And so a new season of Marquette men’s soccer is ready to go, starting with two home matches in Milwaukee at Valley Fields to kick things off.
If you’re so inclined, I think it’s fair to be optimistic about Marquette’s chances in 2019. Tip of the cap to our very own Sam Newberry to opening my eyes to this, for the record, but if you tilt the 2018 season in the right direction, you can see why. I’m not going to try and tell you that a 7-9-3 record last season is something that should automatically make you excited about this season. That would be silly.
However, the squad did go 4-2-1 down the stretch in Big East play to end up finishing fourth in the league. They then advanced to the semifinals after fighting off Xavier in penalty kicks. There, Marquette fended off a 25-10 shot disparity at the hands of #17 Creighton and forced that match to penalty kicks as well. After 12 rounds, Marquette finally found themselves advancing to the title match, where the Hoyas finally ended MU’s dream run.
Was it a little bit lucky? Sure was. But it took a lot of heady play to get into the position to make that luck work for them. They went 4-2-1 after sitting on a record of 3-6-0 through nine matches. They had lost 2-1 at Creighton just two weeks earlier for one of the two losses down the stretch, giving up a hilariously awful goal just seconds after leveling the match in the 80th minute. They fought Georgetown to a scoreless standstill after Alan Salmeron was sent off in the 52nd minute. They rallied with two goals after the hour mark to beat Xavier in the regular season. They held on to beat Butler after Luis Barraza was sent off just minutes into the second half.
There was a lot going on there, and the Golden Eagles still made the best of it and gave us more than a few exciting moments in the late stages of the campaign.
The biggest question for Marquette to answer this season will be replacing Barraza. One of the key components of that end run was the play by MU’s senior keeper, who ended up being named Big East Goalkeeper of the Year at the end of the regular season. Barraza wrapped up his collegiate career and ended up being selected in the MLS SuperDraft. “Replacing an MLS draft pick caliber keeper” doesn’t sound like a good way to be optimistic about your chances, but Cedrik Stern did get some experience along the way last year. If the 6’2” German sophomore can play like he did in his final three appearances of the season — two goals allowed in 223 minutes — then perhaps the Golden Eagles don’t have anything to worry about at all.
Match #1: vs UAB Blazers (0-0-0)
Date: Friday, August 30, 2019
Time: 7pm Central
Location: Valley Fields
Special Promotion: The first 150 students in attendance get a free pair of Marquette sunglasses.
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @marquettesoccer
Marquette is 9-10-0 all time against UAB. If you’re saying “woah, 19 matches against the Blazers? How did that happen??” then you forget that Marquette and UAB used to share a conference. The two sides have not met since Marquette left Conference USA following the 2004 season, and UAB won the last two meetings in the series.
UAB is coming off of a 6-9-3 record in 2018, including a 2-5-1 record in Conference USA. You have to go back to 2014 to find the last time that the Blazers had a winning record. Based on the fact that they are picked to finish seventh in an eight team CUSA in 2019, I would wager that streak is not expected to end this year.
The Blazers return two of their top three scorers from last season, including team leader Blake White. The 5’10” midfielder had five goals and an assist as a freshman last year to top the scoresheet in points. Aodhan O’Hara had three goals to finish in third place on the team in points with nine.
Thanks to a coaching change in the offseason, UAB’s roster is pretty topsy turvy. They have 15 new guys on the roster this season, with eight as freshmen and seven as transfers. This is particularly relevant as the Blazers will be looking for a new #1 keeper after last season. James Teal transferred to Rutgers (why), leaving redshirt Seth Torman as the most experienced netminder in his wake. With the start in both of UAB’s exhibition and a full 90 minutes against Louisville, it seems that Torman and his 428 minutes played will take the job to start the season. New head coach Jeff Kinney also has a senior with five total games of experience and two freshmen to pick from if he feels that Torman can’t quite get it done.
Match #2: vs UC Davis Aggies (0-0-0)
This is the first ever meeting between Marquette and UC Davis.
The Aggies had themselves a nice season last year, going 11-4-5 and missing out on the NCAA tournament due to penalty kicks in a scoreless draw in the Big West tournament title game. Unfortunately, it appears that is not going to translate to big expectations in 2019, as UC Davis is picked to finish fourth in the eight team conference this year. Generally speaking, it’s a pretty good program where finishing right around .500 on the year can be considered a bad year during the course of this decade.
Nabi Kibunguchy is UC Davis’ only preseason all-Big West honoree. The junior midfielder from Elk Grove, California, has been a starting fixture when available for the Aggies, making 27 starts in 32 appearances over the past three seasons. He hasn’t generated a lot of scoring, tallying just two goals and two assists, in that time, and he’s barely averaging a shot per game in his career.
As far as guys who do produce goals, UC Davis is bringing a whole mess of dudes back. Seven of their top eight point scorers from 2018 are back for 2019. Adam Mickelson led the way last year with four goals and six assists, and Robert Mejia also hit double digits in points with three goals and four assists. They had an impressive diversity in scoring a year ago, with 12 different players combining to record their 27 goals on the season. Part of that has to do with roster consistency, as only six men played in all 20 games and only four of those guys started each one. Still, if you’re just swapping in a new guy to fill a spot and he can get you a goal, that’s not the worst thing to happen to you.
One of the four to start every match last year was keeper Wallis Lapsley, and he’s back for his senior season in 2019. The 6’5” Seattle native started every match for each of the past two seasons. 2017 wasn’t so great with a goals-against average of 1.32 and not even stopping 70% of shots on goal. Things went much better in 2018, though. Only 15 balls went past him in 20 matches, giving him a GAA of just 0.73 and he was stopping 85% of shots on frame. The defense made him make more than four saves per game, so if MU can tilt the field in that direction, they should be able to get their chances.