After last Saturday’s 2-1 comeback win over Xavier, head coach Louis Bennett told the Marquette Wire that it was “probably the most important three points of the season” for Marquette men’s soccer.
He’s not wrong on a lot of levels.
First of all, it pushed MU to 10 points in the Big East standings with three matches to play. As we pointed out in the preseason, 12 is the likely bare minimum needed to qualify for the Big East tournament, and finding two points in three matches is much easier than finding five in three. It was also Marquette’s first come-from-behind victory of the season, so for a coach, it’s always meaningful when your squad shows the resolve necessary to level a match and then come away with the win.
The mathematics of earning those points takes on another angle when you consider Wednesday night’s opponent: First place and #19 Creighton. Not just a ranked foe, but a ranked foe that’s coming off a week where they dipped 11 spots in the United Soccer Coaches poll. They’re most likely going to be looking to take some frustrations out on someone, and Marquette is the next object in their path. That’s not an easy proposition for trying to pull a draw out of a road match, much less a road upset of the #1 team in the league.
While it would be great to steal points off Creighton on Wednesday night, Saturday’s victory over the Musketeers removed a lot of the importance from it. MU can go into Omaha relaxed and confident in their abilities, and then focus on making sure they get points from Sunday’s road trip to Butler and next Wednesday’s regular season finale at home against DePaul. Both the Blue Demons and the Bulldogs are behind MU in the standings at the moment, so you’d like to think that pulling two or more points from those contests would be an easy enough task.
So, no pressure at Morrison on Wednesday night. Just a chance to knock off a ranked team for the second time this season and an opportunity to come damn close to clinching a Big East tournament berth. Chance and opportunity, nothing more.
Big East Match #7: at #19 Creighton Bluejays (9-3-2, 5-0-1 Big East)
Date: Wednesday, October 24, 2018
Time: 7pm Central
Location: Morrison Stadium, Omaha, NE
Video Streaming: Big East Digital Network on Fox Sports Go
Live Stats: StatBroadcast
Twitter Updates: @marquettesoccer
Marquette has a winning record all time against Creighton, as the series currently stands at 7-6-0. The first meeting came back in 1983, with MU winning 1-0 in Omaha. Creighton has had control of the series since The Reformation, winning three out of the five matches. However, Marquette won last year in Milwaukee in a terrifying 4-3 encounter as Creighton scored three times in the final 30 minutes.
Had this match taken place on Monday night, it would have sounded much more foreboding for the Golden Eagles. Creighton was still the #8 team in the country then, as the newest USC poll didn’t come out until Tuesday. What ended up costing them 11 spots in the poll was a 0-1-1 week last week, as they lost 1-0 on the road against Akron and then came home and went to a scoreless draw with Providence for their first non-win in Big East action. They’re still in first place in the league with 16 points, three clear from Georgetown, and if they earn points from this match, they’ll be the first team to clinch a conference tournament berth.
Marquette is going to have to contend with a stingy Bluejays defense. They allow just 8.4 shots per game, and that number falls to seven even in their six Big East contests thus far. Meanwhile, on the other end, CU generates over 16 shots per game, well more than doubling up their foes in league games. MU will have to find a way to even that out a bit, which worked in Providence’s favor, as they were outshot by only a 12-9 margin.
Sven Koenig is the man to mark on offense, recording seven goals this season. He’s the only Bluejay with more than three in the net, and he has four in six Big East games. Creighton finds a way to put it in the net off a pass, as they’re even at 19 goals and assists this season. Akeem Ward has four helperes this season, and there’s four more CU players with multiple assists.
The goalkeeping will be handled by Paul Kruse, a 6’4” freshman from Germany. He’s played every minute for Creighton this season, and he’s a big reason why they’re leading the league. With just seven goals allowed all year, his goals-against average is a microscopic 0.48 and he stops nearly 83% of anything put on frame. That doesn’t happen all that often, though, as Kruse averages just 2.4 saves per match. It’ll be a tall task to generate a lot of shots on goal, but MU will need to find a way to test Kruse if they want to claim at least a point here.