I’m old enough to remember when Marquette men’s soccer had the shape of a team with a shot at the NCAA tournament.
That was back on September 25th, when the NCAA debuted their RPI calculations for the season and the Golden Eagles were at #26 in the country. Factor in a lot of big time matches down the road in Big East play, and it seemed like things were going in a very positive direction for Marquette.
They’ve lost three straight matches since.
- Couldn’t score against a St. John’s team that was shorthanded for the entire second half and down to just nine men for more than 20 minutes
- Gave up a 70th minute 1-0 winner to a Northern Illinois team they outshot 16-5
- Made a horrid “play it out of the back” exchange in the 90th minute to throw a 1-1 draw against Xavier directly in the trash after equalizing in the 85th minute
And here we are now.
There are just four Big East matches left to be played, and Marquette is 1-3-0 through the front half of the league slate. That has them one point short of a three-way tie for the eighth and final spot in the conference tournament. There is just one team in the entire conference with fewer points than Marquette, and that’s the 0-4-0 DePaul team that’s 2-7-2 overall on the season.
If Marquette wants to get into the Big East tournament, they have to do something about it immediately. Not just because they’re running behind, but because matches against 8-1-1 Georgetown and 9-0-4 Akron loom to close the regular season. If Marquette couldn’t figure out a way to score against a shorthanded St. John’s team, I have no idea how they’re going to even come close to beating the Hoyas or the Zips, but that’s Future Louis Bennett’s problem. In the present tense, all that matters is playing 90 minutes of high quality soccer and finding a way to win Saturday’s match before moving on to the next problem.
Big East Match #5: at Connecticut Huskies (6-5-1, 2-2-0 Big East)
Marquette is 1-8-2 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, and MU is 0-1-1 against Connecticut since they rejoined the Big East after a draw in Milwaukee last season. Marquette is 0-6-0 in matches played in Storrs.
Since the calendar flipped to October, UConn has let a big chance to shove themselves into the NCAA tournament conversation slip through their hands, or through their feet, since this is soccer we’re talking about. Sure, their 6-3-0 record on October 1st wasn’t particularly outstanding nor was their RPI, standing at #73. The chance in question was a home date against then-#15 Vermont and a road trip to then-#8 Georgetown. UConn came out of those two matches with two straight shutout losses, 2-0 to the Catamounts, 3-0 to the Hoyas. All three strikes from Georgetown came in the second half, all in a 22 minute window. And so they dropped to 6-5-0 overall with two top 25 RPI losses. Yeah, their RPI improved to #64 in the process, but they don’t have the wins, not with a loss to #46 Yale and a loss to #69 Seton Hall, too.
And so, now we have to talk about their draw on the year, because that was in their most recent match. That was at home on Tuesday night. They had to salvage a 1-1 draw with Division 2 Assumption after the Greyhounds scored in the 69th minute even after getting outshot 12-3 in the first half and 15-4 overall when the goal went in. Nine shots later, UConn got the equalizer with less than 10 minutes to play..... and it took a penalty kick to make that happen.
Not great, UConn!
The Huskies have scored 20 goals on the season, but no one has found the back of the net more than three times. The team lead is a tie at the moment between Adil Iggoute and Scott Testori, and both men have two assists on the year as well to tie for the team lead in points at eight. They don’t have the lead in assists, as that goes to Nicolas Tomerius and his four helpers. Pierce Bateson has three assists as well, and all told, 17 different Huskies have at least one point this season.
Part of that wide range of point scorers on the roster is that head coach Christopher Gbandi hasn’t been rolling with the same 11 men at all this season. No one has started more than 10 matches, and one of the guy with 10 starts is primary keeper Jayden Hibbert. There are 10 guys who have appeared in all 12 matches, which is good, but there’s generally speaking a lot of deck shuffling going on from match to match for UConn.
One of the reasons why Hibbert hasn’t started every match is things like “Gbandi let the grad transfer from Springfield College start the Assumption match.” Sure, no problem. Hibbert has played the entirety of the last nine matches he’s appeared in, and I presume he’ll be back out there when things get started on Saturday night. With that said, the Vermont and Georgetown games combined with their 4-2 loss to Seton Hall has done an number on Hibbert’s stats. That’s why he’s letting in 1.52 goals per 90 minutes this season and partly why he’s only stopping 66% of shots on goal. That’s a real problem for UConn, as they’re outshooting teams 15.4 to 9.3 overall on average. That number gets a lot closer in Big East play, 12.8 to 11.3, so we’ll see what Marquette can manage.