Marquette men’s soccer hasn’t scored a goal since the 66th minute of their visit to Butler on September 23rd.
In the interim: 1-0 loss to St. John’s after the Red Storm took two red cards in the second half. 1-0 loss to Northern Illinois while outshooting the Huskies 16-5 but allowing a 79th minute game winner.
Things that lurk in my brain about this, the first two times all season that Marquette has failed to score a goal in a match: This quote from Kyle Bebej in the Marquette Tribune this week:
“Coach has been reiterating it’s going to take everybody, whether if you’re a starter or on the bench,” Bebej said. “Everyone’s essential, when you’re asked to do your job, we know that we have people that can do it.”
And this quote from head coach Louis Bennett after the St. John’s match:
“We created opportunities but couldn’t finish in front of the goal,” head coach Louis Bennett said. “We didn’t execute well in the second half, we were too focus on trying to score and not relying on our training regime.”
And this quote from Bennett after the NIU match:
“We couldn’t capitalize on the opportunities that we had tonight,” head coach Louis Bennett said. “We will get back to work on finishing chances in training this week and be ready for Saturday.”
Even with this drought, which certainly sounds like it’s building frustration in Bennett relative to the messages he’s imparting on his team, Marquette is still one of the most productive offenses in the country. Through matches played on October 3rd, the Golden Eagles are tied for the 12th most goals scored in the country this season. They’re one of just 32 teams — there’s 211 men’s soccer teams in Division 1 — to have scored at least 20 times.
If Marquette can recover that scoring proficiency, if they can find their way back to Bennett’s path for them, then there’s good things in front of them this season. But they’re going to have to do it pronto. The fact of the matter is that there are just five matches remaining in the 2023 campaign, and Marquette is coming off a loss to the worst RPI team on their schedule. Can MU recover over the next few weeks and put themselves back in contention for an NCAA tournament bid? Yes, absolutely. But that has to start with ending the goal drought on Saturday afternoon.
Big East Match #4: vs Xavier Musketeers (5-3-2, 2-1-0 Big East)
Marquette is 8-4-2 all time against Xavier. The Golden Eagles pulled off a scoreless draw against a #19 ranked Musketeers team in Ohio last season, one of the few bright spots of the Big East slate. MU is 3-1-2 in the last six meetings against Xavier, but they have not defeated the Musketeers since the spring 2021 campaign, although that stretch does include advancing past XU on penalty kicks in the 2018 Big East tournament.
Xavier comes into Saturday having not allowed a goal in five straight halves of soccer. After giving up three goals in the first half against then-#16 Georgetown back on September 23, they held tight for the second half in their 3-1 loss. The Musketeers have been on the road for the last two contests, beating Creighton 1-0 last Friday and going to a scoreless draw at Ohio State on Tuesday night. The match with the Bluejays was a weird one with Xavier scoring on their only shot of the first half and the two teams ultimately combining for just 14 shots in 90 minutes. Going to a draw with Ohio State required the Musketeers to withstand getting doubled up in shots, 15-7, as well as four players picking up a yellow card.
Five saves from Jonny Mennell in net helped pave the way to blanking the Buckeyes. That was one short of a season high for the sophomore from North Carolina, as the X-Men usually do a pretty good job making his life fairly easy in terms of shots coming in. Xavier allows just 9.3 shots per match on average, so that’s something that Marquette will be looking to alter. Mennell is stopping just 71% of shots on goal this season, which is how you get to a 1.10 goals-against average. If the Golden Eagles can get their finishing back on track, there’s a decent chance that they’ll be able to find the angles to slip one through.
On the other end of the field, Jerome Jolly is XU’s top goal scorer and Taylor Rhinehart isn’t that far behind him in terms of points. Jolly has found the net three times this season and has added assists on two of the nine goals he hasn’t scored himself. Rhinehart has the same numbers, just in the opposite places: Two goals and three assists. There’s only one other player on the roster who has more than seven shots this season — Guilherme Vivaldini has 11 without recording a point in nine matches — so if MU can disrupt Jolly and Rhinehart, they’re going to do a pretty solid job of pulling the plug on Xavier’s offense.