SPRING 2021 NCAA MEN’S SOCCER TOURNAMENT
Marquette Golden Eagles (8-2-1, 5-1-1 Big East) vs Loyola Marymount Lions (6-0-2, 5-0-2 West Coast Conference)
Date: Sunday, May 2, 2021
Time: Noon Central
Location: WakeMed Soccer Park, Cary, North Carolina
Streaming: GoHeels.com, believe it or not
Live Stats: NCAA.com, maybe?
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteSoccer
All-Time Series: Marquette is 0-1-0 against LMU, with the only previous meeting going 2-1 in favor of the Lions in Los Angeles on September 12, 1997.
It’s the fourth NCAA tournament appearance in Marquette history!
That’s pretty neat. This is also the fifth NCAA tournament game played in Marquette men’s soccer history, as the Golden Eagles have only won a game in the event once before. That was a 1-0 overtime win over Akron at an absolutely frigid Valley Fields back in 2013. Much like that match back then, Marquette will be vying for a spot in the Sweet 16 on Sunday afternoon. The winner of this match against Loyola Marymount will play either #3 national seed Indiana or St. Francis Brooklyn in the next round.
But enough about that, let’s talk about how Marquette got to the NCAA tournament. The Golden Eagles are 8-2-1 this season with just one loss in regulation. They started out the year with three straight shutouts, and in fact, three straight shutout overtime victories, as they had to win in extra time in each of their first three games of the year. That trend continued all year as Marquette went 6-1-1 in overtime matches this season. You’ll notice that’s eight of their 11 games. That’s a lot, and yes, it was incredibly nerve wracking for those of us paying attention via web streams and live stats along the way.
Marquette’s lone regulation loss of the season came as the Golden Eagles returned from a two week-plus long COVID pause to take on Seton Hall in the Big East semifinals. After Marquette shut out five teams in 10 regular season games and only allowed one team to score more than one goal all year up to that point, the Pirates scored twice in the first 10 minutes on their way to a 4-1 win to eliminate the Golden Eagles from the four team tournament and force MU to wait to see if they earned an at-large bid.
Thankfully, they did. Quite honestly, it’s not surprising that Seton Hall won. They were a nationally ranked team just like Marquette was at the time, so things happen, especially when both teams were coming off COVID breaks. In case you were wondering, Loyola Marymount is currently #9 in the United Soccer Coaches rankings, while Marquette is #19. Is that an omen of bad times after the Seton Hall match, the first time MU had run into a ranked team all season? Who can say?
Marquette has been playing a “bend, don’t break” style of soccer this season. They’re outscoring opponents 15 to 10, but the other guys get more shots on average. MU is getting 10 shots per game to this point of the season, while their opponents are running along at a clip of 13.9 per game.
Lukas Sunesson has been the offensive star for Marquette this season, accounting for six of the Golden Eagles’ 15 goals. He’s also recorded two of MU’s 13 assists to end up as the only man on head coach Louis Bennett’s roster with double digit points at 14. Beto Soto, the Big East spring season Freshman of the Year is #2 on the chart with seven points on three goals and one assist. FUN FACT: Two of Soto’s three goals on the year are game winners, which ties him with Sunesson and Zyan Andrade in that department. FUN FACT #2: Andrade kind of gets the win against Sunesson and Soto in the game winning goals area because both of Andrade’s goals went as game winners.
The biggest question facing the Golden Eagles is their goalkeeping. Chandler Hallwood won the job after Bennett was trading off here and there and around the bend to start the season. Hallwood ended up playing nearly 900 of Marquette’s 1,066 minutes this season..... but he also did not play in the Seton Hall Big East semifinal match. He has a goals-against average of just 0.60 and a save percentage of .872, so clearly he should be playing if he’s available. With MU coming out of a COVID break for that Seton Hall game, I think we can pretty easily connect Dot A to Dot B here and wonder if Hallwood is ready to go now, just a little bit more than two weeks later.
As you can see from the record, Loyola Marymount got to this point by not dropping a single match all season long. Their lone non-conference match of the season was a home date against UCLA that went 1-0 in their favor on a goal in the 31st minute. The closest they came to defeat all year was in their two draws in WCC action. They knotted up 0-0 at Portland on March 14th, and then the same thing happened again at home against San Francisco on April 3rd. Other than that, LMU scored in the first half and held a lead easily in all of their matches. Their biggest win of the year was their last regular season match of the year as they scored in the 89th and 90th minute to get a 3-1 win over then-#23 Saint Mary’s to clinch the WCC’s automatic berth to the NCAA tournament. Of course, given that they were #10 in the country at the time and are currently #7 in the United Soccer Coaches rankings, I feel like the Lions might have gotten into the NCAA tournament even if they had lost to the Gaels.
Marquette will be hard pressed to score goals in this match. Loyola Marymount has allowed just two all year, one to SMC last time out and one to Gonzaga. They average just 9.3 shots allowed per game while generating just over 16 per game in their own offensive end. It seems to be team defense in the field that’s doing a decent amount of the work for the Lions, as goalkeeper Jacob Jackson has made just 17 saves in eight matches this season. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a save percentage of .895 to get to that sterling 0.24 goals-against average, so Jackson is doing a heck of a job out there. Still, with just 19 shots on goal out of 74 total shots faced, Jackson’s back line is making things hard for opponents, too.
With just eight matches played, you can’t be surprised to find out that Loyola Marymount only has 11 goals on the season. With that said, they have concentrated them in just a few players. Noel Caliskan has scored three of their goals this year, with two of them coming last time out against Saint Mary’s. The sophomore from Germany also has three assists on the year to guide him to a team high three points. Ronaldo Brown and Steven Anderson have both scored twice for the Lions, which makes for a pretty potent trio of attackers. Marquette will have to be wary of LMU’s passing, though. They only have 11 goals, but they have registered 16 assists on those goals. Duhaney Williams has accounted for a full quarter of those, although the senior from Jamaica had two each against Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s to lead the team in that department. All told, 10 different men have recorded an assist this year for Loyola, so the Golden Eagles will have to be careful whenever anyone is encroaching on the net.