After years of struggling to find wins, head coach Louis Bennett’s Marquette team is now doing it on a regular basis.
Coming off their 1-0 victory at Valley Fields against the University of Illinois-Chicago last Friday night, the Golden Eagles traveled to Des Moines and beat Drake 2-0 on Sunday afternoon.
Now 4-0-0 and coming off a Big East Blue Division Championship last season, Marquette has firmly established the passing, possession game that Bennett has been looking for.
“It feels great to win using winning ways,” Bennett said. “Our guys have worked really hard. We don’t have to compromise ourselves, and we’re doing it with a distinct style and personality that I’m really proud of. It feels really good.”
On Friday night, Illinois-Chicago presented a unique challenge, led by the 2011 Horizon League Offensive Player of the Year Ivan Stanisavljevic. Junior Eric Pothast scored the game’s lone goal and also shut down Stanisavljevic. The Serbian playmaker never got a rhythm going in the game, which forced the Flames into changing their formation in the second half when they were chasing the equalizer.
“I came into the game with the mindset of really shutting him down,” Pothast said. “I knew his tendencies. He’s really tricky on the ball, tries to make you bite. We have enough support behind me and around me, and we really shut him down and it felt good.”
Against Drake, Marquette was matched with a team with a high work rate and direct, north-to-south style. After junior Bryan Ciesiulka scored a penalty kick for the team’s second goal, the Golden Eagles kept the ball from their hosts for the majority of the game and took the air out of their sails.
On a hot Sunday in Des Moines, Bennett thought the ball did more work than his team, which was the key to victory.
“It’s very important that when you have a game plan you stick to it,” Bennett said. “Toward the end of the game it was extremely hot, and we made the ball do a lot of the work, and I just don’t know if (Drake) had that gusto left in them.”
Senior Andy Huftalin scored the winner for Marquette in the 48th minute off a through ball by redshirt junior Adam Lysak. Huftalin has been fighting for playing time, and he provided endless pressure the whole game. Bennett was quick to laud his performance.
“I love to see guys in their senior year really making a difference,” Bennett said. “He was a terror for the two central defenders to handle. He did his fair share of defending, keeping those two occupied.”
The win against Drake was redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Charlie Lyon’s third straight shutout. Lyon has had to make key saves in each game and has done so while also controlling the 18-yard box with his physical style and size.
On defense, left back Paul Dillon is the only upperclassman who has started for Marquette, so Lyon says the whole backline is gaining more and more confidence with each game, especially when they continue to keep clean sheets.
“I think it’s just a confidence thing with being with the guys and having some games, and all of us playing well together and feeding off each other,” Lyon said. “I’m just looking to continue leading the guys, and we just want to keep getting shutouts and getting wins.”
The team only has one game over the next 11 days and will have time to get healthy and rested after four games over two weekends. The upcoming game on Saturday night against Western Illinois will be its next chance to continue building confidence and continue accumulating wins prior to Big East play.