As the UEFA Champions League starts up again, in coach Louis Bennett’s mind, the Champions League of college soccer is about to return as well.
The Big East has five teams in the top 14 of the NSCAA Coaches Poll, with four of those in the Marquette’s Blue Division.
Every team in the conference brings a unique style to the table, which is unique to college soccer. Usually certain conferences have a similar style throughout, but that’s not the case in the Big East.
“The Big East is more spread out in playing styles,” senior Andy Huftalin said. “You have the Connecticuts, who have their own style and are successful. Notre Dame always brings in the fast guys who are talented. Each team brings something to the table.”
“We play in so many different regions,” Bennett said. “When you look at a South Florida and a Connecticut and then you look at a Notre Dame or a Cincinnati, you’re looking at teams that are playing on different surfaces, have a different philosophy in recruiting and want to play the way they believe is the right way to play.”
The No. 14 Golden Eagles will be approaching this conference campaign with a much different mindset than ever before. They will be looking to repeat the magic of the 2011 season and retain their Blue Division title.
After a rough non-conference season in 2011, the team went 7-2-0 in the Big East to hoist the Blue Division trophy at season’s end.
Senior winger Anthony Selvaggi said that while that was a big part of the team’s plans last year, it did not fulfill all of them.
“Being a Big East division champion didn’t satisfy our goals. We wanted an NCAA Tournament berth,” Selvaggi said. “We wanted more games.”
Heading into conference play, the Golden Eagles are hitting on all cylinders this year. At 7-0-0, Marquette is getting contributions from players all over the field.
Redshirt freshman defender Axel Sjoberg was the Big East Offensive Player of the Week, and TopDrawerSoccer.com and College Soccer News national player of the week after his three goals in two games last weekend.
Also scoring for the Golden Eagles is Huftalin. The Rockford, Ill., native has scored three goals in four games coming off the bench. His high energy style has made him a menace for opposition, and Huftalin is happy the production is coming in his final season.
“I’m very happy with how I’m playing right now,” Huftalin said. “It’s taken me a little while, four years, to get this sort of production. I’m glad it’s finally clicking for me now, and the team is obviously doing well at the same time, so everything is going well right now.”
Marquette starts conference play off on Saturday night against DePaul. The team will see a familiar name on the opposite side of the field, with Selvaggi’s brother David playing for the Blue Demons.
David is a sophomore and is coming off an impressive freshman season. He scored seven goals for DePaul last year and has been coming off the bench this fall.
Anthony Selvaggi is focused on the game but lauded his brother’s performance and impact as a freshman.
“Last year he scored seven goals for them. He had a good season,” Selvaggi said. “I think he got Big East Player of the Week one week. He’s off to a bit slower of a start this year, but he’s got a couple of assists under his belt.”
Selvaggi said there will be about 30 family members and friends there for the game.
Marquette and DePaul both will start conference play with a 7:05 kick-off on Saturday night at Valley Fields.