Saturday night is Marquette‘s first Big East match of the 2018 campaign. Usually, this kind of a thing results in a “Where Are We Now?” article, but hey: everyone’s only played somewhere between four and six matches. Xavier leads the entire Big East with nine total goals. There’s a three-way tie for the league lead in individual goals at four, and a four-way tie for second best at three goals. It’s not all that interesting. Not to mention, everyone still has non-conference matches to play.
Maybe in a couple of weeks, when MU has nothing but league matches left, we’ll circle back to the “Where Are We Now?” Until then, you’ll get a regular old match preview, and you’ll like it.
Thus begins Marquette’s quest for 12 points. In our season preview, I estimated that after missing the Big East tournament just barely with 10 points a year ago, the Golden Eagles would require 12 points to reach the conference tournament for the first time since 2014. It doesn’t matter how they get those 12 points through the course of nine matches. Four wins? Cool. Three wins and three draws? Cool. Whatever it takes.
In fact, coming away with a positive result in match #1 will be a pretty big step forward for the Golden Eagles. Not only is their opponent ranked (more on that in a moment), but MU has lost their last three matches after starting out the year with two straight wins. It’s kind of a big damper on things. Marquette has shown flashes of being a highly motivated, highly active, and highly talented team this season. They’re going to need to put everything together for 90 straight minutes on Saturday night to get league play off on the right foot.
Big East Match #1: vs #13 Villanova Wildcats (4-1-0)
Date: Saturday, September 15, 2018
Time: 7pm Central
Location: Valley Fields
Special Promotion: First 200 students in attendance get a Marquette Futbol T-shirt.
Video Streaming: Big East Digital Network on Fox Sports Go
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @marquettesoccer
Marquette is 1-4-1 all time against Villanova. Yep, that’s it. “But Andy, hasn’t Marquette and Villanova been in the Big East together for over a decade now? How have they only played six times?” Ain’t divisional play formats fun? Before The Reformation, Marquette and Villanova had played just once before, in 2007. MU won the first match after The Reformation in 2013 and earned a draw the year after that. It’s been three straight losses since then.
As you can see, Villanova comes into this one as the 13th best team in the country. The Wildcats are finding themselves a beneficiary of the tumult in the United Soccer Coaches top 25. Five teams that are ranked this week were not ranked a week ago, including Kentucky, who went from getting one 25th place vote to #6 in the country for doing nothing interesting in particular other than merely staying unbeaten through four (now five) matches. If we’re being honest, I’m not exactly sure how Villanova has gotten to this point. They have overtime wins over William & Mary and Loyola-Maryland, a 2-0 loss to Clemson which happened before they entered the top 25, and generally speaking, nothing particularly impressive in terms of significant wins. The NCAA hasn’t released an RPI... because the season is only a few weeks old so why bother.... but I guess beating Loyola, the MAAC favorites, is their best win?
Villanova has just seven goals on the season as a team, but FOUR of them belong to Zach Zandi. He scored the lone goals in their wins over Delaware and Loyola-Maryland, so his talented touch has meant a lot to this team. He has assisted on two of their other goals, giving Zandi at least partial credit for six of VU’s seven strikes on the season. Mission #1 for Josh Hancock and the MU defense: Mark Zandi at all times. AT. ALL. TIMES.
Carson Williams will be the netminder for the Wildcats on Saturday night. He’s been stellar, stopping 83% of shots on frame and averaging nearly five saves a match. The sophomore from Plano, Texas, didn’t play at all in 2017, but neither did VU’s other experienced netminder, so Williams has really been making the most of the chance that he’s been given. Villanova’s defense has been a bit of a sieve, allowing 85 total shot attempts against just 48 for the Wildcats, so it’s possible to get chances to beat Williams. The key will be getting quality chances instead of just launching wildly.