Last season, Marquette’s men’s soccer team didn’t play in the NCAA Tournament because of its non-conference schedule, even though it won the Blue Division in the Big East.
This season, the Golden Eagles are 2-0-0 after a stunning 3-2 win over Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the Milwaukee Cup on Friday night and a 1-0 victory at Wisconsin-Green Bay on Sunday afternoon and are set on avoiding a repeat of last season’s events.
Even though the Golden Eagles didn’t necessarily play their best in either game, coach Louis Bennett said they have to learn how to win ugly. He said this season’s team is very capable of doing so.
“I think we’re a lot more resilient,” Bennett said. “There are a lot of people on the squad who have won in close games, and I think that gives us a stability and calmness when we’re in pressure situations.
“A win is a win, and there are going to be games where we’ll have to grind it out,” junior midfielder Eric Pothast said. “We aren’t going to play the best soccer and we’re going to be off a little bit. But it is big to come here on the road and get the result we want.”
On Friday night, Milwaukee took the lead twice in the second half, but junior midfielder Bryan Ciesiulka and redshirt junior forward Adam Lysak equalized. Then, sophomore midfielder Sebastian Jansson scored in the 90th minute, with no time left on the clock.
Jansson said moments like the one after his goal are the reasons he plays soccer and are unparalleled.
After the goal, the Swedish winger took off his jersey, ran to the sidelines, and was mobbed by fans and teammates. He described the goal as magical, and “one of those Harry Potter moments.”
“I didn’t have a good second half, myself. I’ve been sick the last two days, downing ibuprofen and stuff, so there was a lot of frustration that came out after I scored,” said Jansson.
This was the first time Marquette won the Milwaukee Cup since 2009 and just the third time since the start of the 2000 season that the team scored three or more goals in its opening match.
Then on Sunday, the Golden Eagles pulled out a victory against Green Bay thanks to Eric Pothast’s 30th minute strike from a free kick delivered in by junior Paul Dillon. Marquette snapped the Phoenix’s eight game home winning streak with the victory, and got off to the program’s first 2-0-0 start since 2000.
Bennett thought his team actually defended better on Friday night, even though they kept a clean sheet on Sunday. He pointed straight to his new goalkeeper, redshirt sophomore Charlie Lyon, as to why.
“Defensively I think we played better against UWM, and we gave two goals up. I think Charlie Lyon came up big, forcing two breakaways to go wide,” Bennett said. “I thought he was very, very good today, and we needed him to be good.”
While the team has won both its games, there is still plenty to improve upon.
“We have spurts where we keep the ball (and) move it wide, getting crosses to prime target areas,” Pothast said. “But, there are times where we settle for the long ball too much, and we’re stuck defending on our heels for a good portion of the game. If we can just keep the ball and find our guys who make plays for us, we’ll be fine.”
Marquette continues its season Friday at Valley Fields against Illinois-Chicago, then travels to Drake for a Sunday afternoon match.