Looking back on last school year, it’s hard to view 2012-13 as anything less than a landmark year in Marquette sports. Almost every team defied expectations, went on a big winning streak or made a postseason run.
Marquette athletics begins and ends with men’s basketball, so it’s fitting that their deep run to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament proved the defining moment of last year. Buzz Williams, charged with a team that could have easily taken a step back after losing Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom, instead took them forward and put in his best season as Marquette’s coach. The Golden Eagles went a perfect 16-0 at the Bradley Center and won a share of the Big East title for the first time since joining the conference in 2005.
Before basketball season even began, Marquette’s men’s and women’s soccer teams captivated fans with several seasons worthy of their top ten rankings. The men opened in style. Sebastian Jansson’s bicycle kick as time expired gave the Golden Eagles an opening match win over rival Wisconsin-Milwaukee. A program-record 12-game winning streak followed and the team climbed as high as No. 2 in the national rankings. Although their season fizzled out in the second round of the NCAA Tournament against Northwestern, it was unquestionably the best in the Louis Bennett era.
The women’s team had a similar run in 2012. After getting knocked around by Duke and North Carolina in early September, the women ripped off a 16-game streak that included 15 wins, one tie and just three goals allowed by a stellar back line. That streak led them to their fourth consecutive Big East American Division title and their first Big East Conference Tournament Championship. They were national championship contenders, but fell in the Sweet 16 in a penalty shootout at BYU.
Women’s volleyball made their second straight NCAA tournament in a year when two 1,000-career kill outside hitters graduated. Women’s basketball returned to the postseason for the first time in two years and showed promise in their youth, especially with freshman point guard Brooklyn Pumroy. The men’s and women’s cross-country team saw breakout performances by freshmen as Cody Haberkorn and William Hennessy were top finishers on the men’s side and Molly Hanson was the top finisher on the women’s side at most meets. And both Marquette lacrosse teams played their debut seasons, fighting through the challenges of being a first-year program. The men’s lacrosse team played just two home games and managed to go 5-8.
So how does such a good year of sports get any better in 2013-14?
Much of that responsibility rests on a few highly-ranked freshman classes. Men’s basketball nailed down a consensus top-15 recruiting class, headlined by guards JaJuan Johnson and Duane Wilson and junior college power forward Jameel McKay. Men’s soccer landed their most impressive class in recent memory, powered by coach’s son and midfielder Louis Bennett II and goal-scoring machine Coco Navarro. With C. Nortey returning to the fold as well, the men’s team should be Bennett Sr.’s most dynamic in attack. Women’s volleyball will also rely heavily on a six-player freshman class as well as a pair of redshirt freshman to return them to the NCAA Tournament, especially since they have no middle hitters with roster experience.
Women’s soccer opened the season ranked No. 14 and will try to prove that ranking is warranted. Women’s basketball only lost Sarina Simmons to graduation and will look to step forward yet again. The men’s and women’s lacrosse teams each have one season under their belts and now can focus on becoming contenders.
Of course, the big specter hanging over this athletic season is the new Big East. With eight teams gone and Creighton, Butler and Xavier joining the Catholic 7, new rivalries will be formed and Marquette will finally play in conference that makes sense for them both regionally and vocationally.
Get ready for a wild ride with the potential to be even better than the landmark 2012-13 year.