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Unscientific Predictions: 2023 Big East Men’s Soccer Preseason Awards

There’s not a lot of guys returning from last year in the Big East, but also we’re taking new affiliate member Akron into account.

COLLEGE SOCCER: NOV 28 Providence at Georgetown
Kenny Nielsen is my pick as Preseason Defensive Player of the Year.
Photo by Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Welcome to our third straight day of preseason picks for Big East fall sports!

We’ve already done picks for volleyball and women’s soccer the past two days. If you missed out on those, well, that’s why I put those links in there for you to click on and go get caught up.

We’re trying to mimic how the coaches will vote for the preseason awards for men’s soccer here today. Just like the Big East will in the relatively close future, we’ll hand out three individual awards: Offensive, Defensive, and Goalkeeper of the Year. We’ll also pick out an 11 man All-Big East team, because there’s 11 guys on the field at once, and then we’ll take a stab at projecting who might make the conference tournament when it rolls around in November.

We’ll also address the issue of Akron joining the Big East this fall as an affiliate member for men’s soccer and how that affects how these picks are being made. It’s a whole thing.

Enough preamble! Let’s go!

Preseason Offensive Player of the Year: Palmer Ault, Butler, Forward

This could very easily not be Palmer Ault. Ault was #3 in total points last season, #2 in points per match, and he was a First Team honoree. Creighton’s Jackson Castro was #2 in total points, beating out Ault by two assists, but because he played 21 matches to Ault’s 19, Castro ended up #3 in points per match. He was also not a First Team honoree, coming in as a Second Team midfielder. There’s also a question as to whether or not the coaches will be biased against a midfielder as the Offensive Player of the Year.

Preseason Defensive Player of the Year: Kenny Nielsen, Georgetown, Defender

I try not to overthink these things, and picking Xavier’s Makel Rasheed as the best returning defender would be the “don’t overthink” way to go. The coaches voted him to the Second Team at the end of last season, and there’s no First Team defenders returning, nor are there any other Second Team defenders back for 2023. But the coaches love themselves some Georgetown — and for good reason, largely speaking — and Nielsen was already tabbed as a captain for this upcoming season, which is actually his second straight year with the armband. Seems like a direction that they’ll go when it comes time to cast a ballot.

Preseason Goalkeeper of the Year: Ryan Schewe, Georgetown

He led the league in goals against average and save percentage last season, which was his junior campaign. The Hoyas don’t have a roster up right now which does make this a little complicated to figure out, but Schewe’s Instagram says he’s Class of 2024, so we should be good to go here. Honestly, I have no idea how Xavier’s Cole Jensen took the postseason version of this trophy last year in the first place, but we’re here to correct the errors of the past.

All Big East Team

Palmer Ault, Butler, F
Jackson Castro, Creighton, M
Dyson Clapier, Akron, F
Malik Henry, Akron, M
Will Jackson, Akron, D
Kenny Nielsen, Georgetown, D
Giorgio Probo, Creighton, M
Makel Rasheed, Xavier, D
Ryan Schewe, Georgetown, GK
Antek Sienkiel, St. John’s, M
Martin Tabora, Georgetown, F

Here’s where we get into the Akron of it all. I was hesitant to give any of the individual trophies to the Zips, as they haven’t played in the Big East yet. However, we have to acknowledge the fact that Akron went 11-4-5 last season and qualified for the NCAA tournament as an at-large entrant after losing the MAC title game to Western Michigan.

Ault, Nielsen, and Schewe are here on the strength of their individual honors. I offered up potential alternate candidates for two of those, so obviously Castro and Rasheed deserve their spots on the list as well. That gets us to five of the 11 spots on the team I’m putting together, and this is where things get complicated.

You see, Palmer Ault is literally the only First Team All-Big East player coming back from last year. Akron put five guys on the All-MAC First Team. Clearly these guys are pretty good, especially Dyson Clapier, who was an All-American in the eyes of both College Soccer News and United Soccer Coaches. Malik Henry was First Team All-MAC, and with no Big East First Team midfielders coming back, I put him on the top 11 here. Will Jackson gets in on defense next to Rasheed and Nielsen as Akron had two First Team defenders, but I gave the edge to Jackson, who’s a year ahead of Jonas Buechte in school.

Martin Tabora was one point off the Georgetown team lead in points last season, so he seems important to have on the squad here. Why is Jacob Murrell, the actual leader not here? I thought about it, but when the Big East coaches didn’t vote for him at the end of last season, not even for the Third Team, I figured there was a reason why. Is the reason “he scored two goals in the NCAA tournament and was nowhere close to the team lead when they voted?” Certainly seems like that’s the case.

Giorgio Probo finished fourth in the Big East in points last season, and fifth in points per match. He deserves a spot, especially since he led the league in assists with 14, and I always like rewarding the guy who finds the guy who puts it in the net. It’s a real crime that he was only on the Third Team last year. Antek Sienkiel deserves a spot as well. #9 in points per game, T-5 in total goals, #6 in goals per match, and somehow that was only good enough for All-Big East Second Team.

Top Three Teams

East Division

1 — Georgetown
2 — St. John’s
3 — Connecticut

Midwest Division

1 — Akron
2 — Creighton
3 — Butler

I would have done a top six teams, since that was the conference tournament format, but we’re moving to divisional play with Akron bringing the league to 12 teams this fall. I don’t know what the conference tournament format is going to be but “Division winners get a bye, 2nd and 3rd place play each other across the divisions” seems to be the best bet. Thus: Top three in each.

Georgetown, Akron, and Creighton seem like the best bets here. I put Butler in the Midwest top three just because of Palmer Ault. Same for St. John’s and Antek Sienkiel.... and that’s because wow, are there just not a lot of East Division guys in the all-conference list to start the year. Connecticut is just an absolute guess as I try to throw some red meat in front of Huskies fans and get them to share this amongst each other on The Boneyard.