On Wednesday, the Big East announced the results of the league’s preseason polling for men’s soccer. Each of the coaches submitted a ballot but they could not vote for their own team or players. I don’t know exactly how it happened, but YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles were picked to finish fifth in the conference this fall.
Let’s deal with the facts of the matter before we dive into the opinions of the situation. Marquette earned 64 points in the poll, which landed them four points behind fourth place Providence (67 points) and four points ahead of sixth place St. John’s (60 points). Georgetown came in first place with 98 points along with eight of the 11 first place votes, while Seton Hall ended up with the other three first place and 93 points to get edged out and land in second place behind the Hoyas. Creighton got the nod as the third best team in the league, coming in with 74 points, well distant of Seton Hall. Behind St. John’s is Butler (55 points), Connecticut and Xavier in a tie (29 points), DePaul (24 points), and finally Villanova (12 points.)
Okay, now the opinion. We already talked about the United Soccer Coaches’ preseason top 25. Why did we talk about that? Because Marquette is starting the season ranked #19 in the country in the poll. Matching up with the Big East poll, Georgetown is #5 in the country and Seton Hall is #10. This is fine. Marquette rounds out the three Big East teams in the preseason top 25. There are no Big East teams that just received votes in the poll. To be clear: The United Soccer Coaches voters do not see any other Big East teams as even close to the top 25 in the country heading into the season……
…….. but there are apparently multiple Big East coaches who have at least two if not more Big East teams between the pair of the Hoyas and the Pirates and then the Golden Eagles in the rankings.
What? How is this possible?
Now, I realize that part of the problem might be that five of the six teams that were in the East Division in the spring didn’t play against Marquette. Seton Hall is the only one that did, and that was because of the conference tournament. Maybe Georgetown watched the other semifinal match for scouting purposes, so at the very least, four of the other six didn’t watch Marquette play at all in the spring. Okay, so maybe that plays a part here, because, if we’re being honest, if you count the end of regulation as the end of the match, MU did go 2-2-9 in the spring. You could see how enough people could look at that and say “uh, maybe they’re not actually 8-3-2 and in the Sweet 16 good, maybe they were just crazy lucky.” This would definitely fit for MU’s positioning in the poll relative to Creighton, as the Golden Eagles and the Bluejays did split a pair of overtime contests in the spring.
Is Marquette better than fifth in the league this season? I’d certainly like to believe so, but that will depend on a lot of defensive pieces coming together to balance out the losses of Oliver Posarelli and Manuel Cukaj.
One thing that Marquette doesn’t have to worry about? Their offense, which returns entirely intact from the spring, and that includes All-American and MAC Hermann Trophy semifinalist Lukas Sunesson. The redshirt junior from Sweden was voted to the preseason all-Big East team…. but was somehow not a unanimous choice at forward even though he was tabbed as one of the 15 best players in the country last season by the MAC Hermann Trophy voters. Yeah. Weird, huh? Diego Gutierrez from Creighton and CJ Tibbling from Seton Hall were unanimous choices as forwards on the 11 man all-league team, but they also split the vote for Preseason Offensive Player of the Year. That part’s not weird. After all, I thought Gutierrez should have been OPOY all by himself and thought that Tibbling had at least an outside chance at it… and did not think that Sunesson was going to be close.
Here’s what the MU press release on the preseason poll had to say about Sunesson:
The Taby, Sweden native had a breakout season that saw him score a team-best six goals along with two assists. He played a key role in leading the No. 13-ranked Golden Eagles (8-3-2, 5-1-1 BIG EAST) to one of their best seasons in program history after winning the BIG EAST Midwest Division title and earning a trip to the NCAA Tournament Round of 16.
Sunesson has two more years of collegiate eligibility. In his MU career, he’s scored 14 goals with three assists in 50 games played. His 31 points are the most among any active Golden Eagle.
He’s the only Golden Eagle on the preseason all-conference team, but that’s not a surprise. Sunesson was the only Golden Eagle on my preseason all-conference team, and he was the only Golden Eagle on the end-of-the-season First Team in the spring as well. Defender Alex Mirsberger was the only MU player on the Second Team in the spring and there were two First Team defenders returning so you can’t be shocked that Mirsberger didn’t rally the votes to get the promotion to the top squad heading into the fall campaign.
Marquette has one last exhibition game on their schedule, which is tomorrow night as you’re reading this on Friday. They will host Loyola-Chicago with first kick set for 6:05pm. After that, the regular season opens at Valley Fields on Thursday, August 26th, when Green Bay comes to the Valley. A quick turnaround will give MU a second home game on Sunday, August 29th, when Southern Illinois-Edwardsville comes to town.
You can check out the entire press release on the all-conference awards from the league right here.