ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL!
Association football, that is.
We haven’t seen Marquette men’s soccer in action since a Big East tournament quarterfinals loss to Providence on November 9th, 2019. The Golden Eagles had their usual fall campaign postponed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but the NCAA has reorganized to allow teams to participate in a season this spring. Marquette gets their version of this spring 2021 season started on Wednesday night when they host Loyola Chicago at Valley Fields.
Actually, not only will this be an odd February match that counts in the record books for Marquette, there’s another bit of history involved. It will be the first Marquette men’s soccer game played in the seasonal bubble down at Valley Fields. Men’s and women’s lacrosse have made regular use of it in the spring the past few years, and the soccer team is used to practicing in it. They haven’t played a match that counts in it though. I’m not even sure if they’ve played an exhibition in the bubble. We’ll see how that affects how the Golden Eagles play. One things for sure: The cold and wind won’t be a factor.
Marquette finished up the 2019 season at 8-9-1 after that loss to the Friars in the postseason. The Golden Eagles lost their top three scorers from that team, which accounts for 11 of their 25 goals. The title of Leading Returning Scorer is split three ways as Manuel Cukaj, Christian Marquez, and Lukas Sunesson all had three goals and an assist the last time the Golden Eagles were in action. As a defender, I don’t think we can rely on that kind of production from Cukaj again, but Marquez and Sunesson will be expected to contribute that and more to make up for the losses of Josh Coan, Patrick Seagrist, and Connor Alba.
We’ll have to wait and see who takes responsibility for the netminding this season, or at least who takes it in the opener. Jackson Weyman and Cedric Stern split the 2019 season down the middle with both men taking nine matches. There’s also redshirt sophomore transfer Chandler Hallwood to consider, and if you like your goalies as tall as possible, Hallwood’s your man here.
Game #1: vs Loyola-Chicago Ramblers (0-0-0)
Date: Wednesday, February 3, 2021
Time: 6pm Central
Location: Andy Glockner Memorial Bubble, Valley Fields, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Streaming: GoMarquette.com, with Scott Sudikoff and Bryan Ciesiulka on the call
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @marquettesoccer
Marquette is 13-0-1 all time against Loyola-Chicago. The tie was in meeting #1 back in 1968, and it’s been all MU ever since, outscoring the Ramblers 47-10. There hasn’t been a regular season meeting between the two sides since 2013.
The last time there was college soccer, Loyola went 11-5-4 overall and 5-2-3 in the Missouri Valley Conference. No, that doesn’t sound like a great league record, but the Ramblers got to the MVC title game and went to double overtime against #9 Missouri State before getting through to the NCAA tournament on penalty kicks.
This year, they’re picked to finish second in the five team MVC. Missouri State is the favorite and earned all five first place votes. Loyola snagged 19 points to come in six points behind them but another six in front of third place Drake.
Three Ramblers are on the preseason all-conference team. Midfielder Tyler Biggs was a near-permanent fixture in the midfield and went nearly the entire season without a goal..... until the end of regulation against Missouri State in the MVC title game when he drew the Ramblers even to force overtime. Giann Magno has the same strong midfield play as Biggs, making a big enough impact on the other coaches that he made it onto the preseason all-conference team without even tallying a single point last season.
That leaves Billy Hency as the biggest name of the three for the Marquette defense to keep an eye on in this debut game. As a sophomore last year, he went for four goals and four assists, finishing third on the team in points with 12. That makes Hency the best returning scorer on the roster, although Fabian Becerra finished 2019 with three goals and two assists.
Marcel Kampman returns to play goalie for Loyola. He played every minute in 2019, posting a goals-against average of 0.94. The key for Marquette might be taking quality shots against the Ramblers’ defense. It looks like Kampman’s GAA was dependent on his defense solving problems for him, as he only stopped 69% of shots on goal.