Yes, Marquette men’s soccer is just 4-3-1 on the year so far. But it feels like things are going well for the Golden Eagles, and it also feels like things are rounding into shape as well.
They’re 3-2-0 in their last five, which, again, not particularly great. But they’ve won their last two, including a 2-1 come-from-behind win over a Xavier team that was picking up top 25 votes a week ago. They played well enough to win in their league opener against Creighton, but only a very late goal handed them a loss.
It’s probably not a coincidence that it feels like Marquette is playing their best soccer of the year as captain Luka Prpa is 1) getting out onto the field and 2) playing more and more. He took a few matches to get set to go after foot surgery in the spring, but Prpa is back in the starting eleven now and played a season high 80 minutes against Xavier. It can’t be a coincidence that Prpa’s longest stretch on the field of the year also happens to be Marquette’s best win of the year.
To a certain extent, Tuesday night’s home match is a tune-up match for Marquette. Not just because it’s a non-conference match in the midst of the start of Big East play, but because of what waits for MU on Friday night. The new USC poll won’t be out until later in the day on Tuesday, but for now, St. John’s is the #9 team in the country. There’s a loss to a ranked team that has to be factored there in the new poll, but they’ll still be ranked, and Marquette still needs to find a way to rack up points in league play. While getting the win against Saint Louis is important for the overall tenor and tone of the season, it’s also important for MU to continue to improve their cohesiveness as a squad. It will take their best performance of the year to pull points from the Johnnies, and that process starts by playing to the best of their abilities on Tuesday in the Valley.
Match #9: vs Saint Louis Billikens (4-3-0)
Marquette is, and I’m not kidding here, 3-22-2 all time against Saint Louis. The series started in 1964, they started playing regularly in 1990, and Marquette didn’t win a match until 1994. The two sides played every year when they shared a conference back in the 1990s and early 2000s, but then took a break for a while. This is the fourth consecutive season that they’ve met up again, and MU is 0-2-1 in the first three in this cycle.
Saint Louis comes into this one with wins in four of their last five matches. The loss was a week ago on the road against Memphis, and they’ve already started out 2-0 in Atlantic 10 play. It’s been a nice bounce back for the Billikens, after they lost 3-2 to then-#9 Notre Dame in their opener and then got shut out on the road by SMU in match #2 on the year.
Leo Novaes is the top scorer on the board for SLU. He’s put up three goals and two assists to lead the team in both departments, although he shares the assists lead with Devin Boyce. Novaes is the only Billiken with more than one goal, and he has nearly twice as many shot attempts as anyone else on the squad. Monitoring him all match long will be priority #1 for the Marquette defense.
With just one match’s worth of exception, Patrick Schulte has been the keeper this season for Saint Louis. He’s allowed seven goals in six matches for a 1.13 goals-against average and just a .650 save percentage. Overall, SLU is outshooting their opponents this season by a bit more of three shots per game on average. However, that save percentage tells us that if the Golden Eagles offense can fire on all cylinders, they should be able to get quality attempts and put them in the net.