Hello and welcome to our Marquette men’s soccer official season preview kickoff!
If you’ve been paying close attention as well as reading this on the day it publishes, then you already know that Louis Bennett’s team has already put one exhibition match in the books. SPOILER ALERT: This was written before that contest against Northwestern at Valley Fields, because we’ve got too much fall preview work to do to just wait around too long. That’s fine, exhibitions are exhibitions.
What we’re doing today is taking a look at who returns from last season for Marquette. The Golden Eagles went 5-9-4 last fall, including a 10 match winless streak in the back end of the season. It was not particularly fun, but as we go along, I think you might catch an idea as to why Marquette might have struggled with continuity in 2022.
We’ll start with the returning forwards on the roster, and work our way down the field to the returning goalkeepers. Ready? Let’s go!
To start working on the point that I alluded to a moment ago: It’s probably a bad thing that Marquette returns just one forward who appeared in all 18 matches last season. That one guy is Beto Soto, who started 16 times and, as you would expect, is the position group’s leader in returning minutes, too. Soto finished the year with four goals and two assists for 10 points, which was fourth best on the roster and is third best amongst returning guys. The only returning forward who had more points than Soto was Karim Abdoul Pare. He knocked in a returning high five goals in his first season in blue and gold after transferring up from LSU Shreveport, and he added three assists in 1,100 minutes to end up with the second best returning point total with 13. Pare only appeared in 17 matches last season, missing a September loss to Yale, and he started 13 times.
From there.... well, Marquette has a lot of guys but not a lot of returning playing time. Christian Marquez added an assist in 675 minutes across 13 matches with seven starts. Noah Madrigal appeared 13 times, but played just 291 minutes... but still added a goal and an assist. Brooklyn Merl tallied up 433 minutes in 11 contests with two starts, finding a way to tie Soto in goals with four in such a limited amount of playing time. Lucas Nesthus and Kacper Chrapczynski (injury) didn’t play at all last season. Like I said, there’s guys here, but not a lot that you can count as reliable contributions..... but perhaps all of these missed games are why Marquette went 10 straight contests without a win, yeah?
Marquette’s going to need those forwards to 1) play regular and consistent minutes and 2) play in the midfield more than at forward. The Golden Eagles have just three midfielders returning from last season’s roster, but the good news is that all three guys logged at least 1,100 minutes.
Edrey Caceres is the star here and perhaps Marquette’s only chance at a preseason all-Big East honor. He’s the returning leader in points with 15 after being the only man to start all 18 matches in 2022, and he led the team in assists with seven, too. I don’t know if Marquette can ask for more than that, especially with four goals to boot, but the Golden Eagles are going to need a lot more of a lot of things in 2023.
Mitar Mitrovic had a successful freshman season a year ago, appearing in 17 contests and starting 12 times. The 6’2” Serbian had two goals and three assists in his 1,127 minutes of action, and I think we can just pencil him into the starting 11 on opening night. Tristan Ronnestad-Stevens also had a nice freshman year, getting 16 starts in 17 appearances. We’re not going to read deeply into his lack of points because he’s listed on the roster as a midfielder/defender, so we’ll say we’re looking forward to another 1,300-plus minute season from him.
Part of Marquette’s problems last season can probably be attributed to trying to staple a defensive group together on a match-by-match basis. Alex Mirsberger was a rock for Marquette, but his collegiate career is over now. At 1,038, Diegoarmando Alvarado is the only returning MU defender with more than 700 minutes played last season. He started 14 times in 17 appearances, so in theory, that should lead to a lot of playing time for him this season. Jonas Moen should have had a bigger role to play after how his 2021 season went, but he was limited to just 647 minutes in 12 appearances and seven starts. Is it a good thing that Kyle Bebej appeared in 14 matches with six starts? Sure, only if you ignore the fact that he tallied just 609 minutes. Joey Fitzgerald played in 14 games with two starts, but logged less than 500 minutes. If those four guys can be a regular back line for Marquette, that’s going to end up working pretty well, but it needs to actually happen.
There is some depth to work with here, too. Josh Hewitt logged just short of 200 minutes in seven matches. Donovan Jones — officially a defender/midfielder — appeared in just three contests last year, but also go himself on the points chart with an assist in the season finale against St. John’s. Jai Hseih-Bailey ended up missing the 2022 season with an injury after a nice 10 appearance sophomore campaign. Marquette could easily find themselves with options here, but it’s probably best for on-field team chemistry if one set of guys establish themselves as the “need to play as much as possible every night” group.
This is a good news/bad news situation, from a certain point of view. Last season, Ludwig Malberg was the starting netminder for the first two contests of the year before ceding the job to returning keeper Chandler Hallwood. However, Malberg reclaimed the starting job in late September, guiding Marquette to retake the Milwaukee Cup, and then kind of alternated back and forth with Hallwood for four more starts after that. Obviously, the good news is that, without Hallwood returning, Marquette has an keeper with experience to rely on to start 2023.
The bad news is that Malberg wasn’t good in 2022. He let in 2.27 goals per 90 minutes across his 635 minutes of action, and he stopped just 61% of shots on goal. That’s just not going to get it done for a Marquette team that’s trying to avoid things like “went 10 matches without a win” again.
The other bad news is that Ryan Koschik and Patrick Crantz were both on the roster last season and apparently didn’t come close to snagging minutes away from either Malberg or Hallwood, and to be clear: Hallwood wasn’t great either at 1.46 goals-against average and a .698 save percentage. There was a chance for Koschik or Crantz to force the coaching staff’s hand by way of their performance in practice, and that clearly didn’t happen. Now, we have to wonder if a lot of goalie problems/questions will be solved by just rolling out a consistent backline in front of them this season, but we’ll have to wait to see the team in action before we really get an answer to that.