There’s no other way around it: Marquette men’s soccer is officially in trouble.
They have played four Big East matches so far this season, and they hold a record of 0-2-2. Winless at the 40% pole is bad news. Imagine if a Premier League team was winless after 15 or 16 matches. That’s what we’re talking about here for Marquette. Obviously a lot easier to scramble one win out the more you play, but the timeframe relative to trying to get into the top six for the conference tournament is the same. Marquette is just running out of time to find the points that they need. Sure, there’s a lot of draws happening all over the league right now with everyone having at least one and seven teams with at least two. That’s helpful, but as it stands, the Golden Eagles sit four points behind the sixth and final conference tournament berth, and that means they have to start making those points up over the next six matches.
To make matters worse, the Big East is an absolute meat grinder this season. Go check out the NCAA’s most recent RPI calculations for men’s soccer. Every single team is in the top 100 with St. John’s scooting just under the wire at #99. Actually, every team is somewhere between 30 and 100, as Xavier is the top team at #34. The good news for #86 Marquette is that they’ve already played the top two teams and still have both matches against the two teams behind them in the RPI left to go. In theory that should be helpful when it comes to getting enough points to sneak into the top six, but that is very clearly not a guarantee at this point.
One final thing: Can Marquette please play a match without taking a red card? It’s been two straight now with Alex Mirsberger getting two yellows against Villanova and Tristan Ronnestad-Stevens doing the same last time out against Providence. MU’s margins for error are so very small at this point of the season, they can not afford to be intentionally shorthanding themselves by taking red card suspensions like this. RELATED: Brooklyn Merl and Alan Salmeron are both one yellow card away from a one match suspension for accumulation. Perhaps not coincidentally, Merl has not played since the match against Saint Louis where he picked up his fourth caution of the season, although Salmeron continues as MU’s minutes leader and one of three men to start every match this season.
Big East Match #5: vs Seton Hall Pirates (5-1-5, 2-0-3 Big East)
Marquette is 7-7-3 all time against Seton Hall. The series has tilted towards the Pirates in the last few years with last season’s 3-1 MU victory in South Orange over a SHU team that was earning top 25 votes snapping a three match losing streak by the Golden Eagles.
Seton Hall picked up a 1-0 win over Connecticut on Saturday night to extend their unbeaten streak to not only five matches in Big East play but to seven straight overall. There’s a lot of draws in there, as their record is just 3-0-4, but unbeaten is unbeaten and you can’t knock their ability to avoid a loss. That currently has them tied with Xavier for the top spot in the Big East table, and that’s rather fitting since they did go to a 2-2 draw with the Musketeers back on September 17th.
As you’d expect from a team with five draws on the season, Seton Hall isn’t overwhelming anyone offensively. They’re just +5 in goal differential on the year, and they’re just barely under allowing a goal per match this season. When it comes to shots, things are even more even as Seton Hall holds an 11.0 to 10.1 per game average advantage.
While the team is not a house afire as a whole, Quenzi Huerman is doing a whole lot of heavy lifting for the Pirates. Five of their 15 goals this season have come from Huerman, which is of course the team lead. The 6’0” French junior midfielder also leads the team in assists with three, although he does have two teammates who have a pair of helpers through 11 matches. Huerman has been held without a point in SHU’s last two contests and without a goal in the last three. In fact, UConn held him without a shot in 77 minutes of action, so that’s definitely a thing that the Golden Eagles would like to continue.
Hannes Ronnholmen has played every minute except for the Army match this season for Seton Hall. The senior from Sweden is averaging 3.2 saves per match but his save percentage is just .780. If the Golden Eagles can make quality shots, they should be able to find ways to beat Ronnholmen even if he is allowing 0.90 goals per 90 minutes this season.
Big East Match #6: vs Connecticut Huskies (3-6-1, 1-3-1 Big East)
Marquette is 1-8-1 all time against UConn. The win came back in 2012, and was arguably the biggest regular season win in program history as the top 10 ranked Golden Eagles defeated the #2 ranked Huskies behind a pair of goals from Andy Huftalin. That’s where the series ended due to The Reformation until they met in Storrs last season and UConn got the 2-1 win. A big suggestion on how to not lose on the road? Shoot more than once in the first half.
As much trouble as Marquette is in relative to the Big East standings, UConn is almost in the same situation. They have just four points, twice as many as Marquette, but that still leaves them trailing the sixth and final Big East tournament berth by two points. Worse, there’s two teams at five points in between the Huskies and a conference tournament spot. We’ll see how everything shakes out, but there’s a chance that this match could turn into an elimination match by the time we get to Saturday.
As I write this before Wednesday’s matches in the Big East, UConn has lost five of their last seven encounters with one win and one draw providing the alternative outcomes in that run. The win was 3-2 at home over the Providence team that Marquette miraculously pulled out a draw against last weekend, while the draw was against Creighton in Omaha. On Wednesday, the Huskies take their turn in having the day off in the 11 team Big East, but they’ll be active. They’re playing Maine At Fort Kent, which appears to be 1) the northernmost school in the University of Maine system and 2) not even an NAIA outfit. I have many questions.
With 10 matches played, UConn’s scoring leader is Frantz Pierrot. The grad transfer from Merrimack has three goals so far this year, which accounts for one-quarter of Connecticut’s entire output. It’s fitting that Pierrot is the goals leader, as he is the team’s shots leader, so he is the clear focus of the UConn offense. The points lead goes to Mateo Leveque, who has added five assists to his two goals for a team high nine points. Leveque is #2 on the team in shots, so MU’s defenders will have to be ready for anything when he has the ball.
Grad transfer Michael Stone has taken control of the UConn goalkeeping situation. Freshman Jayden Hibbert had the starting gig to begin the season, but head coach Christopher Gbandi made the move to Stone after the first four matches. Things are not that much better statistically speaking over the past six contests, and actually, they’re arguably worse. Sure, Stone is only allowing 2.00 goals per 90 minutes against 2.25 for Hibbert, but it’s not like two goals a night is good, either. Then there’s the save percentage issue, where Stone is letting in 48% of shots on frame. 11 saves in six matches, 12 goals allowed, all on 39 shots faced. Considering that he’s only seeing 6.5 shots per game, it’s probably not good that two of them are going in the net every time out on average.