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Marquette Men’s Soccer Preview: vs Drake & vs Purdue Fort Wayne

The Golden Eagles open up the season with a pair of contests coming as the back halves of doubleheaders with the women’s team.

Lil Baby & Friends Birthday Celebration Concert
It’s not like there’s a lot of great pictures of Mastodons out there, y’know?
Photo by Prince Williams/Wireimage

I don’t think that Marquette men’s soccer’s home exhibition contests particularly inspired confidence in the direction of the 2023 season.

Going to a draw with Northwestern was kind of good, given that Marquette fought back to level the match with the Wildcats right before the end, but they still barely snuck that goal in before the final whistle. The Loyola match was kind of a total mess, as the Golden Eagles fell apart to allow two quick goals and fall behind 3-1 at halftime. That ended up being the score at the end, but also Marquette got badly outshot by the end of the contest.

There is the question of these being exhibition contests at hand, as it was clear that head coach Louis Bennett was doing some lineup experimentation along the way. He made eight subs at once in the first half of the Northwestern game, he didn’t start the same 11 guys in the two matches, new faces clearly got a lot of run in both contests, perhaps to see exactly what they might be able to give to the team this season.

Still, even with tinkering at hand, the fact of the matter is that Marquette was picked to finish fifth in the six team Midwest Division of the Big East this season and didn’t have a single player on the preseason all-conference team. That’s not a gigantic vote of confidence after the Golden Eagles won just one Big East match all of last year, and that one was in the regular season finale. Even the news that the Big East tournament is expanding to eight teams this fall doesn’t really provide Marquette a lot of good news. The two division winners will be the top two seeds, but the next six spots will be determined by points, no matter what division you’re in. With Marquette projected to be in the bottom two in their division, that means the expectation is that they’ll be one of the bottom four teams and thus out of the field, or at the very least, struggling to qualify for one of the six at-large bids.

There’s nothing that we saw in the exhibition contests that sways you away from the view that the Big East coaches have about the team for this fall.

But maybe when the matches start counting on Thursday, maybe that changes. Maybe a consistent 11 men on the field playing together helps Marquette develop a strong style of play for 90 straight minutes, and they end up a bit better than the general consensus suggests right now.

Let’s see what happens, shall we?

Match #1: vs Drake Bulldogs (0-0-0)

Date: Thursday, August 24, 2023
Time: 7:30pm Central
Location: Valley Fields, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Streaming: FloFC
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @marquettesoccer

PROGRAMMING NOTE: This match is the back half of a doubleheader in the Valley, as the women’s soccer team will host Denver at 5pm Central time. Two things there: First, the 7:30 start time miiiight be approximate more than anything else, and second, take that women’s match into account when arriving in the Valley relative to the parking situation. Or just come extra early and watch the women’s team and boom problem solved.

PROGRAMMING NOTE #2: This doubleheader is going on riiiiiiight as the new freshmen transition from “moving in” to “taking part in Orientation activities.” Is that going to mean that there’s going to be a boatload of the freshmen wandering around the Valley? Maybe! It’d be neat if that was the case, but also maybe Orientation schedules prevent it? Which makes scheduling these games here was kind of silly?

Marquette is 8-2-1 all time against Drake. The first ever meeting was a scoreless draw in Milwaukee back in 1988. Marquette won the next five meetings, took two losses in 2007 and 2009, and then won the next three, including a 2-0 victory in the most recent encounter. That was in Milwaukee back in 2014.

Drake went 7-7-4 last year, but they went 5-2-1 in Missouri Valley action to finish second in the league. Their season came to an end in the first round of the conference tournament however, as they took a loss to #7 seeded Bradley.

In an interesting bit of trivia, the Bulldogs were led by a trio of former Marquette players last season. Their top three scorers were AJ Franklin, Sam Thornton, and Louis Yuill, all of whom used to suit up for the Golden Eagles. However, Franklin is the only one who returns for Marquette, but I guess the good news for Drake is that he was their leading scorer last season with eight goals and two assists in 15 matches. He was also far and away their leading shot taker, tallying 42 for the year when no one else had more than 24. Thornton was the top assists man, so that leaves Timmy Browning and his three helpers as the leading returning player in that department.

Grad transfer Jonathan Burke played all but nine minutes in net last season for Drake, so they’re going to have to go in a different direction without him in 2023. Tommy Williams is back after playing all nine of those minutes, which were spread across two matches a year ago. They do have three other netminders on the roster, all of whom were around in 2022. Someone has to play goalie for the Bulldogs, so I guess we’ll all just find out together on Thursday night.

Match #2: vs Purdue Fort Wayne (0-0-0)

Date: Sunday, August 27, 2023
Time: 3pm Central
Location: Valley Fields, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Streaming: FloFC
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @marquettesoccer

PROGRAMMING NOTE: This match is the back half of a doubleheader in the Valley, as the women’s soccer team will host Minnesota at Noon Central. Is your best bet for the day to arrive in time to watch the women’s match, thus solving any parking issues in the Valley and also that means you get to watch two fun soccer matches? Yes, yes it is.

Marquette is 1-0-0 all time against Purdue Fort Wayne. The lone encounter was a 2-1 Marquette road win in 1996, back when they were IPFW.

PFW is coming off a 2-10-3 season a year ago. They went 1-6-2 in Horizon League action with their win coming in their season finale, shelling Milwaukee 5-3 as they recorded the most goals in a match that the team has scored since 2011. That’s the same Milwaukee team that Marquette smashed to take control of the Milwaukee Cup, for comparison purposes. The Mastodons have had just one winning season since making the move to Division 1 in 2001, and that was a 10-8-1 campaign in 2018.... when they also went 2-3-0 in Summit League play.

Seth Mahlmeister tied for the team lead in points last season with nine on four goals and an assist, and with Luke Benford wandering off to Oakland for his final season of eligibility, that makes Mahlmeister the leading returning scorer for Purdue Fort Wayne. Abe Arellano tied for the team lead in assists last season with four, so he’s the top returning guy in that column.

Purdue Fort Wayne has an interesting goalie situation heading into 2023. Danny Salazar played 900 minutes last season with 10 starts, while Adam Hunt started five matches as well, kind of scattered all across the season. Hunt had the better save percentage by a mile, .711 vs .540 for Salazar, but the two ended up relatively similar in goals-against average. 2.20 per 90 minutes for Hunt isn’t good on any level, but it’s better than Salazar’s 2.30 that has the benefit of twice as many minutes behind it to help bring it down. It seems like it might be a wide open competition right now, and I don’t think Marquette’s going to be able to take anything of note from who starts in PFW’s opener on Thursday night against Wisconsin.