis Barraza to start in net as Mac Wheeler’s eligibility wrapped up, leaving Barraza as the clear-cut #1 netminder. The Golden Eagles have a balanced roster of veterans and rookies and Louis Bennett looks to use that balance to make a run this year. Marquette was picked 7th in the Big East’s preseason poll and their schedule is packed against tough Big East opponents. If Louis Bennett wants to return his squad to the Big East Tournament for the first time in three years, the defense will need to step up in front of Barraza and help keep high quality shots away from the cage.
Kentucky is coming off an 11-5-3 season and their third straight NCAA tournament appearance, which ended in a first round loss to Creighton. They return two players who scored three goals last year in Noah Hutchins and JJ Williams. Hutchins plays in the midfield while Williams plays up front in the forward position. Led by head coach Johan Cedergren, the Wildcats look to outpace their 4th place Conference USA preseason poll position. Yes, you read that right. Kentucky is a C-USA team for men’s soccer. This is what happens when almost the entirety of the SEC does not sponsor the sport.
Look for Marquette to focus on possession of the ball throughout the game. MU showed in their last preseason game that they can defend a one-goal lead against high quality opponents. The Golden Eagles will want to keep the ball away from the Wildcats and lessen the work load for Barraza to get him off and running in the regular season with a strong performance.
Match #1: vs Kentucky Wildcats (0-0-0)