SPRING 2021 BIG EAST MEN’S SOCCER TOURNAMENT
Midwest #1 Marquette Golden Eagles (8-1-1, 5-1-1 Big East) vs East #2 Seton Hall Pirates (7-1-3, 5-1-2 Big East)
Date: Thursday, April 15, 2021
Time: 2:30pm Central
Location: Shaw Field, Washington, D.C.
Streaming: Big East Digital Network on YouTube
Live Stats: Probably, but I don’t have a link for you right now
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteSoccer
All-Time Series: Marquette leads, 6-5-3
Up at the top there, you’ll see that I noted the two teams in this semifinal match in terms of their seeding in their respective division in the Big East this season. Those aren’t actually the most important numbers that we want to put in front of both of these two teams at this point of the season. Top Drawer Soccer’s newest rankings has Seton Hall at #12 in the country and Marquette at #16. United Soccer Coaches released their newest rankings on Tuesday, and they have Seton Hall at #11 and Marquette at #17.
This will be the first time all season that Marquette has faced a team ranked in either setup. On the other side of the field, Seton Hall is well experienced in these matters. The Pirates have gone 1-1-1 this year against ranked foes with a 2-1 win against then-#13 Providence, an overtime 2-1 loss at then-#1 Georgetown, and a 1-1 draw with the Hoyas, then #3 in the country, in their most recent game against a ranked team. Will the battle testing of Seton Hall pay off in this contest?
If we’re being 100% honest about how this season has gone for Marquette, there’s a teeeeeeeeeeeny amount of luck involved. The Golden Eagles have played 10 matches, and eight of them have gone to overtime. Marquette is 6-1-1 in this games, and when you let a match get determined by “next team to score wins,” you’re letting a certain amount of luck determine your fate. When you’re getting outshot 14-10 on average, you’re letting a little bit more luck into the equation. Still, Marquette has gotten by this year by forcing opposing offenses to take more chances than they have. Marquette has put 52% of their shots on the season on frame against just 36% for opposing teams. Sure, the other guys are shooting more, but they’re just flailing shots in the direction of the net. MU is making keepers make plays to keep them out of the net, and that’s how the Golden Eagles are outscoring teams 14-6 while getting outshot.
The inactivity bug is going to have an impact on this game one way or another. Marquette hasn’t played since March 27th when they beat Butler 1-0 in overtime. A COVID protocols issue caused the cancelation of their regular season finale against Xavier, so there’s also a question of who exactly on the MU roster is available or even at full athletic capacity. Seton Hall has also not played since March 27th when they extended their unbeaten streak to six straight matches with a 1-0 win over Connecticut. The Pirates lost their second to last regular season match to COVID issues, and “continued COVID concerns” spiked their regular season finale as well. That gives them a bunch of guys who haven’t played and even practiced in a while along with the same questions that Marquette has about who is even available.
With that in mind, Seton Hall has been a pretty consistent team in terms of the 11 they put on the field all season. Four men have started all 11 matches and another three have started at least 10 of 11. Three more guys have at least appeared in all 11 matches this year. That’s a pretty solid rotation to rely on, and that doesn’t include either of their keepers.
C.J. Tibbling’s nine points lead the way for Seton Hall this year, just barely edging out J.P. Marin’s eight. Tibbling leads the team in goals with four, but he has scored just once in SHU’s last six matches. Marin got to eight points with two goals and four assists, but that still wasn’t enough to lead the team in the helping category. That honor goes to James Boote, a midfielder out of England. Boote has assisted on five of Seton Hall’s 16 total goals this year, so that’s a pretty healthy source of offense for the Pirates. Nine of their 17 assists have come from either Marin or Boote, so making it difficult for those two men to find teammates has to be a point of concern for the Golden Eagles.
Over in the goalkeeping department, based on what happened to this point of the season, we should expect to see Andreas Nota in net on Thursday. Hannes Ronnhollmen and Nota alternated matches to start the year, but Nota came on in relief for Ronnhollmen against Fairleigh Dickinson on February 24th, and Nota has played every minute since then. The Italian senior allowed just two goals — both to defending national champion Georgetown — in his first six appearances of the season, which is, y’know, pretty good. That’s the kind of thing that helps you post a 0.60 goals-against average through 900 minutes of action. He’s a saves machine as well, catching or at least deflecting over 81% of the shots on goal against him. While Marquette has been clinically precise in their shot decision making this season, they might have to ramp it up in order to put one behind Nota.
The winner of this match will advance to the Big East championship match to face either East Division champion Georgetown or Midwest Division runner-up Creighton. The semifinal match between those two teams is set to take place at GU’s Shaw Field at 11am CT on Thursday, and it will be streamed on the Big East’s YouTube channel as well. The title game is scheduled for Saturday, April 17th with first kick set for 2pm Central on FS2.