Marquette men’s soccer kicked off the 2018 campaign this past Sunday afternoon with a 3-1 win over Valparaiso. It was a nice contest, highlighted by a brace from freshman forward Lukas Sunesson. As you can tell from the goal that Valpo scored, it wasn’t a straight forward domination from beginning to end, and our man Sam Newberry talked a little about that in his recap of the game.
However, at least from a national perspective, it was a pretty impressive performance.
Top Drawer Soccer is currently ranking — yes, RANKING — Marquette as the #22 team in the country.
United Soccer Coaches is being a little more sedate about things. Their voters combined to give the Golden Eagles five points in their first in-season poll of the season. Still, that has Marquette as the unofficial #43 team in the country, and that’s nothing to sneeze at.
Yes, this sounds slightly insane. If we’re being honest, Valparaiso isn’t expected to be particularly great this year, so beating them shouldn’t turn on the “OH CRAP, THEY’RE ONE OF THE 25 BEST TEAMS IN THE COUNTRY” signal. However, if you look at the USC poll, I think you can start to figure out what happened.
There are NINE teams in the USC poll that are marked as either “RV” or “NR” in the “Previous” column. That’s nine teams out of the top 25 that were either only receiving votes last week or weren’t even ranked at all. That also means that there are nine teams that FELL OUT of the preseason top 25 in order to make way for those unranked teams to get in there. When nearly 40% of the top 25 has done something to cause the voters to say “naaaaaaaah” to them, that’s how you end up with a 3-1 win over Valparaiso looking very, very impressive.
As it stands, it appears that at the very least, Marquette has popped a few flares into the skies above college soccer this season. The next step, of course, is to show all the new eyes on the program why they deserve to continue to earn those top 25 votes and keep accruing more as well.
Match #2: vs Central Arkansas Bears (1-0-0)
This is Marquette’s first ever meeting with Central Arkansas. The Bears play in the Missouri Valley Conference, though, and MU is no stranger to their conference rivals, having already played an exhibition match this year against Loyola-Chicago and opening up the season on Sunday against Valparaiso.
Central Arkansas was picked to finish third in the MVC this season, trailing behind Missouri State and Loyola. However, it was the Bears, not the Ramblers, that earned the first place vote from Missouri State’s head coach in the preseason polling. Their 9-11-1 record a year ago maybe doesn’t sound like “first place next year” material, but they did go 5-3-0 in league play and ended up winning the conference tournament as well.
UCA returns seven starters from that team, including Niklas Brodacki, who was the MVC Player of the Year last year and led the country with 17 goals scored. While the Swede will be the man to watch for Marquette’s defense, it’s actually senior Daltyn Knutson that tallied the lone goal in the Bears’ season opening 1-0 win against Georgia State last Friday night.
Marc Olsen was the lone goalkeeper on the MVC preseason all-conference team after posting four shutouts a year ago. The 6’2” native of Denmark earned MVC Defensive Player of the Week honors for his four save clean sheet performance against Georgia State.