We’ve got one final item on the Marquette men’s soccer season preview, and that’s a look at three big looming questions for the 2022 campaign. If you haven’t already checked out everything else in our season preview, including a look at the returning players and the newcomers on the roster, then you can swing your way on over to our StoryStream to check it all out. This article makes it seven total in there, so that’s more than enough to keep you busy for a while.
Let’s get to the questions!
QUESTION #1 — How much does returning continuity matter?
Marquette returns their top five point men from last season and seven of their top eight. Just in goals, MU returns all of their top four and seven of the nine men who found the back of the net at all last season. We get the same seven of nine number on assists, but in this case, it’s all three men who had more than one helper and four of the six who had one last season. Turning the focus to minutes for field players, Marquette’s top four men return and 10 of the top 11, which is 10 of the 11 with more than 600 minutes played.
This all sounds like very good news, and MU brings back their keeper that played every single minute, too! Here’s the catch: Marquette went 7-8-1 overall and 4-5-1 in Big East play, thus missing the six team conference tournament. That’s not great!
So what does it mean to bring back pretty much everyone notable from a team that wasn’t particularly notable when you look at the entire season? Is that good? Should Marquette be better just by being stable while everyone around them deals with a lot more changes? Or is Marquette just what they are and they’ll struggle to put things together again this fall?
Or, and this is perhaps the most interesting part, does Marquette’s season ending upset of #1 Georgetown tell us that last year’s squad just wasn’t living up to their potential last season and thus they can do that this season?
QUESTION #2 — What’s up with Marquette’s defense?
In the 2021 spring season, Marquette went 8-1-1 before bowing out in the Big East tournament and the NCAA tournament with two losses and a draw. In those 13 matches, they outscored their opponents 16-12, and it was only that close because of an awful 4-1 loss to Seton Hall in the Big East semifinals.
In the 2022 fall season, Marquette went 7-8-1 and didn’t even qualify for the conference tournament. They got outscored 24-21 in those 16 contests.
Quite obviously, less than a goal per game allowed on average is much better than 1.5 goals per game allowed. That’s not the question I’m asking about the defense.
Check this out:
In the spring, Marquette got out shot on an average of nearly five shots per game, 14.4 to 9.8. In other words, they bent a whole lot but they did not break. In the fall, that shot differential wasn’t that much different. Yet once again, MU was underwater in this department, allowing 14.2 shots per game on average and attempting 10.2. The defense was a teeeeeensy bit better in terms of shots, perhaps maybe because the offense was generating a teeeeeeeeeensy bit more on the other end.
One team was nationally ranked and went to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. The other team started the year nationally ranked, ended up giving that up by the time September was over, and had to hang their hat for the season on the fact that they closed the year out with the program’s first ever win over a #1 ranked team. Neither one was particularly great on defense, as evidenced by that whole shot differential thing. Maybe one was just very lucky and the other was not. Also possible: The offense was not doing anyone any favors both times around. Sometimes great defense is just “we don’t allow the other team to have the ball” and if you’re underwater on shots, that’s also a possible problem.
Can Marquette fix this trend and go from the low 40s in shot percentage like they have been the last two years and get that up around 50% to see what happens to their overall record at the end of the year? Seems like a fun thing to try out!
QUESTION #3 — Is this a Big East tournament team?
Last year, after downing #1 Georgetown in the 10th match of the conference slate to get to 13 points, Marquette had to wait out the final match day of the regular season to see if they would earn a spot in the Big East tournament. There were five possible ways for Marquette to get into the field with the other 10 teams in the league squaring off on the final day of the season. No matter what happened in those, they needed DePaul to not win and Creighton to lose.... and unfortunately the Bluejays won their final game of the season to nudge Marquette down to seventh in the standings and thus outside the field.
On one hand: They were thisclose but didn’t get the help they needed. On the other hand, they were only in the position to receive the help because they managed to pull off the program’s first ever win over a #1 ranked team. If they don’t get that win, they would have already been eliminated before the final match day.
If Marquette’s continuity from last season makes them a better soccer team this season, then it stands to reason that the Golden Eagles should be able to be in competition for a Big East tournament berth. If it doesn’t? Well, then maybe that 7th place projection from the vote of the league’s coaches is right on the nose.